On My Last Baby’s First Birthday: Reflections on the Physicality of Mothering

Unless God has other plans for our family, which He very well might, this month marked our last baby’s first birthday. I’m simultaneously sad and celebrating. This starts a new phase of mothering, and I think it’s worth it to pay attention to the physicality of it all. God made us physical beings. He formed us out of the dust of the ground breathing the breath of life into our very lungs. He incarnated His Son; God is with us. The physical matters. With that, here are a few truths I’ve noticed:

baby girl first birthday cake

There’s a reason God designed us to have babies when we’re young.

If you’re an older mom and you’re reading this, you know what I mean. Having babies at 22 is different than at 32. And at 42? Lord have mercy. Whereas my first baby’s first year took the 12 months you’d expect, this 5th baby bent the space-time continuum and made it to a year old in a mere 3 months. 5th babies (and 6th, 7th, and so on) are magical like that.

There’s just no getting around the physical toll having young kids takes on a person.

It’s constant. One day I will not be physically hauling children all the time. I think about that day with both relief and melancholy. We went for a hike a couple of weekends ago with local homeschooling friends and I did a good portion of it while carrying two children. Multiple moms and dads offered to carry one of them, but they wanted Mom, so Mom carried them. That’s both exhausting and lovely, hard physical work and heartwarming.mom wearing baby and hugging toddler on a hikeIt’s an unavoidable physical toll—one that shows itself in myriad ways, including the sunburst of stretchmarks I’ve had since almost 12 years ago when I was pregnant with my first. It’s the ab muscles I literally felt ripping apart as they separated to make room for that first growing baby. It’s the umbilical hernia and diastasis recti that have never healed because I’ve spent so many years pregnant, postpartum, and then pregnant again. It’s the knot in the left side of my neck and the hitch in my hip that feel permanetly there because it just doesn’t feel right to hold the baby or toddlers on my right side. No amount of massage or chiropractic care has yet fixed that. Let’s not even mention what sneezing, coughing and laughing does to the business downstairs. Ladies 10 or 20 years older than me tell me I’m young, but at 34 I feel more tired than I’ve ever felt before.

When the kids are tired, you likely are too.

Yet that’s usually when you have to carry their flailing, fit-throwing bodies, or their limp noodle, sleeping selves to wherever you’re going. There’s the getting up at night. Or, if you co-sleep like me, you’re not getting “up” necessarily, but it has been well over a year since my last night of uninterrupted sleep. When I’m chatting with friends, they’ll recall stories, saying, “Remember when…” and no, I don’t remember when because for the last 7 years my brain cells have not gotten real, solid rest.

Yet, there’s SO MUCH JOY.

So much. Like, baby and toddler snuggles all the livelong day. I get to smooch baby feet. (Weird maybe, but they’re baby feet, y’all). I snuggle little people who don’t squirm away, but beg to be held longer. I get to run aroud the backyard with kids who haven’t yet decided that their mother is an out-of-touch idiot from another century who only says “No” to oppress them. I tickle and get these giggles that, if I could package them up, would sell for millions because they are the Hope Diamonds of the auditory world.

For me, and I hope for you, it’s never been a question of whether it’s been worth it. But, like the laugh lines, crow’s feet, and rogue gray hair I’m beginning to notice, I look at all these physical costs of motherhood as badges of honor. I earned the crap out of those, you have too. And while I still have kids in diapers and pull-ups, I intend to savor every last snuggle I can squeeze out of this stage.

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