I passed a maternity wing recently. Images of tiny hands gripping my finger, soft newborn skin, and sweet baby snuggles drifted through my mind. I held them for a moment with fondness, then took my son’s hand and walked on. As I moved past the entrance, I felt a weight lift at the idea that I’m finished with pregnancy, delivery, and recovery.
We sold our infant car seat. I gifted away the nursing pillow. Each time baby outgrows a clothing size, I donate to make room in his drawers for the next. We won’t need the baby swing or bouncer any longer and no one’s picked up a rattle for ages. These are supposed to be bittersweet moments. I should be struggling to let go, to move on, but I’m not. I’m parenting in the now.
We’re gradually weaning, down to once at night. I’m thrilled to have my breasts back to relatively normal size, to wear a “real” bra, to go places without watching the clock for the next time baby needs to nurse. I will admit to not rushing this one. Baby could probably go down at night without nursing, but neither of us are ready yet. And I’m okay with that.
A full night’s sleep is a decadent, glorious luxury. I still crash into my pillow each night, but I wake up a new person, ready to take on the world. I function in the midst of sleep deprivation, but I wasn’t made to thrive in the midst of it without losing a bit of myself. I don’t miss late night snuggles because I’m too busy enjoying day-time snuggles on a full night’s sleep.
My husband and I sometimes daydream out loud about the diaper-less days ahead in a year or two. Sure, I won’t be reviewing cloth diapers anymore, but I’ll still be a cloth advocate. We enjoyed a diaper-free household for a short time between baby #3 and baby #4 and we don’t anticipate tears when it’s time to put away the cloth diapers for the last time.
I might simply be delaying the baby aches because I’m preoccupied with my 9, 6, 4, and 1 year-olds. Now consumes me with all of its wonder, challenges, and unknowns. Sure, older kids are complicated, messy, and they talk back. But they also say the most surprising things, wrap you in enormous hugs, and challenge the way you view the world.
Now that the kids are all over a year, I’m reveling in more uninterrupted time with my spouse. I’m enjoying our predictable schedule and actually staying awake long enough to talk each evening without falling asleep mid sentence. I’m also eagerly awaiting date nights without a baby in tow.
Moving beyond the infant stages also means more time and energy to explore what it means to be me. I’m picking up books again, playing with victory rolls, throwing around plot ideas for that novel I always mean to write, and making plans to set up a hat making studio. I’m focusing on my health, remembering what it’s like to prioritize me again, and dreaming up new future plans.
My husband recently discovered family videos from years past, full of chubby-cheeked babies, first steps, and toothy smiles. I watched with delight, reveling in those moments come to life again. But I didn’t long for a real-life rewind button or for a repeat in a year or two.
I imagine I’ll always be that person cooing over a new baby, hoping for a chance to hold a little one. I hope I’ll always have a bit of the “baby whisperer” in me, but without the ache for a baby of my own.
Life is full of stages and I don’t want to miss out on this one because I’m longing for the past. I want to live in today full of chapter books, soccer games, impossible questions, and know-it-alls. I want to celebrate our last taking his first steps, with the knowledge of all of the amazing firsts yet to come.