Daddy cradled you in the crook of his arm, cuddling you to sleep with your camouflage dinosaur pajamas on—the ones with stegosaurus spikes down the back of your chubby legs. I turned out the light and left the room, making my way around to every other child’s bed for a hug and a prayer, managing a few stealthy swipes to erase the tears from my cheeks. I hugged each one a little tighter than usual to help me keep myself together despite the sizable lump in my throat.
We held each other before your afternoon nap today, as mom and baby do, and I knew full well it was the last time you would nurse. We shared this peculiar and wonderful relationship for sixteen months, and tonight it came to a close.
For sixteen months, I drew you close and nourished you at my breast.
For sixteen months, you buoyed my soul with your giant blue eyes, and held me still, curling my hair around your dimply hands while running your fingers through. As I fed you, you filled my heart. You have grown me in ways I deeply cherish.
It started the night you were born when you were brought earth-side through wild, precipitous labor. Fear reverberated through me, pounding my ears, my soul weighted heavy with dread. You were coming (that was clear) and yet, I didn’t know how I could accomplish the task.
I didn’t think I could do it. Contractions gripped me and wrung me ragged. It was labor, sudden and furious, and it was love—swelling larger than fear, ultimately swallowing it whole.
You were in my arms. A sweet balm after a curious and consuming storm. That’s how it happens.
Grace comes quiet, between the swells. The scent of a newborn baby drawn up close to the bare heart of a mama. The smile of that same boy shared with me when on my breast for the very last time today. My sweet boy, waving to me when I tucked you in by Daddy to fall asleep without me for the first night weaned. There is grace for me in all these places.
You have tuned my heart to hear, to see, and to treasure, the grace offered me in the quiet moments of motherhood.
You have broken and filled me, just as the Lord has broken and filled me, and I’ve learned it is good to be emptied and filled. Filled and emptied. It is good to yield myself to the sacrificial work of giving everything I have for a purpose greater than me.
Everything will be different from this point forward, just as it was changed from the last point at which I encountered a milestone to mark the spot of a profound shift in my life. Yet, there is a thread connected through them all, where love has grown in my trembling surrender to the passing of time.
There is grief in moving on from wonderful things and in changes that happen upon us without our permission. I think on how I would like to freeze, to capture, to keep what is dear to me about you at this moment, afraid that once this (or any) beautiful season passes, the beauty will somehow be lost forever, and the memories will inevitably fade. Beauty, however, is something of a seed, and just as you grow, my child—so grows my view of the beauty in you.
You are a delight and a joy, son. You are the handiwork of God. You are today, you will be tomorrow, and every day thereafter as the days pass by. So while I swipe my tender tears away, I will smile and let my heart stretch taught with the enormous love that swells within me, grateful for our time while nursing…grateful for our time tomorrow where grace will surely come quietly to me in new ways.
Emily Sue Allen is the founder and visionary behind KindredMom.com, an online community and podcast dedicated to helping women find joy and purpose in motherhood. Emily is passionate about living a deeply nourished life and celebrating the beauty of ordinary moments. She is forever marked by the rescue and redemption Jesus Christ has accomplished in her life. Emily is a featured contributor in Strong, Brave & Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, a collaborative volume of essays written to encourage moms in the weeds of parenting kids at home, a member of Hope*writers, and an ongoing devotional writer for Joyful Life Magazine. She lives with her husband and seven kids—three girls and four boys—in the Pacific Northwest. Emily’s website is emilysueallen.com. Subscribe to her newsletter “Flowers, Children & Other Lovely Things” at emilysueallen.substack.com and find her on Instagram.