I had a son three and a half years ago and everything I went through with him I was experiencing for the first time.
I learned how newborns smell (much better than I myself smell, usually). I learned the size of their smallest toenail (viewable only through an electron microscope) and how their heads look up close (soft). I learned how newborns stretch their tiny limbs, often unintentionally doing the black power salute or flailing their arms as if trying to hail a cab. I learned what it’s like to have a four day old infant that you are trying to hold push his way up your body like a delirious inchworm, his head and open mouth desperately searching, rocking back and forth like Stevie Wonder does when he plays the piano.
I remember the first time I looked at my son and was overwhelmed with how small and beautiful he was while at the same time being aware that he bore a strong resemblance to E.T. or anyone whose forehead looks like a rippled sand dune. I learned how much sleep you get with a newborn (none) and how often you are able to shower (see previous comment about how bad I smell). I learned that watching your child having blood drawn is actually more painful than having blood drawn from your own body. There were thousands of things I learned for the first time that were exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking. Having a child is a wild ride.
And so back to the present day. I had a baby nine days ago—my second son—and that is it. This pregnancy was my last pregnancy and this birth experience was my last birth experience, and as I hold his tiny, soft head, looking into his eyes that cannot really focus on anything just yet, I am being hit with the realization that literally everything I am doing I am now experiencing for the last time.
And maybe I am very naïve, but I had not expected it to feel this sad.
I have never particularly loved newborns and yet suddenly I am head over heels in love with a newborn baby who will only be a newborn baby for a month or two and then I will never have a newborn baby again. Ever. Maybe I will spend time with one if I am a grandmother someday but that is a long way off, if it happens at all, and at that point I may be very involved with things like water aerobics and getting bi-monthly colonoscopies.
So this is my last baby. I find myself staring at his translucent skin, memorizing every hexagon in his honeycomb of blood vessels or touching the downy back hair that makes him look like a tiny, sweet gorilla. When he was born and they placed him on my chest I thought, “This is the last time a nurse will hand me a baby and place it on my chest” and when I sat in my green hospital gown, tethered to an IV I thought, “This is the last time a nurse will walk in and go ‘Congratulations, sweetie, how are you feeling?’ before handing me a pamphlet called A New Beginning: Your Personal Guide to PostPartum and Newborn Care while also asking if she can draw my blood. Barring some weird, horrible accident, this is the last time I will go home from a hospital with an enormous bag full of mesh panties and spray bottles. I do not even particularly like any of these things, but the thought that they’re suddenly behind me makes me nostalgic for them. I find myself getting teary eyed a lot. I’m sure a lot of it is the hormones, which recently caused me to cry at the ending of Toy Story 3 harder than most people cry during the deaths of beloved pets, but I am genuinely sad regardless.
I hadn’t felt sad at all going in. For months I have been saying, “I can’t wait until this baby is born and starts growing out of things so we can finally get rid of all these baby items we’ve had to keep in storage!!” Many of my “happy thoughts” about having the new baby involved hurling my Boppy off a roof and selling my bassinette on eBay and giving away any clothes labeled “newborn” and then “0-3 or 3-6 months” because they were no longer needed. Free! I will finally be free! Yes, sure, I am excited to have a newborn but I am much more excited to eventually get rid of my infant carseat! And my maternity clothes! How long before I can leave the house without 20 lbs. of wipes and a spare outfit and a breast pump? Having a baby was so trying and difficult the first time that going in to the second time all I could think about was how relieved I would be when it was over. And now, suddenly I am realizing it will be over much sooner than I realized.
And I’m going to miss it.
I suddenly understand people who get sad at the thought of never having another newborn around to cradle to your chest. And I’m sure there are some people out there going, “Well if you feel that way, why stop? Have another one!” but no mom, that’s not what this essay is about.
I don’t want to have another newborn because that would just postpone the sadness of everything being the last time. There is always going to be a last time for everything. And it’s not that having a newborn is so wonderful, because obviously it isn’t. Parts of it are horrendous. I literally WROTE A BOOK about the horrendous parts. But there are also parts that are so touching and poignant that there’s a good chance you’ll cry harder than I cried at the ending to Toy Story 3 (or to the Ellie/Carl montage in the first ten minutes of UP). There are, in fairness, a lot of really beautiful moments. And this is my last time experiencing all of them.
My last time walking around 41 weeks pregnant in 98 degree weather (Hallelujah) and my last time watching something pushing at my skin from the inside as if feeling around for a secret door or escape hatch. This is probably the last time I will buy Newborn-sized diapers (which many kids outgrow after being alive for 40 minutes) and it was the last time I was wheeled out of the hospital with a baby on my lap, which, both times I have done it, have made me feel like some bizarre, extremely important queen.
And that is it. That is the whole point of this essay, if there is a point at all. (I am absolutely not certain there is one since I am averaging about three hours of sleep a night right now.) It’s not that I’m changing my mind about having two kids. But that it is sad when things are over. That even though people associate babies with new beginnings, your last baby is also a series of endings.
To paraphrase GK Chesterton—what once seemed like inconveniences can be easily re-framed as adventures. And having a child is nothing if not a series of adventures. I’m excited for the ones I have ahead of me and sorry for the ones that have ended. But regardless of what will happen in the future, I’m obviously getting enough sleep to remember obscure GK Chesterton quotes, so possibly things are not as bad as they sometimes seem.
Also, if anyone needs a Boppy, please e-mail me in a few months.
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Had a baby 9 days ago and have a book coming out in 4 days. If you’d like to purchase the book (Welcome to the Club: 100 Parenting Milestones You Never Saw Coming), you can get it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indiebound. If you’d like to purchase the baby, I’m so sorry, that is not allowed and also illegal. If you’d like to purchase the book (or have already pre-ordered a copy), live in the US and would like a free tote bag, there are still a few left, just fill out the Chronicle form here and it’s yours! If you’d like to purchase the book and then receive a tote bag that you have to pay for, simply buy the book and then go to some store that sells tote bags and buy a tote bag.
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And for anyone who would like to comment and say that they also thought they were only having two kids but (whoops) sometimes things happen that you do not anticipate, get excited for my next entry on the joy of vasectomies.
Have a wonderful weekend.