My family recently went through something that we have not experienced in over eight years. We have become a household that no longer harbors a crib or a changing table.
This may not seem like a big deal, but to me it signifies that we are officially done having children. As a mother who loved being pregnant, breastfeeding, and newborns, I am finding that this truth is leaving me with mixed emotions.
When I first walked past my daughter's room and saw it emptied of the crib and changing table that had taken up so much space, it was a bit of a shock. The absence of these items left an echo. I realized I would never again experience feeling a growing baby inside me. I would never feel a baby I created pressed against my skin, never wake to the smell of a newborn's tiny head.
When I told my husband of my sadness he said that we were beyond lucky to have had three healthy babies. Even though I'm sure he was only trying to stamp out talk of having any more babies, he was right.
I grew up as an only child and never dreamed I would have been lucky enough to bring three babies into this world. Three babies who have grown into three kids who bring me more joy and chaos than I ever could have imagined.
Once the well-used crib and changing table had been moved out of the house, I started to see the situation in a new light. I relished in the joy my pigtailed three-year-old exuded when she received her toddler bed. I was reminded that she would (here's hoping!) sleep in this bed all night long and would not wake me at all hours of the night to feed her. Before falling asleep she would hug me tightly, tell me she loved me, and let me read her beautiful books we chose together from the library. She would wake me in the morning with her tiny voice and giggle with her sleepy brothers.
As time passed I started looking at the upcoming baby-free years and felt a sense of joy at what was to come. Now that all of the kids are growing up there is so much more we can do. Family vacations may still be difficult, but they will no longer include packing a single change of clothes for myself just to be ensured that we can fit a Pack 'n Play, breast pump, and stuffed diaper bag into the car. I could finally start taking everyone to the Nutcracker, the movies, or out for Indian food. I could plan a weekend away without worrying that the baby won't take a bottle. I won't have to shun small purses for their lack of diaper carrying space. More date nights with my husband! And maybe, just maybe, I could begin to focus on what I want to be when I grow up.
I may always have a bit of longing for another miraculous newborn, but when my last "baby" looks up at me and says, "Look mama, I'm a big girl," I am content and filled with happiness at the bright future ahead.