I spent nearly a decade birthing babies and subsequently breastfeeding them. I have been pregnant so many times I am not sure if my love for mismatched food combinations intertwined with my tendencies toward irritability is from hormone level fluctuations or if this is just who I am now. Either way, my body was not mine for enough years that I still think twice before taking any over-the-counter medication or consuming slices of deli meat. Are those even pregnancy-related concerns these days or did I just show my age?
They say you know when your family is complete, and I think I agree. I knew for a fact that babies one and two were only the start of our family. We tried and prayed hard for our number three and even though I wasn’t sure I was done, three is enough. Isn’t it? Does society even allow us to have more than three kids when we have a boy and a girl and then another boy?
I guess I’m not one to care what society says or be bothered by the countless times people ask me, “Do you know how that happens?” when we announced our number four. Although we had a big, beautiful family, I found myself always looking around for number five. I’d find myself asking “where is everyone?” when the six of us were seated at the dinner table.
All I can say is I had this unrelenting, nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that our family wasn’t complete.
I guess the Big Guy upstairs agreed because we have five kids now, and we can rest easy knowing we have everyone. I have always found it bizarre that my kids look familiar, like I have seen them somewhere before. Maybe it is because they have our features, or maybe it is because we know them.
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Complete or not, it is hard to admit you are done. The anticipation of bringing new life into the world brings excitement and anticipation that, in my experience, really can’t be rivaled by much else. I haven’t felt the same comfort and joy I did when I felt their movements in my pregnant belly.
I have found growing a family to be a priceless journey.
With that being said, closing the chapter on continuous childbearing and opening the door to child-rearing is as exhilarating as it is terrifying. We are responsible for and raising five miniature people who are actual people. They’ll make their own mistakes and chase their own dreams. I don’t know if I can really put into words how peculiar I find that.
Does that ever blow any other parent’s mind? That we brought actual people into this crazy and chaotic world?
No? Just me? Fair enough. Moving on.
I have never felt the lasts of any of my babies because there was always another baby who I would have a similar experience with.
But now that I am done having babies, I am feeling it. I am feeling sending my number five off to first grade and her losing her two bottom teeth. I am feeling my number one starting high school and wanting to explore more of the world without me by his side. Man, I am feeling it.
My 6-year-old recently refused the offering of my hand in a parking lot. She shook her head and said, “It’s okay, mom. I got this.”
My heart fluttered.
Her beautiful confidence gave me a sense of pride. Her all too quickly appearing independence brought a pang of sadness. We are now at a turning point. I may be a smidge late on the bandwagon because it has been six years since I brought a baby home from the hospital, but it is just now hitting me.
We will no longer be bringing babies home.
We are entering a stage where 2 a.m. feedings are a thing of the past. We are not at the mercy of a newborn napping schedule or anyone’s nap schedule except for, well, mine.
My maternity clothes are officially retired—no more saving them for the next one. They have been boxed and donated. Each article of clothing that my number five grows out of becomes a second-hand resale item.
Her firsts being my lasts.
I may not have another newborn who will quietly sleep in a curled-up ball on my chest while the angels visit and whisper in their ear leading a smile to cross their beautiful face, but I have a little girl who gives me her hand as she bounces out of the car and tells me, “I lo-oooo-ve doe-ing home.”
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I have a son who is as in awe of the heavens as his mother—we spend time on warmer evenings and sometimes cooler ones bundled in blankets staring at the stars. I am in the throes of raising teens and tweens and experiencing all the emotions with them at all the times. I am constantly flipping between having serious conversations about how to navigate peer pressure and then running over to my child with a skinned knee who still believes that mommy’s kisses are a one-stop fixer-upper.
I find myself begging for time to pause.
The weeks drag on but the years fly by, and I find myself bargaining with time, asking for it to just pause for a second. However, I hope it picks the second when we are all cuddled up on the couch duking it out over which movie to watch while popcorn popped in the microwave and the kids threw their dollar store candy into a community bowl to share but then complained that their sibling was eating it too fast and it wouldn’t last the entirety of the movie. I like that moment versus the one where I am refereeing three different arguments in four different boxing rings.
I am watching my kids become less an extension of me and more an individual in their own right. Gosh, the experience of the tide shifting is both beautiful and devastating.
I can only hope I do right by these little loves. I hope they know the significance of these seemingly small moments has never—not once—been lost on their momma. I hope they know that when they are ready to make their own way, I will-begrudgingly and exuberantly let them. I will take their hand for as long as they will let me, and I hope they know I will always offer it even when they no longer need it.
Originally published on the author’s blog