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Last August, I had my last baby. Oof. Even typing those words makes my heart ache. There’s something so final, so sad, so unreal about acknowledging the end of having babies. Maybe it’s because I’m the type of person who likes to keep all the doors open. I love possibilities. I hate goodbyes. And this, my friends, feels like a very hard goodbye.

When I think about being done having kids, it feels like a goodbye to the baby years. For six years now, all I’ve known is the baby years. And while the baby years can drain me and bend me and push me in the hardest of ways, they’re also full of huge cheeks, and rolls for days, and slobbery kisses, and wobbly steps and toothless grins. They’re full of chubby hands holding mine. They’re full of tiny voices and made-up words. And by now, I know these years well. I know how to be a mom of littles.

RELATED: We’re Leaving Behind the Baby Years

I don’t want to say goodbye to the life stage I’m in now because if I’m honest with myself, I fear the next stage. What if I’m not good at it? What if I don’t know how to be a big kid mom? (Okay, let’s be real, I don’t know how to be a big kid mom.) What if I can’t gracefully let go and give my kids the independence they need? How will I feel when they don’t want 10,000 snuggles a day like they do now? What will my role look like?

I also don’t want to say goodbye to my kids’ childhoods. I love their innocence, their laughter, their made-up games. I love the sheer joy they express at everything, from eating rainbow-sprinkle cupcakes to waving at the recycling truck to seeing a butterfly. I always want them to have that. I don’t ever want them to get hurt or become jaded. I want them small and happy and mine. Why can’t life work that way? Why can’t I freeze this moment in time? I so wish I could.

I ask my 6- and 4-year-old girls if they’ll stop growing for me all the time. They giggle and answer, “No. But I’ll always be yours, Mommy.” And they will be. I won’t have to say goodbye to them. Yes, they’ll leave the baby phase behind, but I know there will be wonders and precious treasures to uncover in all the next phases too.

Of course, I’m scared, just like I was scared before I had my first child. Of course, I want to dig my heels in and keep them tiny. But I can’t, so I won’t. I will try my hardest to be present, savoring all the moments with them. That’s all we can do in life, in motherhood when time can be so fast and so slow all at the same time. When we feel like so much of life is small moments of saying hello and goodbye, over and over again.

RELATED: You’re My Last Baby So I’ll Savor You a Little More

My last baby is growing. He’s completed all his big first milestones. The last time a baby of mine would first sit up. The last time a baby of mine would first start to crawl. The last time a baby of mine would take their first step. And on and on it goes. Oh, to bottle him up, just as he is. Oh, to push away the reality by thinking, “Maybe I should have another baby???”

But, no, I’ll let all the feelings come, and I’ll embrace the bittersweetness of this time. I’ll try to soak him in, just like I tried to soak in my girls’ babyhoods and toddlerhoods. And I’ll look for the beauty in all the hellos and goodbyes we encounter along the way.

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Kim Howard

Kim Howard is a mom to three kids. She has a Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies and is a former teacher. Check out her picture books Do Mommies Ever Sleep? and Grace and Box, and learn more about her at Kim Howard Books and www.kimhowardbooks.com.

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