As I stood there, in that moment, I silently pleaded with time, begging her to stand still. I did this because I know too well that in a year's time, in even two month's time, I will have mostly forgotten this season of our life together, most definitely this ordinary Tuesday evening. That even though the days are achingly full with a messy conglomeration of mundane and amazing, that even though they feel long, these days are rushing by.
There in the dim light of the family room as I danced between Legos, action figures and Matchbox cars, I told myself, "Remember this. No, really. Stop and remember this. The weight of him in your arms. How his head fits so perfectly in that space between your neck and your shoulder. As if that space was made especially for that- for cradling babies and swaying with them as their eyelids turn heavy and their breathing slows. Remember the ache that burns in your forearm as you try to adjust his warm, sweaty body around on your chest, slowly, every so slowly as not to disrupt him.
Remember how tired you feel. Remember how the exhaustion seems to bear down on you, to shroud you in a fog that causes you to forget things like where you last placed the car keys and relatively important doctor's appointments. Remember how the exhaustion is somehow worth it. "
It's as if, in this moment, I've had a revelation.
"Look differently towards the early morning wake-ups," I tell myself. "Try seeing them as extra time to spend with each one of them as opposed to trying to divvy up your time when they're all at your feet, clamoring for your attention. I have news for you. You're always going to feel tired until the one day when you don't. And you will miss this."
"Remember the sweet smell of his freshly bathed head as you sway. Back and forth, back and forth."
It's so funny how our bodies replicate this movement at the most subconscious level- like when we're standing in the checkout line at the grocer, our children safe at home, spared the agony of a errand full of "Sit on your bottom. Don't touch that. We don't need that." Your mind races as you try to remember your grocery list and just like that, you sway. Back and forth. Back and forth...
"Remember how his fuzzy hair tickles your lips as you mindlessly brush them repeatedly over the top of his head. How his warm breath quickens against the inside of your neck as you do this. Remember how innocent the feeling, as his eyelids flutter against your skin as you wonder what he's dreaming about."
This was around the time, two years ago, that I first felt the sting. The sting that comes with growing babies, fleeting moments and passing time. Back then, the sting stirred me. It made me realize that I wasn't done yet- that our family wasn't complete. It was unexpected and as I sat in tears on the nursery floor, folding tiny onesies and newborn sleeping gowns that no longer stretched to fit, I knew there was one more baby to be had.
I told myself to remember these moments back then too but deep down I always knew there would be one more baby. So I didn't listen. I didn't take myself seriously and I let the full days and the exhaustion take hold. The days and nights and months and years blur together now. I reassured myself that it was okay though, because there would be One More Time....
One more time I would watch my husband light up as he laid eyes on his brand new baby for the first time. One more time when I would stop breathing, just for a handful seconds, a handful of seconds that felt like an eternity as I waited to hear that very first cry. One more time that my world would come to a screeching halt and I would fall head over heels, hopelessly and wholly in love with a brand new baby.
A baby whose whole life began and grew right there beneath my heart.
"Remember this," only this time, I'm stern with myself. Forcing myself to take this mental snapshot of this very moment. The rock, the sway, the weight of it all.
Because tonight I feel that very same sting only this time it's the sting that comes with knowing I will never again experience these moments. The ache that each wonderfully acheived milestone brings with it as I realize it's the last first time I'll watch my baby smile. The last first time he'll discover his toes. The last first time I'll hear that sweet giggle and fall hopelessly and wholly in love with them all over again.
I know there are many more Firsts ahead. Brand new firsts that won't take the place of the first first's but ones that will be celebrated with just as much ferocity because of their newness. First tooth, first steps, first days of school, first car...
But one day, even those firsts will become Last Firsts.
That's the thing about the last little baby. You'll cling to him as much as he clings to you and neither one of you will want to be the first... to let go.