On the day that your last child is born, you’ll find yourself filled with a jumble of emotions.
You’ll feel relief to have finally given birth, pride and joy in the healthy baby in your arms—and sorrow. Sorrow at the realization that you’ll never again experience the primeval miracle of growing a baby inside your body.
From that day onward, this strange brew of feelings will remain inside you—because every single one of your youngest child’s firsts will also be your lasts.
When he outgrows his sleepers, you’ll no longer save them for the next baby. When he abandons his toys, you’ll give most of them away. You’ll be glad to have some extra space in the closet, but you’ll have also have a moment at the grocery when you realize you have no reason to be standing in front of the new teething toys on aisle 14—Your last one is done with those. And therefore, so are you.
One day, you’ll get rid of all the bottles in the cabinet, and that will feel strange since baby bottles have lined the bottom shelf for forever. You’ll do the same a year later with the the rubber-tipped baby spoons, and then the sippy cups, and the bunny-stamped plates and bowls. All these little things you had come to take for granted will suddenly, shockingly, no longer be needed. And removing them will make your heart break just a tiny bit.
You won’t realize you’ve changed your final diaper until the day that you clean out the last one’s pajama drawer, find a stash of overnight pull-up pants, and realize he hasn’t needed one in at least six months. You’ll celebrate the end of a very smelly era with a glass of wine after the kids go to bed.
You’ll put off cleaning out the coat closet because there’s a little toy vacuum somewhere inside that your children once used each time you vacuumed the house. The last one will have outgrown it years ago, but somehow that toy will have become symbolic of the toddler years and you won’t be able to bear the thought of getting rid of it. And so the coat closet will get messier and more disorganized and when your husband says something about it, you’ll just shrug.
You won’t take the last one to as many Mommy and Me classes because you’ll know by that time that he won’t remember them anyway. You won’t try to teach him to read at the age of three because you’ll have learned the hard way that if you just wait a year, he’ll catch on far more quickly. You won’t do a lot of the things with the last one that you did with your firstborn, because you’ve been through it all before and frankly, most of it was completely unnecessary. It won’t matter—he’ll have the innate desire of all lastborns to keep up with his older siblings and you’ll be amazed at what he manages to pick up on his own.
What the last one will get from you is plenty of cuddles and hugs and kisses—as many as you can give him before he wriggles out of your arms. At some point, the last one will be the only child in the house who still likes to sit in your lap and sneak into your bed at night and play hug-o-war and have snuggle parties—and you’ll know from experience that soon, this will all end.
“Don’t grow up,” you’ll whisper teasingly in his ear. “Stay six forever.” “I have to grow up, Mommy,” he’ll chuckle. “I can’t stop this growing!” Knowing this, you will smush your cheek up against his and inhale the faint baby scent that remains in his curly hair. You will sing to him at bedtime and tell him you love him so so so very much, and as you do these things, you’ll hear a wistful voice in your head reminding you that he’s the last one, the very last one, and there won’t be another.
When you picture the last one in your mind, he’ll always be running ahead of you and you’ll be trying your best to keep up, your heart bursting with mingled joy and despair. With each day that passes, the ribbon of childhood will feel like it’s unwinding too quickly before you and you’ll feel powerless to stop it and as your youngest child abandons picture books for ones with chapters and leaves home for his first sleepover and demands that the training wheels be removed from his bicycle—you will be struck hard, repeatedly, by the fact that this most amazing time in your life is slipping away from you, bit...by bit...by bit.