Editor's note: The AAP recommends that parents sleep in the same room—but not the same bed—as their baby for at least the first six months. The organization recognizes that some parents choose to bed-share to facilitate breastfeeding or for cultural preferences, but expressly does not support bed-sharing given the increased risk for SIDS. If you opt to co-sleep with your infant, talk with your child's pediatrician about how to do so safely.
The first time I mourned a "last" time in my son’s life was the day he lost interest in nursing.
As soon as I returned to work after a brief maternity leave, my son began sleeping next to me in my bed. I worked full-time days while he attended daycare, and I cherished being close to him at night. Plus, getting up to go to his crib and nurse him often meant hours before I could return to sleep. So, we slept together.
Pitch black, early mornings for his first few months, I awoke to coos and tiny hands on my arm or breast. As he grew, he woke me with “mama” and squeals. I lifted my pajama top and whispered in his ear, “Are you a hungry baby?” He smiled and kicked his chubby legs. With his warm little body against mine, I fell back asleep to the rhythm of his sucks and swallows.
One night shortly after he turned one, we both slept through the night until the sun rose. When I put him to my breast, he turned way. I panicked. As I realized his last early morning nursing session had occurred the day before, the tears and heartache I experienced reminded me of those I had only known after terrible breakups.
When he was old enough to attend preschool, in addition to my day job, I worked evenings as a fitness instructor at a gym (for money we could not live without and the bonus of sweaty, stress-relieving workouts.) Almost every weekend, he begged me to take him to a local science museum—something that felt overwhelming to me then, with Saturdays and Sundays as the only times to catch up on housework, grocery shopping, and food preparation for the week ahead.
We visited the museum a few times a year. With each trip, the awe and joy I witnessed as he explored the dinosaur exhibits, handled a snake, or touched a fossil made me promise to myself that we would come more often. One day around third grade, he no longer wanted to go. I scolded myself for not taking him more when he had treasured the place.
During the pandemic when my office and the gym shut down, my son, now nine, and I began taking a daily, late afternoon walk in our neighborhood. We talked about his fears—never finding a girlfriend, vomiting again like when had the stomach bug the year before.
I suppose that knowing that any time may be the last time helps me to appreciate the present.
And he shared his hopes—becoming a lawyer and a racecar driver on the side so that one day he would have enough money and the right knowledge to buy me a fancy car in my favorite color, bright green. He assured me, “We’ll have to wait to see what kinds of high-quality cars are on the market and available in that color before I can tell you the make and model.”
When the world reopened and we were fully back to school and work, the walks became less frequent. A couple of months ago, I asked him to join me on a walk. “I’m not really a fan of walks these days, Mom. But you can go, and I’ll stay here.” I was crushed.
Related: It's so different with my last baby
When I decided to become a parent, I knew it would be full of magical firsts—first words, first steps, first days of school. But I had not thought about all the lasts. I suppose that knowing that any time may be the last time helps me to appreciate the present. Still, I experience tightness in my throat and a sting in my eyes when I am faced with the knowledge that another last has passed.
My baby just turned twelve—his last year before becoming a teenager. On his birthday, I reflected on the curious, silly, loving kid he is and the memories we have shared.
I thought about how he still says, “I love you, Mom,” before he hangs up the phone, how he yells down the stairs for me to tuck him in every night before bed, and how sometimes in the darkest part of the morning when he has a bad dream or doesn’t feel well, he climbs into bed with me and snuggles close like he did when he was an infant. And I realize that many of these moments will be "lasts" very soon, so I cherish them as if they are.