Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My last baby: On my new life

I became an expectant mom early in life when I really wasn't expecting to. I was 20 and the positive test was a huge shocker, to say the least. After going through the classic stages of grief (seriously, I did), I really embraced pregnancy and the new life within. Once he was born, 18 long years ago, I realized what I had never known to be true — babies were amazing. I had loved the wonder and excitement of being pregnant and I loved having a new baby.

As he grew, it became so affirming to have someone to teach, someone to love, and someone to love me back. I hankered for a second baby by the time he was midway through his third year, and when he was closer to 3 1/2, his brother was born.

Again, not too much beyond his third birthday, I was pregnant with my first daughter. And four years later, I began trying for another baby. Unfortunately, it took an additional three years to conceive, but I did it — at age 35, I had my second daughter and now had a family of six. We were complete with two boys and two girls.

My youngest is on the cusp of turning four, and her baby stage is long over. She is learning to write, she can dress herself (and the results, of course, are amazing), she can use the potty and she can feed herself. She never used a crib, but if she did, it would have gone by the wayside by now. She still nurses and occasionally wants me to wear her, but these are rapidly diminishing aspects of her baby- and toddlerhood.

I am not going to have any more babies. For most of my adult life I was either pregnant, parenting a baby or young child, or planning a pregnancy. I'm on the verge of a big birthday myself as I prepare to brand myself 40 years old next March. I can already feel the effects of age creeping in, as some days my favorite thing is what happens at the end of the day — crawling into bed and feeling the effects of gravity go away as my joints settle into slumber.

I've entertained the thought of another pregnancy, but that's where it ends — simple entertainment. I felt like hell near the end of my last pregnancy, which ended four years ago. I had terrible acid reflux and my hips were so out of whack I arranged my workspace so that I rarely had to get up and walk around. Sleep was nothing but a yearned-for dream and heaving my giant carcass around was a task that I couldn't wait to be relieved of.

However, knowing how taxing another pregnancy could be, and how little sleep I continue to get with my crap-sleeper youngest child, and how much time and energy I spend on the four kids I already have, I can't imagine stretching myself further with a fifth baby.

Admitting that is hard. It may be one of the hardest things I've ever had to fess up to.  Knowing that my reproductive years are behind me and that they are coming to an end feels a little like the first part of dying. I am going through, yet again, the stages of grief as I've realized that I will no longer house and birth another little person. I still follow cloth diaper pages on Facebook and I am still seriously tempted to buy some when big sales hit, "just in case." It makes me feel crazy, and it's painful. I sometimes tear up when I see someone's positive pregnancy tests.

I will say that it has been good to focus on my career, though, and to really, really enjoy my kids and the unique stages of life that they are in. It's fun to have a little one again this holiday season, as the magic is in full force with her. I have kids in school sports, I have one nearing the end of his high school career, and there is so much to look forward to over the next decades of my life.

In less than two years, this youngest baby of mine will toddle off to kindergarten. The thought is both exhilarating and terrifying. My time as the parent of a young child is rapidly coming to a close, but I'm working on pushing forward and focusing on the now — and the future.

Is it bittersweet? Yes, yes it is. But really, that simple, contradictory word doesn't even begin to cover it.

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