I was so terrified as the nurses prepared me to leave the hospital.
I burst into tears as the enormity of the responsibility of becoming a mother settled on me—smothered me, like an elephant lying down on a frail bed of hay.
The excitement of pregnancy and the thrill of childbirth were abruptly shut down by the realization that I was about to take a brand new human being home with me. This helpless baby would look to me to supply what he needed and fulfill what he craved.
And I had no idea what I was doing. Poor little guy.
Fear welled up within me at the thought of caring for this tiny person without the aid of a 24-hour nursing staff. I had spent a lot of time preparing for the birth—reading books and taking classes. I suddenly realized how woefully inadequate my preparation for motherhood had been. And it was too late to go back.
As my husband and I drove home and carried our son into the house, I was confident of only one thing—I was in over my head. I was going to mess this mothering thing up.
Like all mothers, I did make plenty of mistakes, but I learned from them. Mostly I learned that the love for a child covers over a vast multitude of sins—both mine and his. Eventually, my terror was replaced by joy with a little frustration and a good helping of exhaustion. I found I really enjoy being his mom and I wasn’t as disastrous a mother as I had predicted after all.
He taught us how to parent and showed us what we needed to adjust at each new stage. He helped us figure out what’s important enough to fight for at all costs and what won’t really matter in light of Eternity. It was my experience with him that taught me how to be more relaxed with my subsequent children.
And now he is the first again—the first to leave childhood behind forever and cross the threshold into manhood. I sit here on the eve of his 18th birthday unable to go to sleep because I know when I wake up, my little boy will be gone and I can never have him back. Not in the same way.
He was my best buddy when he was a toddler. He loved to plant grass seeds in the yard and fill the bird feeder. He taught himself to swim by accidently jumping in the pool without his floaties. He was the first student of our homeschool.
I remember when he first crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. He looked so small among the big boys. Was he really going to go camping with high school boys?
I blinked and he was an Eagle Scout.
He learned to drive, filled in as the “man of the house” while Daddy was deployed for 6 months, got his first job, and bought his first car.
Now that old fear of leaving the hospital is replaced with the sad-joy of watching him leave our home. When he was 4, he cried as he told me he never wanted to leave home. We agreed that he could stay as long as he wanted and live next door to me forever. Somewhere in the past 14 years, he changed his mind. I always knew he would, but now I’m the one crying. We have switched places.
I guess it’s a little like childbirth all over again but in a whole new way. 18 years ago, he left my body and we welcomed him into our family. Now he will leave our home and be welcomed into a much larger sphere of humanity. These two events share similar emotions: excitement, fear, joy, pride, love, sadness, gratitude, humility. And I feel that familiar panic welling up inside me: Wait! I’m not ready for this. I didn’t prepare enough!
In the first few months of motherhood, I remember telling my husband that I felt every possible human emotion (positive and negative) pegged at full-throttle all at the same time. It was exhausting.
I feel that same overwhelming humanness approaching me again. It’s so confusing to deal with multiple emotions at the same time. I have sad-tears and happy-tears all mixed up together and I guess that leaves me feeling a little mixed up too.
As our oldest son stands perched on the edge of our nest ready to spread his wings and fly high, I am confident of this—God has good plans for this man my son has become. It won’t all be easy or fun, but God will never leave him. We aren’t releasing him into the great unknown. We’re releasing him into the caring over-watch of his Heavenly Father, who’s held us in His hands all along.
And there’s nothing terrifying about that.
Elizabeth is a military spouse, veteran, and mother of eight. Above and beyond caring for her family, her mission is to offer words that sustain the weary and equip people to live a life of faith filled with purpose.
Learn more at elizmeyers.com.