This “season of life” with babies is almost behind me now. Last month our twins turned 2 years old. They were our last (third and fourth) babies. Our oldest will be 10 in the fall. So for almost 10 years, we have been in the “baby” season of life. And now we are leaving the world of small children behind.
I’ve been saying goodbye, slowly. Bit by bit, the baby stuff has left the house. I’ve put the special tiny clothes — first birthday outfits, christening gowns, coming-home-from-the-hospital outfits — in big tubs in the attic. I gave away the rattles and the little baby toys. I cleaned out our toy closet of anything for babies under age 1 — the pushcart and the little baby gym and the stacking rings. In another year, we’ll be done with diapers and cribs, with board books, baby gates and hopefully, pacifiers.
Yes, cleaning out everything has been cathartic. Yes, I felt great with more space and room for the toys my kids actually play with. But it made me sad, too. Because my kids are growing up. Because for 10 years, this life — life with really little ones — has been all I have known, and saying goodbye to it scares me. It scares me because I don’t know how to parent older children (though I am sure, like with the babies, I’ll figure it out). It scares me because I love, love, babies (my husband prefers older kids) — the little smocked outfits, running with a stroller, picking names and designing nurseries, tiny snuggles and fuzzy heads, sleepy newborns and first words, first steps, first smiles. It scares me because no longer having babies means I’m getting older (hard to face that one), and it scares me mostly because I wonder — who am I without babies after 10 years of them being the sole focus of my purpose and existence?!
For so long, I was desperately sad our babies didn’t come and didn’t come. My heart broke repeatedly as we faced miscarriage after miscarriage, loss after loss, and failed IVF over and over. I wanted three kids two years apart — stair step — and to be done with diapers by my 40th birthday. And finally, when my daughter was almost 5 years old, my son was born. And then the twins (surprise!) came when my son was 3. I am definitely not done with diapers at 40 after all. But now I am glad it took so long for us to have our babies — because I have had babies at home longer, and have been able to enjoy having little ones for more years since it took so much time for them join our family. Now I am thankful for all those terrible years of waiting and hoping, as much as my self of six years ago would have screamed at hearing that.
YES, the days are long, but the years short — I know this, and for the past two years I have grasped tightly and with all my strength held on to every last first — last first birthday, last first word, last first “I love you!” I have soaked it in. I have cuddled and held them longer than I probably should. I’ve read one more book and given one more kiss and more back rubs and pats than I probably did with my first child — just because this time, I know it is the end. And never again will we have two babies turning 2. I know these days are fading quickly, and in a year or so we will be moving into total big-kid land and out of baby land. And my heart shatters each time I think of leaving this season of life behind. Despite its hardships and frustrations and exhaustion and drudgery and even outright despair some nights, it has been the sweetest 10 years and the last two especially have been doubly precious with the twins.
If I look past the end of this season, I am a bit excited. It will be a relief to go places without a bulging diaper bag. We’ll be able to go places as a family I wouldn’t dare right now (hiking in the mountains, tubing at a natural spring — even just the library!). I hope with four over 2 instead of four under 8, things will slowly get a bit easier — less tantrums, less constant and hands-on-ness of parenting really small children. Sure, some things about raising older children will challenge us, but everyone will be able to buckle their own seat belt, wipe their own bottom and feed themselves without making a giant mess. There is some freedom in that and some relief. There is so much we will be able to do and explore with them now that they are older, which I can’t wait to do. I am looking forward to the fun times ahead with my big kids — as much as my heart is so sad to leave this season behind. For me, life with babies has been, and may always be the sweetest season.