“Congratulations,” the pediatrician said to #3 during his 1-year well-check, “you’re a toddler now!” And with that, I am now in a weird state of mourning, confusion, and relief.
#3 just had his first birthday and, being the delayed processor that I am, I am only now emotionally experiencing the life event. I am only now coming to terms with this possibly being my last baby.
No more heavenly calm of a newborn asleep on my shoulder, no more hourly nighttime feedings, no more infant coos, no more labor and delivery recoveries, no more baby cuddles, no more diaper explosions, no more tiny footsie pajamas. There is so much that would rest sadly and happily in the past.
As I process my mixed emotions I begin to wonder if we should have another. In no way does my body yearn to become pregnant again. In no way do I look at an expectant mom or new baby and palpably yearn to be in that life season. For the first time in 7 years, I am not craving a baby. But yet I fear letting go of this life stage.
Will I regret it later if we don’t try one last time? Will I regret it if we do? Would the extra addition prove to be just too much? We’re already testing all of our limits with 3 under 5. Still, as ridiculous of a reason as it may be, having a baby would keep us in this life stage longer.
My children will keep growing, moving further into their own lives and away from me. They will develop and mature, they will identify as individuals instead of as my children. I know that having one more baby wouldn’t halt that eventuality, but it would prolong my stay in this harried, exhausting, yet wonderful time… the glory days of my maternal career.
Then I think of how much easier things are with #1 and #2, being past the infant neediness and the toddler self-endangerment phases. Potty-training is done, strollers are gone, self-sufficiency is increasing. They can communicate their needs clearly. They understand social expectations (though they don’t always meet them.) They can play in a room independently without risk of grave injury or damage. They squabble and tantrum, but they are increasingly independent. It’d be nice to have the demands of very young childhood behind us for convenience’s sake.
With a 1-year-old, 3-year-old, and nearly-5-year-old, I feel as if my head is just surfacing above a rough swell. It’s beautiful beneath the waves, simultaneously tranquil and perilous, but I can only hold my breath so long before I must rise for air. Once I see the world above the sea and breathe freely, can and should I dip down again knowing my submersion will only be temporary? Knowing that the surface I see now would be entirely different the next time I reemerge? Will the sea be too rough next time? But if I don’t dive soon, I’ll lose my chance for good. Will I mourn my missed opportunity?
I know I have months before I could even begin trying (thank you, breastfeeding for delaying that cyclical annoyance!) and I wouldn’t even want to start for a while (I survived 2 under 2 once… once was enough.) Still, as a planner, I want to know. I don’t feel ready now, but will I later? Will life simply make the choice for us one way or another? Who knows?
In the meantime, I’ll just tread water and enjoy the view.