The End of A Chapter

Yesterday I packed the mini-van with a lot of Sydney’s baby gear she no longer uses like her co-sleeper, jumperoo, swing, and walker and I drove it to a local pregnancy support center to donate it. On the outside it may just look like we’re decluttering and we are, but it’s also much more than that. What it really means is an end to our baby years. What it really means is an end of a chapter in our lives.

Perhaps some people go into parenthood with a number in mind. Perhaps they want to replicate the number of siblings they had or create a family they wished they had had growing up. I swore up and down that I was done having babies after my second child was born. I’ve been here before. I’ve given all the gear away. I’ve told myself I wouldn’t ever need the maternity clothes again, but this time it feels different.

Are We Complete?

I’ve asked other women before if they just knew when they were done having babies. Some said they felt a sense that their family was complete. I think others just sit on the bench running out their biological clock till the option isn’t on the table anymore. I suppose until someone gets “fixed” the option is never totally off the table. I can’t say that will ever happen, but the days of us ever trying for another baby are over.

It’s bittersweet. The baby years are something so special and so rare and they go by in the blink of your bleary sleep deprived eyes. We went away for my son Jayden’s birthday this weekend and Sydney slept horribly in our shared hotel room. It took five attempts just to get her to sleep in her pack n play and then she woke up at 2 am wanting to play and we had no other choice but to put her in bed with us so she wouldn’t cry and wake up the other kids. Though we had already decided to pack away the baby years, the next morning solidified our decision. I was wrecked. It’s surprisingly fast, how quickly you forget the sleep deprivation once the veil finally lifts and you can see clearly again. It’s hard to willingly want to go back to that state.

Saying Goodbye To New Beginnings

Don’t get me wrong, the baby years are also some of the best in your life. The pure excitement of a positive pregnancy test, hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time or seeing him or her on an ultrasound for the first time are incredible. I will miss those moments, standing on the precipice of a new beginning.  Falling in love at first sight has only ever happened when meeting my babies for the first time; feeling the delicious weight of them in my arms and smelling their perfect newness radiating from their heads and faces. I will miss those beginnings, especially before the work really begins.

I’m not terribly sad to never get pregnant again, just because my pregnancies are full of vomiting, aches and pains, sometimes rashes that are so bad you’d like to rip your skin off, and Braxton Hicks contractions so painful you can’t move. Whoever said they were painless was full of it. The idea of never visiting the labor room again or enduring between 12-20 hours of labor seems like a relief. But I know I’m feeling all this now because my youngest is only 15 months old and while we’re knee deep into toddler town, she’s still a baby. It’s hard to make the call when you have a baby in the house. There is no “baby void” to fill. But I know I can’t afford to wait years for that void to grow. While I’m not physically old, 35 is now the new “advanced maternal age” when it comes to birthing babies. I know I don’t have two or three years to decide to have another child.

Beyond that my older children are beginning to take on more activities. They both do scouting and now basketball. There seriously NEEDS to be a support group for sports parents. All the running around, cooking dinner at 4 in the afternoon and trying to cover who is going to pick them up at 8 pm is enough to drive you to drink. It’s only made more complicated when you have a baby that goes to bed at 7 pm. I don’t know how much juggling is truly in me.

The Last of The Firsts

The only real regret I have is not knowing at the time, that it would be my last positive pregnancy test or heartbeat to be heard or sonogram picture to hold tight. I didn’t know that it would be the last time I swaddled a newborn and brought them home from the hospital. I didn’t know that her first birthday would be the last first birthday I would see. I wish I had known so I could have held tighter to those moments instead of them passing by in a haze. Even though I strongly suspected she would be my last, there’s a big difference between suspecting and knowing.

At what point after you make the decision, do you feel completely at ease with it instead of feeling the bittersweetness of it all? Do years need to pass? Does it ever go away? A part of me is relieved I won’t have to endure the challenges of the baby years. A part of me is glad to see the big clunky baby gear find it’s way to a new baby in a different household. It feels good to clear out my house, but it also feels sad to clear out the hope in my heart. I am simultaneously glad and sad. It’s sort of strange to close a door in your life and say this chapter is definitely over.

Yes, it’s hard to say goodbye to the baby years. There are things I will miss like the weight of an infant napping on my chest. I may miss nursing or rocking a baby. I probably won’t miss diaper explosions and three-a-day outfit changes. I won’t miss being so tired that my fuse is super short and EVERY LITTLE THING feels like a mountain I can’t climb. I won’t miss the miseries of pregnancy or the pain of labor. I will probably always miss the reward at the end though.

Writing New Chapters

I know I need to just keep looking forward. I need to write new chapters with my husband, Hannah, Jayden, and Sydney. I need to seek out new moments to look forward too. I know before I know it there will be middle school, then high school, proms and graduations. I know there will be MANY more firsts to come, but there will also be a lot of “lasts” as well. The last time I will potty train a child. Ok, that one is probably a good thing. But it takes a “last time” to FINALLY come to see those “first times” clearly. There is good and there is bad to everything. The baby years are amazing and special, but they’re also super hard, frustrating and draining.

Surprisingly I didn't cry when I packed up the baby gear to donate, but I know there will be a day in the future where I do.

Surprisingly I didn’t cry when I packed up the baby gear to donate, but I know there will be a day in the future when I will.

So to all the other moms who’ve decided to close up shop and say the days of making babies is over, I’m with you. I feel how bittersweet this goodbye is. I think it’s why most of us avoid making this decision. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to say nothing out loud and just run out the clock, but I realize that if you really love the game you gotta leave on your own terms. Ultimately, I would want it to be a choice my husband and I make together, just like we did when we decided to start a family. So I will say my goodbyes to the baby years and maybe once Sydney is 3 or 4 I will sit down and have a good cry about it.

I’m not unhappy with three great kids. I wonder if four would push me into insanity, but the truth is that any more than one child will do that anyway. When you make it through the baby years and decide to go back, that’s the insane part. Love will do that to you. It’ll make you forget how hard it all was. So on that day when I’m having my good cry, I’ll try and remind myself how tired I was, how scared, how fragile it all seemed and I hope I’ll remember why we decided it was time to close this chapter in our lives.