Goodbye to the Baby Years
My baby – my third baby, my last baby – is about to turn one. I’m done having babies, and my youngest is quickly turning into a toddler. This, as you may expect, is sending me on a rollercoaster of emotions. My life for the past almost 7 years has been a whirlwind of pregnancy, babies, nursing and toddlers, and that stage is quickly coming to an end.
Before kids, I wasn’t a baby person. I was never the person that felt compelled to hold newborns. In fact, I was more likely to hold them reluctantly and awkwardly, never sure what I was supposed to be doing or saying. It’s the elementary school years that I’ve always looked forward to. That’s why I’m surprised this is hitting me so hard.
What I didn’t know before kids is that the baby years are magical. That they are at once fleeting and impossibly slow, full of moments you want to hold onto forever. So before we move on, and I look forward excitedly to what lies ahead, I want to take a minute to say goodbye.
Goodbye to pregnancy, to the anticipation of meeting a brand new little person. To waking up excitedly wondering if this might be labour, if this is the day you’re going to meet your little one.
Goodbye to falling in love in an instant. To that moment when your new baby is placed on your chest, and you stare in absolute awe of what you created. To studying their little face, and their perfect little fingers and toes, and knowing that you are forever changed because of them.
Goodbye to those endless hours spent snuggling a sleeping newborn on the couch. To those days when you can’t risk moving, even to eat or go to the bathroom, because there is no way you are going to chance waking the baby.
Goodbye to first smiles. To that first social interaction that comes at just the right time, when you’re emotionally and physically exhausted and wondering how much more you can continue to give.
Goodbye to midnight feedings. Goodbye to sleepless nights. Goodbye to the hours and hours spent rocking them to sleep. Goodbye to a little one sleeping beside the bed, close enough to hear their little breaths and baby snores.
Goodbye to pudgy thighs, rubber band wrists, and adorable, squishable cheeks. Goodbye to tiny fingers and toes, and that intoxicating new baby smell.
Goodbye to swaddles and soothers, to the baby gear that threatens to take over the house. Goodbye to the teeny tiny baby clothes that they outgrow overnight.
Goodbye to the days where all they need to be entertained is a game of peekaboo.
Goodbye to maternity leave, that time where life slows down and your only job is to take care of them. To those days at home with no schedule, and nothing to do but watch them explore their world.
Goodbye to a simpler time, before tantrums and sibling rivalries. When they haven’t yet learned the word “no”, and their biggest problems can be solved by a snuggle with Mom.
Goodbye to the most physically demanding stage of parenting. To those years spent with a baby on your hip, wishing you had two free hands and lamenting the fact that you can’t get anything done.
Goodbye to the pure, unadulterated joy and wonder of experiencing something for the first time. New foods, new experiences, new environments – there is magic in experiencing the world again through your baby’s eyes.
Goodbye to the excitement of watching a personality emerge and an individual develop. From an instinct-driven newborn to a toddler with a personality bigger than their little body, one of my favourite parts of the baby years is learning who they are as individuals.
There is so much to look forward to. I know that. But the sweet simplicity of the baby years is coming to an end, and saying goodbye is hard.
Soon, they will all be too big for me to hold. Soon, I will not be able to kiss their problems away. Soon, their friends will have more influence on them than we do, and we can only hope that we’ve given them a solid enough foundation.
So today, I’m going to snuggle my baby a little longer during the middle-of-the-night feed. I’ll savour the idiosyncrasies of my toddler’s speech before they disappear. And every once in a while, I’ll summon all of my strength and pick up my 5 year old. Because the last time is coming, and I’m not quite ready for it to be over.