I think all moms feel kind of sentimental when the baby of the family isn't such a baby anymore.
My pregnancy with Ben was mentally draining (I was so uncomfortable), but I will be forever grateful that I was able to get pregnant and carry two kids full-term, two kids who were so cozy in the womb that they both stayed a week past their EDD. I don't miss certain aspects of the newborn stage ... specifically the constant on-demand feeding schedule (and the pressure to be Baby's sole source of nourishment), the worrying/wondering/Googling ("How often should my baby poop?" "What foods make a baby gassy?" "Circumcision" "Best pediatrics in the XX area" "Is co-sleeping bad?" "What vaccinations does my baby need and when?" "Will my body ever feel normal again?" "Weird rash" etc.), the diapers (and diapers and diapers and diapers), the baby gear, the physical exhaustion, the total dependence for everything, but I do miss the fuzzy baby hair, those baby rolls, the cuddles, the giggles, the CHEEKS!!!, the funny faces, the tiny little clothes (onesies!), the portability (you set them down and they stay put! And you get a freebie arm workout from carrying that bucket seat everywhere you go!), the baby smell, the wide-eyed INNOCENCE, the endless possibilities of who your baby will be and how he will fit into your family.
I never would have guessed I would become one of those "baby" people, but somehow I did. I LOVE to hold babies now. I'm happy to babysit. I love to watch Aaron interact with babies (he knows how to get them to laugh) and listen to the boys talk in high-pitched baby voices (so sweet). I love to see babies expressions. I love it when something as simple as turning the lights on and off can rock their little worlds. They're so easy to please.
And time has a way of creeping up on you, and pretty soon you realize your baby isn't really a baby anymore. He has a first birthday party (and gets so covered in frosting that you have to give him a bath right afterwards) and then—after months of immobility—he gains independence and learns to crawl (and suddenly you have to worry about all kinds of new scenarios: stairs and cupboards and choking hazards, oh my!)
And then he learns to walk, first unsteady, then—as he gains confidence and becomes more bold—more sure of himself. This kid wants to explore. He's a little bit fearless, and that's a little bit terrifying (and a little bit exciting).
And sometimes he's naughty, but you can't get mad at him because THIS FACE.
And the birthdays come, and the birthdays go.
And he develops into his own little person, with opinions and interests and a personality! He has a free spirit, he is funny (like really funny), he is adventurous, he is sweet, he is sour, he is athletic, he is clumsy, he is aggressive, he is timid, he is outgoing, he is shy, he is loved (so loved). He likes his milk, his blankies, his superheroes, his naps (this kid NEEDS his sleep), his big brother, his mama, his dad, his grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles (and great aunts and uncles), his Ricky Rubio, his Zach Parise, his Family Feud, his playground outings, his bike, his sled, his waterpark rides, his Channel 2 shows, his Kindle, his basketball, his Pokemon, his books, his movies, his music, his friends. (But only when they're not playing with his favorite toy.) He is unlike his older brother in that he doesn't have a big group of friends, he has a few close friends. Sometimes he likes to play alone, too. You love this independent quality because it is so unlike you.
And on some days you'll feel sentimental about your Vanishing Baby (like when one of your friends has a beautiful new baby, or you start looking at old photos or reminiscing), but then you look at this photo and NOPE. You don't miss these ridiculous toddler tantrums. Not one bit.
Two years ago I constantly thought about having a third. It was an obsession. Could we afford it? Could we handle another one? (The two we had already made us feel maxed out most days.) Was it greedy to want a third when we already had two healthy children and some of our friends struggled with infertility? Were we too old?
I felt mixed emotions every month, simultaneously hoping I was pregnant and dreading the enormous implications of a missed period.
When I talked to a wise friend about my struggles, she pointed out, "In the long run, you won't regret having another one, but you might regret NOT having another one."
I got what she was saying—every baby is a blessing, and if we had another one, we'd figure it out. But what if I did regret it? What if it changed everything? What if it altered our family dynamic and made me cranky and resentful of not having enough "me" time? What if it ruined my marriage? I don't want to jeopardize what we have - we're in a really good place.
"Katie is having another baby," Adam said a few weeks ago. "Sam is going to have a brother AND a sister. You should have another baby."
"Katie is much younger than I am," I answered. "And her mom does daycare, so it's not as expensive for her."
"Can't you just GET another one?" Ben asked impatiently, as if it's as easy as walking into the grocery store and leaving with a newborn.
I'm too old, I told them. Having babies is a young person's game. I'd have to worry about miscarriage, being "advanced maternal age," extra health problems and complications (for me and the baby). I like my sleep now. I like the ages my kids are. I don't want to start all over.
"We'll get a dog some day," I promised them, then changed the subject.
Aaron and I cleaned out our basement a few weeks ago and threw away or donated a ton of our baby stuff, which—without saying it out loud—spoke volumes about where we stand with family planning.
I think we're both at peace (or very nearly at peace) with the idea that this is it. It's a huge—enormous—decision, to be done. This is our family, our little foursome, and this is as big as this family will get. And that's alright.
On one of those unseasonably warm days this fall, my dear friend Karla and I took our kids to the park and talked about The Decision. There are five of us in our high school group, and the other three were absolutely—without a doubt—very, very, very certain they were done having kids. Karla and I weren't certain. We waffled. For years we weighed the pros and cons. Should we? Shouldn't we? We had a narrow window of time to decide, and it was rapidly closing.
We agreed that there would have been no question of: "Is my family complete?" if we had stopped at three. Three would have been the magic number for us ... but three didn't happen (for a multitude of reasons), and now we're beyond that stage and it's time to let that dream go. (Karla, affectionate/smart/naturally maternal/baby whisperer/role model mom that she is, could have handled 10.) An even bigger loss of a dream, for us, anyhow, would have been to never have any children, and we each have two healthy kids, and those kids are pretty fucking amazing. And fun. So much fun.
Just last night our family "played" American Idol, where we all had stage personalities and 'tried out' for the show. (I had to go twice in a row before anyone else got up the courage to act silly, but once we started, the boys didn't want to stop!) What do you know? We had three judges and one contestant. (Ben kept wanting to be Harry Connick Junior and sit on the end, and it bothered him if I wasn't in J Lo's spot in the middle.) Adam slicked back his hair and sang "Cruise," Ben laid on the floor and his bare feet sing a ditty. (What?) We all laughed. I loved every minute of it.
When my friends schedule playdates now, our kids entertain one another and we can actually talk!!! For many years, we were all in the trenches, needing "friend time" but way too preoccupied with babies or chasing toddlers to give one another the attention we wished we could give one another. When they were little, it seemed like we'd never get to a point where we could relax with a glass (or two) of wine while our kids played together, and now HERE IT IS. Cheers to happy, healthy, smart, funny, well-adjusted kids who are old enough to tell us what they want/need, buckle their own carseats, and wipe their own butts. I'll drink to that.