Tonight my son Macks woke up shortly after I put him down to bed. I walked into his room as he sat up and looked at me through the side of his crib with tears in his eyes and I quietly picked him up. We walked over to the rocking chair in his room and I held him in my arms as he calmed down, closed his eyes, and slowly fell back to sleep. I sat there and watched him as he slept — the way that his eyelashes looked so long and curled, especially with his eyes closed. The way that his tiny little fingers reached for mine because he loves to grasp it as he sleeps. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of his face, closely studying it so that I could remember it forever.
My mindset has changed with this last baby. It’s a bit bittersweet. As I watch him grow, all of the firsts that he experiences in his life are lasts in mine. The first time he says “mama,” the first tooth, the first steps, will all be the last time that I’ll watch as a mother. But along with all of these moments, there is so much more that I’m aware of now that I know he’s our last. And it’s changed the way that I am as a mother. Here’s how:
1. You savor those late-night feedings rather than dread them.
The lack of sleep that comes from a baby can take some getting used to. I remember with my oldest, I was always afraid to fall asleep for the night because I’d just be woken up in a couple of minutes to do another feeding. I’d cry at times because I was just so tired and my body couldn’t catch up to the lack of sleep. With my youngest, I’ve come to love the late-night feedings. At nine months, he’s still not sleeping through the night and I’m okay with that. Late at night as I’m nursing him is the only time that we have throughout the day that it’s just the two of us. It’s a chance for us to cuddle and focus on one another while everyone else sleeps peacefully.
2. It takes just a little bit longer to put away the old clothes.
I still have Macks’ newborn clothes hanging in his closet because I’m just not ready to put them away for good. With both of my girls, I wanted to make room for new, cute clothes, so it was a breeze for me to pack them up and put them away, but I just can’t with this last one. Knowing that it’s the last time that I’ll see a tiny little onesie hanging in a closet in our house, brings tears to my eyes. Thankfully he has a big closet, so I can leave the clothes hanging just a little bit longer.
3. I’m not impatiently waiting for the next milestone.
I remember with my oldest that I couldn’t wait for her to say her first word or start to crawl, and while I get excited when I see my son reach a milestone for the first time, I’m also realizing that this is the last time that will happen. This time around I’m desperately trying to figure out how to slow down time so that I can be in this moment just a little bit longer.
4. The cuddles last just a little bit longer.
I’ll never know when it will be the last time that I’ll rock my little one to sleep, so even after he’s asleep in my arms, I rock for just a little bit longer, gripping onto the time that we have together. With my oldest, I’d rock her to sleep and then quickly put her into her crib before heading onto something else. Oh how I wish I knew how special that time was back then.
5. You know you can’t spoil them enough. And if you do, you’re okay with it.
I read every single baby book to prepare for my first child. I wanted to have her on a schedule right away, just like the books told me. I was trying so hard to parent the way that others told me to that I was completely ignoring what I needed and what my daughter needed. I was so afraid that if she slept anywhere other than her crib, I’d spoil her forever. Now I know that there’s no such thing.
6. You are so much more aware of time.
Oh how fast it goes. Too quickly if you ask me. It seems that after each child, time seems to pass by more quickly than the last. And now, knowing that he’s my last one, it seems like time is going at lightning speed. It’s taught me to slow down and take in each moment.
7. You know that “stuff” can wait.
But he can’t. And the time that we get together can’t either. It’s amazing how much knowing that this is your last child puts everything in perspective. You hold onto everything just a little bit more and realize that all of that “stuff” on your to-do list is just that: stuff. With my first, I was too busy trying to be the perfect mom, and wife, and sister, and teacher, that it got to be completely overwhelming. So now, rather than moving from task to task, I’ll sit down on the floor with him for just a little bit longer and let the dishes wait.