If you looked at these pictures, you might expect an essay about the virtues of babywearing. Or perhaps a post about why travel with children is so important and how to accomplish this.

When I look at it, I know these pictures are a snapshot of the last days of babyhood.

This fall, as we went on some socially-distanced outings, I decided to keep the carrier in the back of the car to have it handy even though it’s on the verge of no longer being needed. The carrier usage was in the name of practicalitywe had a lot we wanted to see and do. When little legs get tired and you flirt with the edge of meltdown territory, it can put an entirely different cast on an outing.

RELATED: The Secret No One Told Me About the Toddler Years is How Much I Could Absolutely Love Them

There’s also an almost five year age difference between my children. We often have to balance what 8-year-old legs can and want to do versus 3-year-old legs not having the same stamina. All very practical reasons to have a carrier handy for my 3-year-old who likes to go on adventures.

However, if I’m perfectly honest, there was also another motive afoot.

You see, the 30-plus pounds of threenager awesomeness in that backpack is most likely my last baby. I love having a baby in the house and would probably have an entire mob of children in a limitless world. The baby years are one of my favorite seasons of motherhood so far. However, age, circumstances, logistics, and common sense dictate that we most likely need to stop at two children.

My brain recognizes and accepts this practical reality. Getting my heart on board with this reality; well, that’s another story altogether.

So, like so many moms before me, I’m holding on to these last moments of babyhood a little tighter. I know they’re slipping away, and I’m just not quite ready yet.

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

It’s been hard to give away those last few baby items even as they take up much-needed storage space. Watching the crib come down for the last time and a big girl bed go up in its place, squeezed my heart in a way that I still feel a bit of the pinch. It’s similar to the pinch felt with each new skill my daughter gains even though these skills theoretically make day to day living easier. Her little triumphs of 3-year-old independence are celebrated and appreciated, but I still feel like I’m on a roller coaster picking up speed regardless of my readiness.

So, for as long as I possibly can, I’ll continue to hike up hills and walk distances with her on my back when she proclaims, “My baby legs are tired now.”

I’ll rock her and indulge her when she wants to pretend to be a tiny baby. I’ll cut up her food long past when it needs to be and will savor the feeling of that little hand clasping mine. Even on days when my legs and back are protesting vociferously, I’ll wear her if she wants me to. I know my window is closing.

RELATED: There’s Just Something About That Last Baby

I do know that I’ll continue to marvel and be awed as both of my children grow. There will be so much joy as they learn new things and there is so much to look forward to in the days to come. The rational part of me knows that while, like her big brother, she soon may not need me to physically carry her, she will still need me, just like he does.

But my heart also knows . . .

One day soon I’ll have to put her down, and that will be it, there will be no more babies in this household to carry. I will treasure these last fleeting moments in my heartmy legs and back can take one for the team.

Katie McNally

Katie is a mother of gingers (kind of like dragons but scarier at points). She is currently at home reheating a mug of tea for the eleventh time and working on various writing projects as well as getting her life together in general. She is on the verge of turning 40 and mining it for any blogging material she can. You can read more on her blog, Knock, Knock, Knocking on Forty’s Door or follow Katie on Facebook or Twitter