Growing up I only had a younger brother, but I also had a large extended family. I was constantly surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins, and as a result, I always knew I wanted a large family. When I became pregnant with my first child, my large family, and my husband’s, showered us with clothes, toys, and baby gear, and as our daughter grew out of those things, I meticulously packed them away in large bins, carefully labeled and ready for the next baby. When the next baby came along, another beautiful little girl, prepping for each new stage was just a matter of pulling things out of storage and giving them a good wash. As she too began to grow out of these things, I placed them back in the bins, but this time I wasn’t sure there would be another baby.
I wanted at least one more, but my husband said he was done. He loves being a dad, but children are stressful and expensive, and as New Orleans transplants, we have no family support nearby. Two was enough. I understood my husband’s feelings, and I respected them, but I continued to pack things away, hoping that when my youngest was out of the newborn stage he might reconsider. I told him, at the very least, someday my brother and his wife would have children, and we could give them whatever they needed. He’d roll his eyes and remind me he was done.
Our youngest didn’t sleep through the night for two solid years, and during that time, I was overwhelmed at my job and our oldest was struggling in school. Eventually, I had to concede. As much as I wanted one more baby, I feared it would place too much stress on our family. Luckily, all of my planning and organization was not futile. Shortly after we decided we were done, my brother and his wife found out they were pregnant with their first child – a girl. I was so excited that I was going to be an aunt and that my girls were going to have a cousin. And I really could send them ALL THE THINGS! There just one slight obstacle to sending them all of my baby stuff – they live in Connecticut.
Shipping is expensive, so we decided it did not make much sense for me to send them large items like the highchair, and I knew from personal experience that no one appreciates being someone’s dumpster in the name of being helpful. I did not want to burden them with unnecessary or unwanted items, so I decided the best thing to do would be to create a shared iCloud photo album and post pictures of EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM I could ship. My sister in law would like the pictures of the items she wanted. I would send those items and sell or donate whatever she didn’t want. I am practical to the extreme, and I thought this was a flawless system. I started taking pictures of toys my girls no longer played with and the 18-24 month clothes my youngest had most recently grown out of. Taking pictures was fun, and purging items and being productive always make me happy. I felt especially victorious when I was able to quickly get rid of some of the items I could not ship to Connecticut. I gave a local friend my maternity clothes, I gave the double stroller to another friend who was expecting baby #2, and I sold several items to consignment. The whole system was working smoothly, but then I started pulling bins out of storage.
I was not prepared for the emotional toll it would take.
The first bin I pulled out was filled with 3-6m clothes. They were so tiny and so cute. I found the dress from my oldest’s baby dedication and the dress my youngest wore to my brother’s wedding. I came across some of my most favorite outfits: the Halloween pajamas covered in spiders with big bows and eyelashes; the purple cupcake onesie that always highlighted their big blue eyes; the hooded Mini Mouse bathing suit I just couldn’t resist buying because it had ears. With each picture I took and posted to the shared album, “no more babies” became more and more real. Suddenly, no more babies meant no more tiny outfits. No more new baby smell. No more toothless smiles or baby coos. No more fat cheeks, or chunky legs, or tiny little death grips.
I texted my bestie group chat for moral support. I told myself that, even if I had ten more kids, realizing I was past the baby stage for good would still have been hard. I let myself stash of few of my most favorite outfits from each girl in their keepsake boxes instead of offering them to my sister in law. Still I felt sad. Others have called this sadness a loss, but I would not call it that. I have not lost anything. I have two beautiful girls already. It’s more like the crash after the high. Like when a concert you’ve been anticipating for a month is finally over. You know the excitement was worth it. You had a phenomenal time, but now that it’s over, you’re just not sure what to do with yourself.
In the midst of the picture taking, organizing, shipping, and purging, my now three-year-old made an adorable language error, and I instantly understood my struggle.
It wasn’t just that I wasn’t going to experience all the baby stuff again. It was that I hadn’t noticed as all those things had passed and faded away.
I remember lots of cute things my oldest said and did, but I didn’t notice the last time she said or did them. When did she stop calling windows “ninows”? When did she last insist “I do’d it!”? Already my 3-year-old has started calling me “Mom,” instead of “Mama” or “Mommy” (and my husband thinks it’s hilarious that I physically cringe every time she does it). I’m terrified I’m going to miss the last time she calls Ketchup “check-up” or that she demands I hold her hand when we cuddle. I’m dreading the day she stops squealing in delight when her daddy makes her laugh.
For all of the difficulties of parenthood; For all of the sleepless nights and temper tantrums; For all of the times they wouldn’t listen or destroyed a room I’d just cleaned; I finally understand why people say, “you’ll miss it someday” (though I still don’t think ANYONE should say this to an exhausted mother). I don’t just miss my oldest being little. I missed when she stopped being little. I blinked and all of the sudden she was having sleepovers and going to her first concert (JoJo Siwa, of course!). I know the same will happen with my youngest and then there will be no more cute little voices or “hug, kiss, high-five, fist-bumps” before bed, and