The Bittersweet Taste of Motherhood

Gee, God. If I’d known how emotional the last month was going to be, I would’ve bought stock in Kleenex.

No lie.

Clare celebrated First Communion a month ago, then baby Gianna had her first birthday. That’s been followed by Luke’s pre-school graduation and yesterday, Will’s last school Mass, with eighth grade graduation to follow next week. Throw in a ten-year-old birthday and a family vacation to Disney and I need a massage, a case of Kleenex and a week’s worth of sleep.

This week, however, was particularly bittersweet.

If you haven’t popped over to Rachel’s to read this post, do it now. I’ll wait.

Let’s start with the preemie of the bunch. This kid. What a joy.

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It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life to see Luke grow and learn and cherish going to school. Y’all. Let’s be honest. Not too many people thought we’d ever see his second week of life, much less preschool graduation. Luke contracted a surgical case of necrotizing enterocolitis at day 9; he was Stage IIIB. In layman’s terms? He had less than a 20% chance of surviving the gastric surgery. And if he survived, the odds were stacked against him that he would have long-lasting and permanent effects like major developmental delays, short gut syndrome needing a lifelong colostomy and other equally terrifying diagnoses.

And yet, he stood near the altar at preschool graduation and sang his little heart out. All 26 pounds of him.

That hit me harder than I thought it would. When I pulled into the parking lot for his last day of school, my “NICU song” came on the radio. And I just fell apart. It’s as if I was transported back to those really, really dark days of the NICU when I could barely see the light. It seemed so far away. So distant. We would never be “there.” But, here we stood, basking in the light, with joy all around. And the darkness? It seemed so far away.

My “someday we will have joy” became today. So many emotions. So much relief. So much gratitude. This milestone, more than any other he’s achieved, really hit home. Luke is going to kindergarten, y’all!

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We were blessed with the most amazing teacher – again – Ms. Denise. She taught Will in first grade (look at him then!) and now she’s teaching PK. I told her she can’t leave until she teaches Gianna. Ms. Denise and I shared a mighty big hug and our fair share of tears yesterday. My good gravy I adore her.

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From the littlest boy, to my biggest.

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The eighth grade class attended their last school Mass yesterday. As expected, it was beautiful. The priest shared a lovely homily and, at the end, made his way to the back of the gymnasium to share a few nuggets of wisdom with our eighth graders. Cue round one of tears. Then, communion came and watching each of those kids come forward to receive the body and blood of Christ for the last time – well, it almost did me in. I just kept repeating, “Come on, Kathryn. Pull it together.”

At one point, Gianna was snuggled into the crook of my neck, Luke was holding tightly to my leg and I could lay eyes on the other four, spaced out around the congregation. For that one moment, I closed my eyes and was oh-so-grateful that all my chicks were in the same nest. If only for an hour.

At the end of Mass, the eighth grade class stands, processes to the altar, bows and then processes out of the gym. Once they leave, the seventh graders then move to the vacated spot as the new leaders of the school. I’ve seen this same ritual play out, year after year, since we joined the school Will’s third grade year. I was always touched by the faithfulness of it all. And then my kid came along and nearly broke me. Please know that I am not some sobbing mess, nor do I wish for my children to stay little forever. I want them growing up, achieving great things and hanging up their own clothes.

It’s just the change is so hard. I’ve always seen myself as the mom of many littles and because we had so many, the milestones just kept repeating themselves. But now it’s getting real. In four years, Will leaves our nest. I think he could sense that his mom was teetering on the edge. He and a classmate led the procession to the altar which meant he was the last to exit the gym. He caught my teary eye and as he dipped his finger in the holy water, he winked and said, “You’re gonna be alright, Mom.”

Oh I hope so, Will. If not, I promise to make it back to the house and cry over the kitchen sink (which I did). For whatever death grip I have on the now, it’s quite clear that Will and God are confident about the future.

Which means I should be, too.

Here’s to new adventures, new milestones and a case of Kleenex and beer!


  1. Claire on May 22, 2015 at 7:38 am

    When my son graduated from preschool, I was a slobbering mess. That was the most I’ve ever cried in a public place. And if I knew how different elementary school was going to be, I would have cried even harder.

  2. Cathy K. on May 22, 2015 at 8:51 am

    I hear ya! My “baby” will graduate high school a week from tomorrow. Change is hard! But I can assure you that God’s plans are so much greater than ours! I have been amazed at the visible hand of God while watching my teens grow into young adults. I was also the kind of parent who never wished my kids would stay little, I have loved every (yes, every!) stage of their growing up. I think the hardest part for me is not being so involved in every part of their life. After 18+ years of being there for almost every moment, it IS hard to let go and step back!

    • Kathryn on May 26, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      Change IS hard. But I’m just going to have to lean into it, I guess!

  3. Gina on May 22, 2015 at 8:53 am

    This post brought tears to my eyes! This is how I have been feeling with my Michael graduating from high school. So many mixed emotions! Like Will said, “you will be alright”! Hugs!

    You are an AMAZING mom!

    • Kathryn on May 26, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      Thank you, Gina. Super de-duper proud of Michael!

  4. Nicole on May 22, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Oh I knew I shouldn’t have read this post (or Rachel’s for that matter) while I was at work!

    It is hard. Change is oh so hard. I read just the announcements about our school’s 5th grade promotion and get misty… .and I only have a 3rd grader and kindergartener. Don’t get me wrong – I celebrate those milestones, but mourn that I can only get those experiences that led up to those milestones back from memories both fond and trying.

    Chin up, mama! You are doing great! And raise a dos equis with me this weekend from afar!

  5. Verdina on May 22, 2015 at 10:37 am

    You’re right — change is hard, but necessary. And you will be OK, Mom! Now, I’ve seen so many changes even though I only have two children. But, I have 9 wonderful grandchildren and watching them and being part of their lives is a different kind of wonderful! Yes, changes are necessary, but God stays the same.

    God bless you and your wonderful family!

  6. Wanda on May 22, 2015 at 11:25 am

    i too have shed those tears, but I will say that looking back on it I wish I had concentrated more on the joy of the moment and not the sadness of change. There was so much that went into giving these girls wings and after all, isn’t that what we want?
    Having one daughter with a life long chronic illness, not knowing what each day brings, has been my shadow for 29 years. So yes, mellow in the moment, but then seek the joy of it above all. In Joy ( love) we are closest to Christ.

    Love you my friend:)))

    • Kathryn on May 26, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      You know, Wanda, that is really great advice. I’ll be “leaning into the joy” this Thursday at 8th grade graduation – I hope!

  7. Kelly on May 23, 2015 at 10:24 am

    To be brutally honest, the only things we have in common are preemies and Dr. Pepper. And this post made me cry for/with you! Ever since we spent those many, many days in the NICU, every normal kid moment comes with a tinge of “what if” and/or “I never thought I’d see this.” The big moments? FORGET IT! I can’t handle those!

    • Kathryn on May 26, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      Hey, those are two great things to have in common, Kelly!

  8. Chanda on May 25, 2015 at 12:52 am

    I just stumbled upon your blog, and boy do your sentiments resonate with me! My oldest, too, just celebrated her last school mass. A few weeks prior, she was all decked out in a graceful formal for her 8th grade graduation dance. She started her first job TODAY. And each day that passes is one day closer to her leaving our crazy, chaotic, and cozy nest. In the midst of these big moments, my baby was baptized, my 7-year old celebrated her First Holy Communion, and my 3-year old FINALLY became potty-trained. Next year my 10 year-old will be in junior high and my oldest in high school. She’s already talking driver’s licenses and choosing her college (A&M, of course!). He’s talking football and asking girls to dances. It’s like I always say, the days are long, but the years are so short…

    • Kathryn on May 26, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      It’s a little jarring (but incredibly gratifying) to see your littles turn into bigs, isn’t it?

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