Our last little baby turns one this month and I'd like to say I'm handling it rather well when the truth is, I haven't paused long enough to let it sink in. It's so bittersweet, this raising babies thing. On one hand, you can't help but mourn the loss of that squishy newborn with his floppy head and curled up legs and deliciously fuzzy shoulders whose favorite place to land was that soft, sweaty crook in the nook of your neck but at the same time, you can't help but celebrate the amazing and incredible funny little human being that is currently toddling around your kitchen slamming his fingers in your drawers, babbling a mile a minute and leaving behind him a trail of teething cookie crumbs.
When I think about our last first year coming to a close, I get the same kind of dizzying tickle in my stomach that I had all three times I saw those two pink lines appear for the very first time. That kind of feeling where you don't know whether to laugh or to cry but you pray to God that whatever happens next, you'll all be okay, even if it's been a really, really long time since you've last prayed for anything.
In a sense, it's as if I've spent the last twelve months preparing for this very moment. When I became pregnant with Collins, I knew right away that he was going to be our last little baby and it was with that knowledge that I soaked up every last bit of my pregnancy, right down to the two annoyingly unplanned hospitalizations for pre-term labor shortly before he was born.
I opted for the hospital "bonus day" after my third c-section because I selfishly wanted to keep him all to myself for just one more day before throwing caution to the wind and jumping head long into the madness that awaited us at home. That's the thing about third babies- you become achingly aware of how quickly time passes and I knew that once we walked through the threshold of our home, that I would blink and three months would pass. That even though I would silently beg for him to sleep through the night just once, that those sleepless nights would soon add up and he would be six months, eight months old and now, almost a year.
And he's still not sleeping through the night. But I know that's okay and in some sick and twisted way, the knowledge of him being our last little baby made every one of those middle of the night wake ups a little sweeter, a little easier to deal with because I would remind myself that it would be something I wouldn't ever get the chance to do again.
To wake to the squawking cries of a newborn and after two babies, immediately know how to soothe him. To rock and sway, swaddle and shush, my body moving in a way that has become almost instinctual. To lift a restless infant from his warm crib and fold his chubby little body against mine, taking note of the way his tiny body radiates heat in only the way that a chubby-bodied baby can. To nurse him into milk drunk oblivion and hold your breath as you lower him into his crib, hoping against all hope that he would remain sleeping.
To stand there, long after you've done so, just watching the rise and fall of his chest, the flutter of his eyelids, the twitch of his toes and not even realize how long you've been standing there until you suddenly need to take a breath because you've been holding your breath the entire time so as not to wake him.
I look back over this last first year and realize that I can be anything but sad and for that, I am so grateful. Knowing he was our last little baby allowed me to be present more, to soak in every last bit of his first year and not shrug off the little moments, or the big ones too, just because I knew that I'd get to do it all over again sometime in the future.
I know that there are many lasts ahead of us yet and chances are, I'll remember them just as wistfully as the many lasts that have become mere lines of words in baby books and blog posts. The first t-ball game is actually just as exciting as the first steps, believe it or not. The first day of pre-school is just as emotional as the day you came home from the hospital and I can't wait for those last first's too although I know with certainty that I will be a snotty, blubbering mess.
Even though our last first year is coming to a close, I'd like to think that I'm still in the proverbial trenches of motherhood. I've still got diapers to change, sippy cups to fill and drippy noses to wipe. My oldest still calls me "Mommy" and that eases the sting of this growing up thing and further reminds me that the best is yet to come.
Not to mention, it will be nice to get dressed one day and not have to worry about whether or not I can easily pull my boob out from the neckline of my shirt.
Why yes, I do believe, last little baby, the best is yet to come. Thank you for giving me the best last first year I could have hoped for.