Whilst I love being pregnant in many ways, I have never been very good at being pregnant. I have 3 children and all of my pregnancies have been complicated in some way, each one in a different way, but definitely complicated. This time 5 years ago I was 27 weeks pregnant with my youngest child, my last child. Even as I type that, my stomach churns and my mind does a little spin. You see, whilst I know that Billy Bob is going to be my last baby, there is still a part of me that can never quite believe that. The finality of it. The redundancy of me. The admission that I will never again feel that rush of dread/excitement/anticipation of realising that I could be pregnant. The tiniest flutter of the first movement and the whopping great kick in the ribs that takes your breath away.
When I had Bean, the Middle one, I remember going down to theatre on the way for a section and insisting on stopping and using the bathroom, not because I needed the toilet, but because I wanted those last few moments, alone with my baby, to recognise that this was the last time I would be fully responsible for his every need, to feel his heart inside me and to come to terms with him leaving the protection of my stomach. It was a moment of supreme peace and clarity.
When I had Bill, I didn’t get that. I didn’t have a section and so I didn’t have the warning that he would be leaving. Well, obviously I did, but I suppose the pains of labour aren’t as peace and clarity inducing as the gentle stroll down to theatre, knowing that in 20 mins it would all be over. It’s something I wish I had had the forethought to do. The last time I will ever hold a baby inside of me and I can’t really remember much apart from the pain and concentrating on getting through it.
Then before I knew it he was in my arms and everything we at once perfect and at the same time bittersweet because, I suppose I knew all along that in all likelihood that he was my last. Whilst I felt unable to definitively state I was having no more children, I knew in my heart that it wouldn’t be practical or sensible to have any more. Billy Bob was a surprise baby and childcare was going to cripple us, another child would drown us financially. So, without actually admitting to it, every time I looked at him I knew that this was the last time I’d go through this.
It was my last time to breast feed a baby, it was my last chance to finally master the use of reusable nappies. I would never again choose a pushchair and car seat combo, or go through the saga of picking out an appropriate name that we could both agree on. There would never be another first smile, or crawl, or first steps. It was the last time I’d experience the magic of the first words.
I found myself not wanting to start those firsts…Billy Bob was over 6 months before he started on solids, something both the other two were accomplished at by 4 months. I wasn’t in a rush to get him to give up breastfeeding or to stop getting up in the night. I saw both as opportunities to have more cuddles. Evidence that I was still needed. That my boy still needed me.
Whilst I delighted in every milestone, my heart also broke a little bit at everyone. It’s like a list that I made of everything fantastic that I ever wanted to do and each time I completed one, it was great, but at the back of my mind was the knowledge that soon it would be over. I’d be at the bottom of my list and wouldn’t know what to do next.
I found myself start to worry that soon he would be too big to comfortably be picked up for snuggles, that he wouldn’t think that a Mummy cuddle was the best thing in the world. Things which had never occurred to me with the older two now became matters of great importance. The day he called me into the bathroom to show me that he can touch both ends of the bath if he stretches out his hands and toes, his excitement was phenomenal, my heart broke a little more.
But gradually, I’m coming to notice something and I’m not entirely sure how it started. My first recognition of it was a few months ago when I realised that it was 9am and I hadn’t yet been woken by a child. When my baby boy asked to go to the shop for me to buy bread (he’s 4!!) when we’d run out. When the eldest offered to go and pick his brothers up from holiday club so that I could relax on a rare day off. All small things that are signifying a new era in my life. A whole new realm of “firsts” that I hadn’t imagined existed. That nobody had ever really told me would come. These firsts are every bit as precious to me. The birth of my last child signified an ending in some ways but it has also opened up a chapter that no one seems to talk about. A new life after babies and toddlers, a life where your children stop relying on you and start to rely on themselves and each other. And it’s different, and it’s emotional but it’s every bit as full of dread/excitement and as significant as those other firsts. And I’ve now realised that I’ve come to terms with having no more babies, and I’m looking forward to the coming years with my growing lads without regrets. Well, hopefully not too many.