Someone asked me the other day how I felt about the baby chapter of my life coming to an end. As I watched our one-and-a-half-year-old join the other kids to bounce around on the trampoline, I thought about how to answer the question.

I’d heard the same thing asked countless times to friends who are ahead of me in this parenting game. Usually, their answers reflected sadness. “I’m heartbroken,” they’d say. Lost. Sad. Not ready.

I’d heard it all, so I was surprised when the answer that popped into my own head was something else entirely. 

I’m relieved. 

Honestly, I thought I would feel differently when we arrived at this place of officially being “done.”  This place of going through the huge box of “just in case” baby clothes I’d saved and whittling it down to only the most sentimental pieces I can’t bear to part with. This place where our last baby is no longer really even a baby.

I was prepared for the end of this chapter to sting, for my heart to crack wide open with an overwhelming sense of loss. 

Never in a million years did I expect to just feel . . . ready. But I do. And I am.

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Maybe that’s what happens when you have three babies in three-and-a-half years without a chance to catch your breath, or maybe it’s just natural that somewhere along the line you stop looking back and start looking ahead. 

Either way, as our kids get a bit older I suddenly feel a weight I didn’t even know I was carrying being lifted.

I’m relieved I can walk with free arms because three sets of feet are carrying themselves. 

I’m relieved I no longer feel the need to tip-toe into the baby’s room five times a night just to check that she’s breathing. 

I’m relieved we can leave the house with only a small bag instead of toting a suitcase-sized diaper bag everywhere we go. 

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I’m relieved I can sneak away for a night without my breasts aching with the fullness of milk.

I’m relieved to have more kids out of diapers than in, and two carseats that can be buckled independently, and Goldfish that can be poured into bowls without my help.

I’m relieved—but I feel something else, too. Joy, maybe?

Joy as I watch my kids spread their wings and come into their own apart from me.

Joy at the way their eyes light up with pride each time they learn something new. 

Joy in the hilarious things they say around the dinner table. 

Joy at the authentic, deep conversations that are more and more common these days.

Joy in appreciating these kids so darn much for the incredible, unique human beings they’re turning into.

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Joy at my glimpses of freedom as I transition from parenting very-littles to parenting not-so-littles. 

Joy at being wanted but not needed. Not for every little thing, anyway. 

Please don’t get me wrong—as long as I live, I’ll be thankful for the honor of being mama to three tiny, precious babies.

I’ll cherish the moments when I held each of them against my chest for the very first time. I’ll fondly remember coos and first smiles and the way their downy little heads smelled after bathtime. I’ll scroll through their newborn photos with tears in my eyes, because what a beautiful time of life that was. 

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But as sweet as those days were (and oh, they were so sweet), I’m more at peace with saying goodbye to this season than I ever felt possible.

The baby years have left our home . . . and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Casey Huff

Casey is a middle school teacher turned stay-at-home-mama to three littles. It's her mission as a writer to shine light on the journey of a young wife and mom; the good, the bad, and always the real. When she's not writing, Casey is likely to be yelling COME DOWN FROM THERE! or DON'T LICK YOUR BROTHER!, and procrastinating on the housework.  To read more, go hang out with Casey at: Facebook: Bouncing Forward Instagram: @bouncing_forward