This month, my last baby turns one. I’ve been having a really hard time with him growing up in a way that I didn’t with my daughter (my firstborn). It has nothing to do with my feelings for them individually. With my firstborn, every milestone was an exciting “first”. Every milestone with my second (and final child) is a bittersweet “last”.
It feels like grief.
It is grief.
The Stark Difference
Every milestone with your first child is celebrated, and every phase is looked forward to. You hate watching them grow up so fast before your eyes. At the same time, you’re excited to watch who they’re becoming and to get to experience new aspects of parenthood.
With your last child, every milestone is mourned. You know every time something new happens is the last time you’ll ever experience that “first” with your own children. You know it’s the last time you’ll be overwhelmed with the sheer exhaustion of postpartum and newborn life. You’re living through the last first holidays, the last first tooth, etc. Somehow, even the dreaded parts of parenting or babyhood, like teething and sleep deprivation, are almost welcomed because you know how fleeting it all is. You understand on a deeper level just how fast your kids change because you’ve been here before.
You’re more willing to let the daily tasks wait in order to have more baby snuggles. You memorize their every feature, because you know when they wake up tomorrow they’ll already look more grown. Those curly ringlets and tiny smiles will become blowout tresses and a chiseled jaw someday. And you know it feels like it truly happens overnight.
Sometimes, you may not even know when it’s the last time, like the last night in the bassinet or the last nursing session. These things aren’t always planned, and I don’t know which is worse: knowing it’s the last time ever or not knowing and then realizing it later on.
Even if you are ready to move on to the next chapter, that doesn’t make closing this chapter any easier. There is a profound weight and heaviness in the finality of it all.
Alllllll the Emotions
I sometimes wish I would’ve been prepared more for the emotional toll of motherhood, but I realize there’s no level of preparation that could have helped me feel ready for this. No amount of reading, conversation, or planning could have prepared my heart for these emotions. The fact of the matter is, I cannot stop time even though sometimes I really wish I could. I wouldn’t do it to accomplish anything, but just to sit, to slow down, and to take them in a little bit deeper.
I now understand why my mom would cry every year on the last day of school.
My kids are thriving, and I celebrate that with them! I love to be a part of it all. They run off into the next thing while I stand a couple of steps behind with tears in my eyes, living between the two worlds of where we’ve been and where we’re going together.
Closure, and Moving Forward
I know I sound over-dramatic and that I won’t feel this sad forever. Soon enough, my heartbreak of closing this chapter will be a memory as I move into and get distracted by the next. But as I sit in this in-between, in these last few weeks of babyhood in our family, I’m going to let myself feel it all and mourn if I have to. I will do what I can to get closure on this season, be able to fully move forward, and feel excited about the next phase. Notice I called it “moving forward” because I know I’ll never be able to fully “move ON.”
I know there is so much joy in the new season that lies ahead; I’m just really going to miss the sweetness of this one. It seems the only constant in this thing called motherhood is change. Hopefully, someday, I’ll be able to keep up. (Although that’s doubtful.)