A couple of weekends ago, we went apple picking as a family, except we weren’t all there. My two oldest boys had to finish up some schoolwork before they headed to their grocery store jobs, and so it was just a party of seven for picking. Later that week, we celebrated a child’s birthday, and again, the teenage boys were noticeably absent. The eldest was volunteering at a pro-life event for service hours, and the second son was at a soccer game. This feeling of having them home, but on the verge of leaving home, reminds me of the third trimester of pregnancy.
That first trimester of pregnancy is always a blur for me. The surprise/shock/elation of finding out a new baby is on the way and all of the hopes and worries that come with that, combined with morning sickness and extreme exhaustion, make me grateful just to survive until week 12. It’s the same with parenting newborns. I love my babies, but sleep deprivation is torture, and having to get up and function at work after being up all night breastfeeding is not for the weak. I always look back on the first couple of months, like, how did we get through that? The next few years of raising toddlers can be equally demanding on parents, many needs with little independence. Although it can be so much fun, nobody can deny it’s trying and tiring sometimes.
But then! Then comes the second trimester, the most glorious of all! Both in pregnancy and in raising children, that middle stretch is a wonderful relief from the physical demands of the weeks/years before. The kids are more independent, they are all school age with more reasonable demands, and life feels a little more comfortable. Everybody is sleeping better, feeding themselves, and enjoying time spent together. There is excitement about the future and room to just breathe and enjoy.
Then comes that uncomfortable third trimester. I am so empathetic to pregnant mamas in the final stage, reminding them that a pregnancy has to get uncomfortable enough so that they can mentally feel prepared ready to do anything to get the baby out. If there was no discomfort at the end of a pregnancy, a mother would never be willing to go through the pains of labor. By the ninth month, I’m always like “I don’t care how much it hurts, I want this baby out now!” Not sleeping, heartburn, waddling, frequent bathroom trips, multiple doctor appointments, back aches, contractions, oh boy, it’s not pretty. But it is necessary. It’s the body’s way of getting ready to let go.
The teenage years are the third trimester of parenting. They can stretch us to grow in many ways, and are preparing us to learn to let go. Though they still live here, as evidenced by their dirty laundry and our grocery bills, they often have one foot out the door. While I am not ready to drop them off at college anytime soon, my heart is growing more accustomed to them being outside of my home. DO I miss the days when we were all together all of the time? Yes. But do I begrudge them their time to experience life on their own? Nope. I have to go through these years with them, aching, growing, preparing to let them go little by little. Have I taught them well and loved them enough to watch them take their first steps in the real world? Probably not yet, but hopefully both they and I will feel ready when it’s time to face the big day. For now, we’ve still got a few more years in this last trimester, thank God.