It’s my birthday, and I’m now 36 years old. I stand on the edge of a bridge platform overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not incredibly high, only 11 ft. from the waves, but for me that is quite high enough.
My children are swimming below, having just jumped in themselves…”no big deal ma…it’s easy!” My youngest is now 8 years old; he himself makes the leap off the bridge, without my help.
I’m at that place: my youngest does not need me quite as much as he used to. Of course all my children “need” me, but not in that visceral and primal way anymore. No more 2 a.m. breastfeeds, no more toilet training, no more watching toddler steps like a hawk.
I get to the point of “Now what?” For some it’s just a blip in our thoughts, for others it takes weeks to resolve. Now what?
I have a tremendous family, fortunate in our health and vigor. I have an exceptional partner in their father. I have a great scope of education and skills. Now what?
Motherhood has engrossed me, engulfed me, for the past decade. Like the waves below it pushed and pulled me with its tides, and I enjoyed the ride. I never felt so natural…so earthy.
It’s far from over, but the current is changing. I will not be having any more babies. This is not sadness. It’s change, a change from a major identity I’ve had for so long. Time to explore that part of me that doesn’t have a young child resting on my hip. What is that woman going to be like?
Other kids are jumping off around me. I watch them chortle and squeal as they plunge in below. The water is beautiful, but so far down.
My turn. It’s time for me to jump. Take that leap into the next push and pull of motherhood, adulthood, womanhood.
“Don’t be afraid.” Words I hear in my head and remember repeating to each of my children time and time again. I’m going to plunge right on in! I’m going to swim this time. I’m not going to float gently with the current; I’m going to swim with it. I’m going to take that energy and make it my own.
I back up a few paces, for what is a high jump without a good running start? I see my family on the shore, waiting for me. My partner giving me a big oh you got this smile. I rush forward…thrilled.
In midair, I look down; I see the waves so crisp and clear. My feet break them apart and I’m engulfed once again…I’m ready to swim.