I just rocked my one-year-old son to sleep and then laid him down to finish his nap in his crib. This has been a commonplace act for me this last year, and normally I wouldn’t even mark it as significant. Except today, I had trouble letting him go. I found myself wanting to hold him a little longer, feel his weight against my chest, and listen to his steady breathing. As I held him and watched his sleepy eyes droop and eventually close, I couldn’t help but think,
One day, it will be the last time I hold him like this.
I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would I think such a depressing thought on an ordinary day? I am not prone to dramatics, but recently I can’t help but mark the significance of each moment that makes my baby less a baby.
Because he is my last baby.
When Ramsey was born, my husband I decided that we did not want to have any more children. I do not even remotely regret that decision. Our hearts are full, and our family is complete.
But that fact comes with the reality that every one of Ramsey’s firsts also represents our lasts.
His first birthday was a few weeks ago, and it was such an exciting day. On that day we got to reflect on the last year of his life and to see how much Ramsey had grown as well as how much our family had grown with him.
We looked at pictures of the day he was born, and we got to relive the overwhelming joy of that day. The day my oldest son became a big brother. The first moment I saw Ramsey while I was still on the operating table and he was less than a minute old. My husband holding him for the first time and beaming ear to ear. I remembered the feelings of excitement and anxiety and exhaustion all bundled together.
And then I was hit with the realization that I will never have another day quite like that day.
We got to see his first real steps on his birthday. He had taken a step or two, here and there, for the few weeks prior, but my husband and I hadn’t seen him really walk. That evening, on his birthday, he was playing with a toy when his older brother took it away from him. So Ramsey did the only natural thing: he marched right over and took it back. It happened so fast, but there they were! Four (and a half) steps across my best friend’s living room. I felt my eyes fill up with tears that I quickly choked back. Tears of pride at my baby’s accomplishment, mixed with tears of loss because that milestone was over.
I’d never get to see his first steps again.
I can cite so many more of these bittersweet moments I’ve had over the last year and a half. His first baby food, his first real food, his first big boy shoes, and his first day in the toddler room at daycare. Every first, no matter how insignificant it might seem, carries a new weight because I know it will be my last time watching one of my babies experience it.
I suppose the trick is not to lose the joy in the sadness.
Milestones, growth, maturity, independence, these are all beautiful things to celebrate in the life of any individual. I am so proud of both of my boys and the young men that they are swiftly becoming.
And I am finding that as right and natural as it is for a baby to grow into a child who will grow into an adolescent who will one day become an adult, it is just as right and natural for a parent to mourn the loss of those phases. How could we not?
In each phase of life, our children become a new person, a different one with only hints and shadows of the one they were before. And while we love each new version of the person they become, we don’t stop loving the person they once were.
After all, I loved my babies the moment I met them, the moment they came into this world. And we never forget our first love- especially when it’s our last.