This month, my youngest daughter, my second born, the beautiful blonde baby who arrived early to complete our little family, reaches the grand age of one.
We’re hurtling towards this happy milestone fast – which seems to have come around in a heartbeat– and getting ready to celebrate. I’m busy thinking parties, and pressies, and how to stop her eating the TV remote, and trying to ram the stair-gate with her head. But I’m also busy trying to stop my heartstrings being pulled in all directions.
You see, this is the last baby. The last time I’m doing this. As my baby girl enters toddler-hood, it is with a ton of joy, tinged with a little sadness, that I see her on her merry way.
Yes, she’s definitely our last baby. Even when we were expecting her, my husband and I both knew she was the final piece of our puzzle. There was no long discussions, no partner trying to convince the other to ‘go again’. And, in the end, she entered the world in less than top form (cue a short stay in NICU), which is something we’d find hard to go through again.
So I’m hanging up my child-bearing hat and, knowing those who’ve suffered infertility, miscarriage and the loss of a child, I’m aware we’re beyond blessed to have our chicks. I feel lucky, so lucky. But you know what? I’m not pushing my luck.
Yet some days it’s still tricky to process the fact my baby shop is shut. My head says ‘Hurrah, no more leaky boobs ever again’, but my heart pipes up with ‘Oh. My. God. Squishy baby cheeks!’
I think of all the firsts which are done and dusted. Marvelling at the tiny button nose on our day-old baby. Introducing her to those we love. We won’t be doing that again. Giving our girls their first bath. Heading off on their first holiday. Taking them for their first swim. We won’t be doing that again.
Of course, parenthood is hard. Oh my God it can be hard. So I’m trying not to romanticise it – we deal daily with exhaustion, late night corridor-pacing and the odd dinner left to go cold on the table.
But then I recall the intoxicating heady scent of a newborn. When both my kids were fresh buns out of the oven, I would spend ages just inhaling them – like some kind of baby junkie. I won’t be doing that again. (That smell has been replaced by less-delightful aromas!).
Then there’s the first night each baby moved into their own room. We just spent most of it peering round the door-frame. I think of when we caught sight of the first tooth, heard the first giggle, saw the first roll, basked in the gummy glow of the first smile. We won’t be doing that again.
So although I’m totally fine with our decision, it’s just the tightening in my chest and lump in my throat that needs to take note. And it will. Because, wait, our eldest kid isn’t quite four yet, so I know we’ve plenty of show-stopping firsts still to come. We’re excitedly counting down to the first day at school. The first visit from the tooth fairy. Maybe less so for the first sleepover. (Let’s not even bring up the first date).
With our baby days numbered, it’s ‘so long’ to the baby bath and bouncy chair (thank you, eBay). And hello to an awesome new era as our bubs grow from infants to gorgeous young girls, standing on their own two feet – and probably making a dash for it. (Shopping in the supermarket will never be the same again.)
So I know whether it’s the last baby, sixth baby or only baby, every milestone, every first and every last is precious. And so is time. So I’ll try to spend it living in the moment, and looking forward.