I’m Delivering My Placenta, or “The Worst Part of Labor is Transition”

Everybody who’s ever been to childbirth class knows that “transition” is the worst part of labor.  It’s that “almost there” zone where the baby is crowning, about to make its way into the world, but the heavy pushing is still ahead for the mother before she can rejoice, rest,  have a tuna sandwich, and start adjusting to her new normal.

Transition is characterized by panic, trash-talking anyone who tries to be helpful (I was particularly generous with comments about a certain husband’s coffee breath at 4 a.m.), violence, fear, and hopelessness.  

Nobody told me that launching my children into the REAL world would feel about like it did to participate in launching them into THE world.  But this empty-nesting business comes with its own labor, its own nasty transition.

And I am smack dab in the middle of it — and kicking and screaming, trash-talking and feeling hopeless, alternating with being ready for the rest, the tuna sandwich and whatever my new normal is.

This blog was not designed to hold all the angsty musings of midlife.  Come to think of it, though, the entire blogosphere could not contain my current angsty musings.

I’ve been a mother for 23 years.  I’ve looked down on those women who fell apart when their children left, and I’ve prepared for about 20 years for my “what’s next” even as I’ve been an at-home mother most of my three children’s lives.  I could not fathom why women would not celebrate their children’s launches and turn to their own concerns, grateful for visits and text messages, content that they had done a good enough job at mothering and that that season had ended gracefully.

It’s not graceful, people.  It’s ugly.  I don’t want this to be over, even as I can’t wait to “get-all-this-crap-out-of-here-and-quit-waking-up-in-the-night-wondering-if-they-are-home-and-get-my-life-back.”  But really, what life?  I had my first child at 25, barely out of the dorm.  I didn’t know life without these fun people.  I grew up with them, even as I tried to mother them and not befriend them.  I like them.  I have chosen to hang out with them pretty much anytime they’ll have me (without appearing, or being, desperate), knowing that “the end” would come soon enough and knowing that I didn’t want to have wished it away.

I was present.  I did it intentionally.  I enjoyed most of it.  I savored it.  I drank it up.  I lapped it up.  I ate it up.  You get the idea.

And still, the leaving is killing me.  A wedding, overseas study and a graduation mean that everyone is transitioning to something new all at once, and it’s too much.  It’s endless, painful, transitionary labor, and here — in May — I want some forceps to put an end to all this transition.  I don’t want those little heads crowning and then sinking back into me.  I need a clean, decisive delivery and yet what I get is three more months of transition, the push-pull of “Mom, can you help me get ready for college” balanced with “I’ve made my own decision, and I’m joining the (proverbial) circus without your blessing (and can you pay for it?).”

And at the risk of grossing readers out with a too-vibrant analogy, I’m realizing that even after the kids get delivered, the mother still has to deliver the placenta, that life-sustaining part of herself that is no longer needed.  Yes, she sustains life in new ways once the baby is in the world.  Just as I expect to sustain mothering relationships that will flex and change, even as my children are in the real world.  Yet my placental identity, if you will, is leaving too.  I am giving up part of me.

Symbolically, this is the end of an era for us mothers who are looking at September without a school-supply run for the first-time ever.  Who are looking at August birthdays with no one home to celebrate.  Who are looking at months of time stretched out without obligations, carpools, teenage angst — and are crying over the empty beauty of it all.

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~ by Cary on May 27, 2009.

2 Responses to “I’m Delivering My Placenta, or “The Worst Part of Labor is Transition””

  1. Amen to your articulations–especially resonating was “It’s not graceful, people. It’s ugly. I don’t want this to be over, even as I can’t wait to ‘get-all-this-crap-out-of-here-and-quit-waking-up-in-the-night-wondering-if-they-are-home-and-get-my-life-back.” But really, what life?’

  2. Oh my dear Cary, I am with you. My soul resonates so much with your writing that the glass is shattering. Thank you for articulating my heart. I love you friend. Longing for a visit. (maybe this fall when the nest is empty, clean and boring!)

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