My baby is growing up. As she creeps up on her fourth birthday, I am still referring to her as “the baby” and I’m pretty sure I always will. I am very upset that she is growing up and unfortunately I think I’ve “broken” her with my frequent comments about this since she is now very upset about growing up as well. Anytime someone makes a comment about how big she’s getting, she cries a little. Oops.
I had two children pretty close together in my late twenties. I really don’t remember much from 2003 through 2007. I blame the pregnancy and nursing hormones, the lack of sleep, and the crushing cost of two in daycare and diapers as the primary causes of my memory loss. I look at pictures from that time period and I’m appalled at my condition. Why didn’t someone TELL me to get my hair cut?? What was I wearing? Life was crazy and when anyone would ask us if we were “going for the third” we would say oh yes, but not yet. We wanted three, maybe four kids, but we just couldn’t imagine adding another little person to the mix.
Then my middle daughter’s kindergarten registration paperwork arrived in the mail. Those registration forms became stained with tears as I completed them. We were so busy trying to survive our lives we had forgotten to have the third baby. We had lost sight of our life’s goal. I was devastated. When I looked back on the middle baby’s pregnancy and toddler-hood I could barely remember it. I had only blurry memories from being pregnant with her. I couldn’t remember when she took her first step or when she finally said “Mama” (and the baby book was no help since I had barely opened it). It never occurred to me while I was pregnant that this could be the last time I felt that sense of awe while looking at an ultrasound screen or that comforting sensation of feeling her kick. I felt cheated by life and so I set out to fix it.
As soon as we discovered that we were pregnant again, my life immediately changed for the better. Our third baby is the greatest thing life has ever given me. I adore all of my kids, of course. My oldest made me a mother and made me strong and for that I will always be grateful. My middle is pure entertainment. She reminds us to have fun and never takes life too seriously. But my baby—she changed my life.
She slowed me down. I savored every moment of my pregnancy. It wasn’t all peaches and roses being pregnant for the third time in my mid-thirties—my body was a bit ticked at me I think near the end. But I savored the kicks and the ultrasounds. I would lay awake at night talking to her and relishing in her every movement. The second they placed her on my chest I was at peace. I couldn’t stop touching her. She looked right at me and I knew, at that moment, that I was officially complete. I still catch myself standing or sitting absolutely still for several minutes just staring at her as she plays. I feel like I rushed my middle up onto her feet since I couldn’t chase a toddler AND carry her everywhere. With this baby I actually HOPED her milestones would come a little later. I still carry her around even though she can run faster than me. I didn’t even try to toilet train her—she did that on her own. I was in no hurry to give up my changing table time tickling her and chatting with her. I still let her fall asleep every night in my bed. I move her once she’s asleep (and after I’ve spent some time just watching her sleep, cozy on my pillow).
This baby made me relax. I had thrown out the parenting books by the time she came around both literally and figuratively. She isn’t nursing? Bottles will do. She won’t drink milk? She can drink orange juice fortified with calcium. She doesn’t want to wear a coat? She’ll wear one if she’s cold. She won’t eat anything? She’s growing so she’s fine. Big transition to pre-k? The pre-k is great. She’ll be fine. She carries Elmo everywhere she goes? No big deal. She can hide him in her backpack until high school for all I care. This relaxed attitude has carried over to the other two children as well and I’m a much more easy-going parent these days which I think will serve me well as the older two head into teenville.
She made me happy. She makes everyone happy. It is so difficult to be in a rotten mood with her around. Sometimes I feel like she has some sort of superpower. Just her presence can calm anyone. A hug from her makes everything better. When she has something important to tell you she puts her hand on your face to get your full attention. Her hand instantly warms me up (literally and figuratively) and I’m hooked. She can break up a fight between her two older sisters like a pro. She makes us laugh and she makes us silly. She knows she’s adored and she returns the favor by loving us all unconditionally. She shows us and tells us how much she loves us all of the time. Often when she asks for something, or spills something, or does something that tries my patience I usually say, “It’s a good thing you’re so sweet” as I deal with it. She ALWAYS responds, “It’s a good thing you’re my mommy”. It is impossible to be unhappy while being showered with so much pure affection.
So Happy Birthday to my sweet angel baby. It doesn’t matter that she is turning four and that she is only a year away from kindergarten. I don’t care that when I carry her sleeping body to bed her long legs fall below my knees. I barely notice that she is a bit too big to be sitting in the top seat of shopping carts. She is still, and always will be, my baby.