Forever Changed

Forever Changed

Change by Tracey Clark

Last week at the Mom 2.0 Summit, I signed on to be a part of the Today Parenting Team. I had told myself I was going to try to take advantage of every opportunity available because it had been years since I had attended a conference and I was excited by the offerings and opportunities. On the last day of the event I boldly walked into the Today’s Parenting Team Suite. I’m always up for sharing my parenting stories, especially now that I admittedly fancy myself somewhat of a veteran ever since l launching my first baby from the nest (and lived to tell about it). Once I signed up to be a part of “the team” I was invited to do a quick video spot on the theme of motherhood and life changes. As soon as I heard the question start, ‘what has changed…” a wave of emotion came over me; not like any wave, it was a tsunami. My eyes welled up as I began thinking about all.the.changes. This wasn’t going to be pretty. I gave them fair warning that I would likely cry and they could tell by the look on my face that I wasn’t kidding.

I sat on the bright white couch surrounded by sunny orange pillows and began with the short intro they prompted me with. And before I could even finish that, I began sobbing about how my daughter recently went away to college and how it broke my heart and how happy I was for her and how sad I was for me and how I couldn’t even remember the baby days anymore and how fast time flies and how hard it all is and, and, and a million other things along those same lines all delivered in one long, streaming, incoherent blur of difficult words and burning tears. The emotions erupted like molten lava spewing out from the crack in my heart. The very crack that came from my heart breaking on the afternoon we dropped my oldest child off at college.

Needless to say, I’m sure that clip won’t see the light of day (please, please, please may it never see the light of day) but I haven’t stopped thinking about it. There was so much I could have said, so much I wanted to say about what has changed since becoming a mother, but instead, I just had to cry. And I guess I can’t blame myself for that. But now that I’ve had some time to think, I can certainly share what I wished I would’ve said as I sat on that couch, camera rolling.

Everything has changed since I’ve become a mother. There’s nothing that hasn’t changed. And I think most parents would attest to that. But what makes THIS stage in my life so unique is my ability to look at the parenting journey in a bigger picture than ever before and share what I observe from here. As mothers, we spend so much time taking care of our children. It’s an all-consuming, all-encompassing job. We do everything in our power to provide them everything they need to, quite simply, stay alive and on a good day, thrive. Nourishment, sleep, love. Guidance, patience, love. Play, education, love. Encouragement, empowerment, love. And we do it every minute of every day for years, with no time off. We don’t get enough sleep or enough credit and some days it feels like we can’t do it for one more minute. But we do. We just keep doing it. They say it’s a marathon, not a sprint. That is until, you’re near the end. And then, things speed up and get intense in an entirely new (urgent, desperate, terrifying) way.

I can best describe it as the feeling I had in the delivery room, 18 years ago, during my transition from active labor to pushing, knowing full well that things we’re going to get harder before they got better. I vividly recall thinking yelling “I can’t do this! I don’t want to do this!” And all the feelings violently whip around like a tornado; fear, pain, anger, uncertainty, anticipation, relief, joy and exhaustion of body, mind, heart & soul. But nothing can stop what’s coming. And you wouldn’t stop it even if you could. Of course I could do it and of course I wanted to do it, both in delivering my child into this world, into my care, and 18 years later delivering my child out to the world, and into her own care. But I knew it was gonna hurt like hell. And it did.

The last years of High School we’re difficult in a million ways as she (and we) began the transition toward her independence. The last months of that being the most extreme. It was as if my job totally shifted from keeping her alive to making sure she was ready to keep herself alive. To stand back more than I ever had before as she tested and tried her wings. She wanted me close and then not so much. I wanted to be close and then not so much. We bickered and butted heads, pushed and pulled, cheered and celebrated, lamented and loved more intensely than ever before. And then we had to let go. Just like that. Standing on a narrow sidewalk in front of her dorm, kids and parents and luggage carts rushed past and the air swirled with a potent cocktail of excitement, worry and grief, I clutched my baby one last time before we said goodbye. The tears we’re streaming so fast, no words could come. But there was nothing more that needed to be said. I just wanted to hold her.

Here’s the thing—and what I so desperately wanted to say that day on tape—when you become a mother, your very heart changes. It enlarges and expands to a size beyond anything you can image when you have a baby (and continues to do so with every child that comes). And then, when it’s time to let them go, it breaks. But, it’s ok. It’s just part of Motherhood. Sure, it hurts reeeeally bad but your heart won’t forsake you. It’ll still be intact. It’ll just be different. Forever changed. Just like how everything changes when you have a baby, everything changes again when you watch that baby fly away.

  • Jan Adams
    Posted at 17:43h, 02 May Reply

    They do fly away! I reared three children and now they are all productive adults. I’m now the grandmother of three beautiful granddaughters. How I love these days, even though I still miss their childhood days. I love my granddaughters just like I did my children and I’m unfortunately aware that someday, my children will experience the loss of the early years. Bless them, and bless you as you experience this part of motherhood that so easily leads to tears.

    • Tracey
      Posted at 09:03h, 03 May Reply

      Wow Jan, it’s encouraging to hear hopeful stories like this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Siobhan Wolf
    Posted at 03:41h, 03 May Reply

    Wow, Tracey! It’s all so true and you put it into most eloquent words. So glad you did. ♡♡♡

    • Tracey
      Posted at 09:03h, 03 May Reply

      Thank you, sweet Siobhan. xo

  • Rita Pacheco
    Posted at 06:48h, 03 May Reply

    So beautifully said! I can’t believe that darling little girl is in college!

    • Tracey
      Posted at 09:04h, 03 May Reply

      Thanks Rita, it’s crazy, isn’t it? So nice to hear from you!

  • Brene
    Posted at 08:56h, 03 May Reply

    Facing this next year. Thank you for being brave and sharing your heart. I needed to read this.

    • Tracey
      Posted at 09:06h, 03 May Reply

      I know you’re close, dear friend. Sending love and support through it all. You got this! xo

  • Kary
    Posted at 09:18h, 03 May Reply

    Yes. This. Thank you. I’m at the very end of this–the youngest of my four finishes her freshman year today. Beautifully said.

    • Tracey
      Posted at 13:51h, 03 May Reply

      Wow Kary, this gives me hope. Thanks for being an example to all of us that we will get through this (and then, my guess is more tears!).

  • Jocelyn A McDonald
    Posted at 09:43h, 03 May Reply

    I’m straddling a fence here. I have one through college and set up successfully in his own career. I have two in college and one in high school. I have ached and cried like you. It’s such a mix of proud and sad and nostalgic and fear for their futures. Thank you for this lovely post. It helps to not feel alone in this time of transition in my life.

    • Tracey
      Posted at 13:49h, 03 May Reply

      Thank you Jocelyn for sharing. You are in the “middle” of it all. Wow! Transition can feel so challenging and overwhelming. Hang in there, we’re gonna make it!

  • Carol
    Posted at 13:01h, 03 May Reply

    Thank you so much for these spot on sentiments.with only two weeks left until our eldest daughter completes Her freshman year of college… And feeling as if I was about to get back to the old “normal”….with some/many adjustments… Out next daughter just passed her driving test. Down the driveway she now goes… Off to school, dance, meet with friends….. And I am thrown into the abyss of my girls Really not “needing” me any more on a day to day basis.

    I recently began a very part time job thinking it would help distract me. But it so fat is only making me feel like I am “waiting” for my life to begin again. Silly sentiment I know!
    I so relate to all you say is this blog/post.
    I am genuinely grateful to know I am not alone. And every pair of eyes I catch while going about my day… If it is someone who looks my age (!!)… I try to smile and offer a tiny bit of kindness. I know I am not alone. But it dies feel that way!
    Thank you.

    • Tracey
      Posted at 13:47h, 03 May Reply

      I can really relate to this Carol. Adjustment and re-calibration seems to be a big part of this phase of our lives as mothers. None of it is easy. I’m glad we have each other through all of it so we are constantly reminded that even though we might feel isolated at times, we aren’t going through it alone!

  • Elizabeth Dillow
    Posted at 22:11h, 05 May Reply

    You write so beautifully about this… I’m still four years away from delivering kid #1 out into the world and it’s already so hard a lot of days. But I so appreciate your perspective.

    • Tracey
      Posted at 13:22h, 09 May Reply

      Thank you Elizabeth for your comment, your kind words are appreciated. Cherish your time together. It goes so fast!

  • Julie Kosterman
    Posted at 08:19h, 21 September Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. Motherhood is indeed the most wonderful, heart-wrenching, difficult, fantastic, heart-wrenching (did I mention that already)? time. We really do have such an all-encompassing job of ensuring our children thrive, are well-fed, healthy, educated, well-adjusted, productive members of the human race. Despite the fact that motherhood comes with a huge degree of responsibility, I would not trade one moment. July 2015 my family had to say “goodbye” to our oldest son, who was born with congenital heart disease and lost “his battle” at the age of 26. Losing him has been the single most difficult experience ever. It is one that I never dreamed of when I envisioned my role as a mom. I do have two amazing daughters and one grand-daughter that I get to fulfil a different role, as grandma (which is so wonderful). I guess my long-winded response here, is that life, and motherhood, is hard. There are curve-balls thrown at us. But, motherhood is more importantly amazing. We get to bring life into this world, nurture, teach, guide, love, support, and then send them to their next experience. I would take all these heartaches for the honour and privilege of being a mom. Much love to all of you.

    • Tracey
      Posted at 21:49h, 21 September Reply

      Wow Julie! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your story. You know better than anyone the most excruciating of mother heartbreak and yet, you are so very right by putting the emphasis on the amazing parts. I’m inspired by that! Thank you again for commenting. You have touched my heart.

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