At some point we are all done having babies—even if we don’t want to be.
A few days ago I met a pregnant friend for lunch, and I couldn’t catch my breath as I walked to the restaurant. My car was filled to the brim with baby gear I was giving her: a crib mattress, a jumper, bodysuits and baby rattles. It was the last of the baby items in our house to be passed on. I realized I was entering a difficult new stage of motherhood: the end of having babies.
I did keep a few sentimental items, but ultimately, I knew the remaining ones should go to families who needed them. Because let’s face it, you need a lot of stuff when you have a baby, and it certainly isn’t cheap. Plus, it’s an established rite of passage to pass on and share baby items with other moms—some of the goods I was giving my friend I had received from other moms, myself. It felt right to pay it forward.
Nevertheless, there is no better way to describe the feeling of giving away the last of your baby stash than completely bittersweet. It occurred to me that nearly every mother goes through a range of emotions when the end of the baby phase occurs, but for me, it was slightly more bitter than sweet.
My husband and I always wanted to have more than one child, but we unfortunately experienced secondary infertility. After several years of failed fertility treatments, we decided to move on and embrace that we were meant to be a family of three. Our almost 4-year-old son, Alexander, would be an only child, but we were grateful for him; he would be loved, and we would enjoy the perks of having only one child.
I would be lying if I said it was simple for me to give away the baby items and move on. It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t easy, but it becomes more bearable with each day that passes. Occasionally, I struggle with reconciling the family structure I had always imagined and the petite family of three we are today. But then I decisively shift my thoughts on to acceptance and gratitude for my beautiful life at the present. Letting go of the last of the baby items was a big step in accepting our circumstances and living in the present.
Either way, the end of having babies is universally bittersweet for all moms, because at one point we will all be done having babies. We reflect upon the time past, and we worry we did not treasure it enough. Our once squishy, cooing babies who used to fall asleep in our laps are now tall, little monsters who never want to go to sleep and always want to talk about poop and farts. We ponder: Did we stop to grab the baby rolls enough?
Working mothers may take the end of this phase even harder. We question our choices and whether we weren’t present enough. A perfect example: I missed my son crawling for the first time while I was out of town at a work conference. Should I have been at home, so that I didn’t miss that moment? But then, logic hits me. I could have been at the grocery store or the post office when he crawled, so I couldn’t blame work. I still believe we need to have independent pursuits and passions outside of parenting, to be the best version of parents we can be.
As I exit this phase of motherhood, with my heart full of memories, and step into the next phase, I’ve realized:
The end of the baby phase is bitter.
There is something that is purely magical about a baby’s first year that can never be replicated in a child’s later years. The first few months of feeling pure awe and joy. The baby’s first noises, eye contact, smiles and coos. The first time they recognize your voice. The first snuggles. The first steps. These are the most wonderful moments that you will never forget, and we will miss it.
But, the end of the baby phase is sweet.
Sleeping is so wonderful. My child understands me when I speak to him. He laughs at my jokes. He feeds himself (mostly). He attempts to wipe his own butt, and we are no longer putting Mr. Pampers’ kids through college. Travel is much more feasible, and we can order him almost anything off a menu instead of having to worry about making him a bottle.
It is all bittersweet. My little man has become just that, a little man, and I’m loving each step of this adventure in motherhood.
Written by Heather Schwartz Sanderson for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.