I suspected it would happen on my son’s first day of kindergarten, or perhaps, the first time he spent the night at his grandparents’ house. But it began much, much sooner than I ever would have expected.
It started the very minute he was born. There was a split second between the moment in which my firstborn exited my womb and the one that followed when he was placed on my chest. For the first time in months, I was unable to feel my son – though only for a nearly unnoticeable amount of time. With my newborn baby wrapped in my arms while he let out his first cries, I was overcome by a rush of emotion as the realization hit me: the letting go had already begun.
It continued as his Papa held him for the first time. As beautiful as the sight was to me to see our baby boy being cradled in his father’s strong embrace, I felt like something that had grown to be a part of me was now living outside of my body. It was like watching a piece of heart from a short distance and realizing it could actually function apart from me now, although my son was still completely dependent on me in order to do so.
During the newborn days, even leaving my baby alone for a minute or two so I could use the restroom seemed like a huge obstacle to overcome. While we were still in the hospital, I would wait until a midwife came to check in on us so I knew he was in good hands while I was a few steps away. Once we made it home, I would leave the bathroom door open and loudly announce, “Momma’s here!” if I heard him make even the slightest sound.
The first time I left the house without him was to go grocery shopping. He was happily fed and stayed home with his Daddy for the short time I was gone. I knew I should enjoy the freedom and take advantage of being able to leisurely browse up and down the aisles, but I felt like something was missing and I couldn’t ignore my pounding heart. I sped through the store, tossing an assortment of edible items into my cart as I went. I’m usually not one to speed, but as I was heading home, I could hear my son crying for me in the back of my mind. I got home less than an hour after I had left, and found it almost comical as I walked through the door with my hands ready to snatch up my baby to console him, only to find him perfectly content on his Papa’s lap.
When Ellis was about six weeks old, we took our first overnight trip to visit my in-laws. I was exhausted and had just gotten comfortable on the couch with my baby, when he started to cry. I nursed him and he calmed a bit, but still seemed unhappy as he often was when his tummy was bothering him. My mother-in-law asked if she should take him for a while so I could rest. My first instinct was to hold my son a little bit tighter, but something my mom told me came to mind. She said the best parenting advice she had ever gotten was this:
“You are doing your child a favor by letting him or her build relationship with other people.”
As I transferred my son from my own hands to his Oma’s, I reminded myself that she had done a wonderful job raising four boys. I closed my eyes and rested for about fifteen minutes before I heard Ellis whimpering from the next room. I stopped myself from springing up and running to my son’s side and trusted that my experienced mother-in-law would recognize when her grandson simply needed his mommy. Sure enough, the two of them returned to the living room a few minutes later, and as she placed my baby back in my arms, I congratulated myself for my major accomplishment in the Land of Letting Go.
I’ve been letting go since day one, which doesn’t mean that it has become easier. As my son grows a little bit each day, the level of letting go does, too – but it is always a challenge worth accepting. For if I want my arms to grow to be ones from which he can leap, I need to make sure not to suffocate him by holding him too tightly. I guess it’s a mother’s instinct to protect her young, but I want my baby bird to be one who soars to the greatest heights – even to the ones beyond my reach.
P.S. I just got home from my first trip to the movies in months and only checked my phone twice while I was gone, so I’d say we’re headed in the right direction!