For Semmelle and Katie, who will be walking their first babies into kindergarten this year.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. Luke 2:51
I don’t know about you, but I was excited. After five years of being a full-time stay at home mom, both of my boys would be in school at least a few hours a week. Being able to schedule a doctor’s appointment, carve out real writing time, and even get a massage if I had a kink in my neck without having to find a babysitter seemed like a dream come true.
I spent all summer getting ready, ignoring a gnawing in my stomach that I chalked up to nerves. After all, I had so much to do:
New 5t-sized uniforms? Check.
Polos, khakis, and v-neck sweaters washed, ironed, and stacked? Check.
Backpacks stuffed full of teacher-approved school supplies? Check.
Healthy, peanut-free lunches in Ziploc baggies? Check.
Flowers for the boys’ teachers? Heck, yeah.
But after I tucked Abraham into bed the night before school started, feeling prepared and proud and ready, my breath caught short by a profound kick-you-in-the-gut ache.
I texted my cousin, Hillary, who was wiping down her kitchen after putting her twins to bed the night before their first day of school.
She had the ache, too.
I wrestled with it all night: this ache that began to feel a little bit like grief. My nocturnal wrestling didn’t seem to accomplish much of anything, as I awoke the next morning–their first morning–to discover that this feeling had grown.
I tried to ignore it as I roused my boys out of their bunk-bed nests of lovies, softing their warm cheeks until their eyelashes fanned slowly open. I kissed their foreheads and proclaimed, “It’s your first day of school!”
Despite my fixed smile, the ache seemed to swell as the morning marched forward. Their daddy and I walked them in, posing for pictures.
But beneath my proud smile, I felt as though I was walking under water: heavy, swelling, hard. We climbed the steps to kindergarten as I watched other mothers walking down the stairs past me, their faces twisting in sorrow. I remember thinking, “What in the world could be so wrong with them?”
Then it was my turn to walk my baby in. I literally couldn’t talk. I had to scream at myself inside my head not to lose it as I helped him hang up his back pack and stock his desk with school supplies. I didn’t look up at the others around me. We mamas all murmured quiet, none of us looking up, none of us making eye contact with each other. I swear I didn’t breathe for three straight minutes.
I looked up to find the tether of Jack’s gaze, and he motioned to me that we should go down to Sam’s classroom. And leave Abraham here.
I hugged my sweet Abraham and walked out that kindergarten classroom door as the torturous year of my life between losing Caleb and giving birth to this precious child flashed through my memory. Every kick and prod I felt while carrying him, every moment of bedrest monitoring him, every hour of labor and pushing and teaching him to breast feed surged through me.
I felt again the sun shining warm that first day in the grass when he laughed at his daddy and the first time he looked me straight in the eyes and said “Mama.” I felt the fatigue of every story time and bed time and bath time and tummy time. I remembered how the sun dawned anew at his first cry, and how I floated in hope and wonder as he grew ever so slowly.
How does God change a Mama’s heart to make way for more love, flooding full and deep, from head to soul, what was once barren and desolate? I looked back at him with his fuzzy head of blonde hair and wondered if he’d ever know the gift he’d been to me: the rainbow life God ushered in with him, a promise that we had not been forgotten and even after all our loss, we would laugh. And laugh. And laugh.
I marveled at how my life was given meaning again and purpose and all became possible because of that gift I was now leaving to spend five days a week, six hours a day with someone other than me.
As I walked down the stairs after leaving my baby to start his first day of kindergarten, this flood of life and joy and sorrow threatening to overwhelm me, I took one deep breath and held it. Then I let it all out, slow and deliberate, with every joy since that pregnancy test showed two pink lines, to the moment the ultrasound tech told us “it’s a boy!” I knew those moments would always be mine, to treasure deep in my heart, to mix up and spill out on these hard days of letting go.
There will be more days of letting go. I know that. And as much time as I spent at the boys’ school last year, I’m not even sure if you can say I ever really did let go. I know each one of us mamas have things we’d do differently if we could do it again, things we’d spend more time on and so much we’d let go. We were all given different circumstances, expectations, restrictions.
We did the best we could.
So, as you walk out of that room today and look over your shoulder at your tiny little kindergartener, breathe it all in, Mama.
Then, let it all out. Hold onto the joy, and let go of your regrets. Praise the Lord for the gift it is to walk through another doorway of motherhood, over another starting line with your child’s hand in yours.
This is all part of it: the joy, the sorrow, the triumph, and pain.
This is what “Mama” means: the breath in to holding, the breath out of letting go.
You did it. Go with God, and take yourself to breakfast after you drop your baby off. Or for a massage. Pedicure. Mimosa.
Here’s to you.