I swore off having more kids after I had two babies and gained two stepchildren in a matter of four years. With four children in the house age five or younger, I was understandably spent when it came to bringing another needy being into my life. Between school schedules for the older ones, a custody schedule for my stepkids, my husband’s sometimes-nights/sometimes-weekends work schedule, and the hours I was putting into my own freelance writing and business, the time for the swollen ankles of pregnancy and up-all-nights of a newborn were over. I was done and thought I learned the last baby lessons already.
Which is why my fifth child Teagan was a surprise baby. Not so much a surprise like those stories you hear about babies being conceived despite vasectomies or tubal procedures, or in a broken condom kind of way. It’s never been surprising how she came to be — but I was shocked regardless, especially since in my own mind I was completely done having kids. I mean, c’mon universe — couldn’t you see that?
Medically speaking, I can now say with certainty that Teagan is my last baby. She turned six months a few weeks ago and as cheesy as it sounds, I caught myself gasping and asking “Where has the time gone??”
She’s our family’s caboose, the final piece to our puzzle, our “you complete me” kid. And it seems that I’m not the only one who realizes this truth. I’ve caught my older kids telling Teagan to “not get any bigger” or to “not grow up” because they want her to stay a baby forever.
“You’re my last baby sister,” said my Kindergartner last week.
I remind the kids (and let’s be honest, I remind myself) that Teagan won’t be a baby forever, but she will always be all of our baby. She will always be the littlest sister. We can’t stop her from getting bigger, but we can sure enjoy the heck out of each day with her and revel in her babyness.
If you are in your final baby stage, too, I want to encourage you to take those extra moments to snuggle with him or her on the couch, even if there are dishes to do. It’s okay to just stare at your baby and it’s okay to remind that baby that he or she is “perfect” while planting 100 kisses on the top of the head every five minutes. If you are like me and this for-real-this-time last baby was unplanned, count your blessings. You’ve been given one more chance to have a baby in your home and one more chance for the last baby lessons to pile on.
Here are some last baby lessons and reasons that you should kiss, smush, hug, and sniff the daylights out of your last baby every chance you get:
Last Baby Lessons
Because they grow so fast.
The worst is when you pull out that adorable baby sundress you’ve been saving for six months, only to find it barely fits over her burgeoning brain and that her long legs make it look like a shirt. Your favorite baby outfit is worn once and awkwardly. You remember washing that dress and putting it on a little baby hanger seven months prior. You remember looking at it the day you brought her home from the hospital and laughing at how big it was in comparison to her seven-pound body. Suddenly, it seems, that same dress is too small. In the first year of a baby’s life, the development is astonishingly fast — physically and otherwise. You really do have to cherish the moments when you can, because they pass too quickly.
Because you’ve earned it.
The first baby is inherently stressful. You want to be perfect. You have zero idea what to expect. Your body goes into a form of shock (this is science, people) at the lack of sleep and extreme emotional roller coaster that is postpartum life. You scour parenting messaging boards, looking for the right answers to everything from “is baby acne cancerous?” to “is it bad that my three-month-old isn’t talking yet?” In my case, I did the early years of my firstborn’s life as a single, working parent. I enjoyed parenting but I didn’t take time to ENJOY just having a baby. With my second, the stress of a newly combined family and a high-needs baby sucked a lot of the enjoyment out of the scenario again. This time I was ready. I had dad on hand for the baby hand-off when I really needed a shower. The older kids are old enough to grab a stray diaper here or there, or to bring me a glass of water when I’m nursing a baby who is nearly asleep.
Beyond the extra help, I’ve let myself just be happy that I have a baby, despite what else is going on. I’m finding it easier to shut off thoughts of work or home responsibilities that have in the past made me want to fly off the couch and set my baby down. Sure, there is still a lot to be done in my typical day but I hold her a lot. I sit still with her. A LOT. I talk with her, snuggle her, and wear her on the front of my body a lot. I’m not always looking for the next opportunity to set her down and almost (almost!) look forward to hearing her fuss when she wakes up from a nap or in the morning. After 7+ years of parenting, and 4+ of stepparenting, I deserve to enjoy this baby — my last one. I’ve earned it.
Because the grandparent years are still a long way off.
Though I’m sure those grandparent years will come faster than I realize, once Teagan is no longer a baby it will be a decade+ before we have another little one in our immediate family. My two oldest have already told me they plan to have zero children (though I realize time may change this) and who knows what our others will decide in the long run. In the meantime I can hug and love the babies of relatives and friends but I won’t have another one that is MINE for a long time. Well, partially mine. With every hug, I’m trying to memorize the way my baby’s body feels in my arms, the way she smells when she’s just out of the bath, the way she coos when she’s close to mommy. This raw babyness is fleeting and won’t be duplicated for many years to come, and even then it will be on a different scale.
Because in the end, the little things will be the big ones.
When I think back to the issues that worried me with my first and second child as babies, and my stepkids as pre-K kids, there aren’t many that I can pinpoint anymore. What I remember are trips to the beach, afternoons at local parks, weekends south at Grandpa and Grandma’s, and road trips/flights to visit family in Indiana. I know that parenting comes with its own proverbial pair of rose-colored glasses but now that I’ve gone this route a few times, I know even the longest, hardest days/nights come to an end.
Just think of your last baby lessons you’re always learning. It’s the little, happy moments that you’ll remember later — the sheer joy of a toothless smile, the smell of the top of your baby’s head after bath time, the way your older kids huddled around her when they got home from school – each one telling her about their days simultaneously while she awkwardly jerked her neck from one person to the next and moved her mouth as if trying to respond. If my four older ones are any indication, all of those little moments will go by too quickly and for me, there won’t be another baby behind her to duplicate them. So I’m going to enjoy them all — even the exhausted ones — because she’s my last baby and she’s teaching me the last baby lessons. And I’ve earned it.
What are some of your last baby lessons, you’ve learned?
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