I’m Glad to Be Out of the Baby (and Toddler, and Preschooler) Stage

Last weekend was not typical for me and my family. I drove to Foxwoods Casino on Saturday morning for a lunch gathering of fellow online fashion resellers—my “profitable hobby,” as I like to call it. I then retrieved my kids from their grandmother, and headed about hour’s drive up to South Hadley, Massachusetts for an annual Halloween party that is not really for kids, but not kid-prohibitive. We planned to crash, and as a result, my kids drifted off to sleep sometime around 11:00 p.m. after multiple packets of Skittles and a seasonal viewing of The Worst Witch. We woke to the yelping of Corgis, and by about 8:30 a.m., I learned I’d be making an impromptu jaunt out another hour westward, to Marlborough, to help a friend out with his booth at a local comic book convention. Sunday ended back at said friend’s Halloween party for kids, which was really a Halloween party for babies and emerging toddlers.

And that was totally fine, because how often do I get to hang out with babies these days? The answer is not often. My circle of close friends who are having babies now, a bit later into our 30s, has grown quite small. My own two girls are five and seven years old. The younger one is in kindergarten, so she’s firmly out of the preschooler stage. I’m out of the preschooler stage. And looking around me, at the party for Halloween-costumed babies, I realized with a mix of surprise and delight that, indeed, I have been far out from the baby stage of childrearing for quite some time now—and I’m quite enjoying it.

Up until really recently, I had actually considered approaching my husband about trying for a fourth pregnancy. The third pregnancy had been unplanned, and for better or for worse, it had ended in a miscarriage relatively quickly, without much time for me to consider how I actually felt about the prospect of that third child. But when it ended, it left open an unanticipated question—did we want to try for a third child this time?

It never happened, even though I spent a good amount of time afterward considering whether to do anything about it. For lots of reasons, I figured we were just done. Chief among those reasons is the fact that I’m not enthusiastic about becoming a mom of a newborn, again, at the age of 38. This is the age my mother was when she had me—a third baby, made more desirable by the fact of a second marriage to a man with no children of his own. And afterward came my sister, when Mom was 42. So her forties were devoted largely to the care of young children, and I had to stop and consider what that might mean not only for me and the child, but for my husband and other kids as well.

But even if I had already made up my mind in a sense, the impact of that decision didn’t really hit me until yesterday, when I was sitting in a livingroom full of babies, watching dads pick up pacifiers and moms scuttle about making sure babygates were closed and that little foreheads weren’t bruising against wayward furniture. I saw the slight nervousness and worry in those parents’ faces. I heard conversations about naptimes and grandparents handling feeding schedules.

And I sank back into an easy chair, glanced over at my school-aged kids helping themselves to pizza and oreos, and I let a stupid grin creep onto my face as I realized that I AM DONE WITH THIS WORLD FOREVERRRRR, and man does it feel freaking AWESOME.

I thought about how up until recently, I could feel my ovaries tingling whenever I held someone’s baby. And yes, of course I miss those sweet round baby heads that always smell so good. But that doesn’t mean I need another one of my own. I am good with handing back that baby once I’m done enjoying that cute chubbiness for a short period. Other people’s babies are fun! But sleepless nights and diaper changing are not!

I’m also really enjoying the growing confidence that comes with being a parent of older kids, even as the scary new challenges of parenting tweens and pre-tweens (is that a thing?) lurk in the near distance. I know by now that it really never gets easier—as soon as you master one set of skills, you find yourself learning a whole new system of parenting abilities you didn’t know you needed. But I think at this point I’m ready. And while I know I could add a newborn into the mix if I really needed to do so, I’m more excited to imagine the creative endeavors, including some writing journeys as well as some household projects, I’ll be able to do without toddlers grabbing my legs or a nursing infant attached to my nipple. Sure, the kids are going to need school projects supervised, or a ride to sports or whatever activities, and the occasional meltdown over some teen drama may occur. And I know all of that stuff may end up being harder to deal with than some of those early baby concerns. But there’s also a kind of freedom you regain when there’s no longer a baby in the picture. Just walking around that comic book convention with my kids yesterday was an example of that freedom. Yes, I couldn’t exactly leave them alone, and I had to pick the five-year-old up off the ground when she decided she was tired of walking. But I could also let them sit down and make slime together at a kid-friendly booth while I took a breather to catch up on notifications on my phone. Our restroom trip involved me waiting for them to come out of the stalls and making sure they washed their hands—not me fumbling over a poopy diaper. There was no wondering where I should nurse a baby (or how much longer I should go without pumping, to put another spin on that scenario). Aside from some whining and the promise of a drive through Dunkin Donuts later on, there was really just no fuss over me and my school-aged kids taking a detour halfway across the state on a Sunday afternoon.

A college friend of mine just had a baby a few months ago. He recently tried crowdsourcing advice on Facebook, asking how we would all handle bringing a baby on an international flight. Others helpfully chimed in, but I did not—because I have never done anything like that, and frankly, my best advice would be to just not do it. It made me wonder if I had gotten in my own way as a new mom. Maybe the baby thing is not so hard after all, and it’s people like me who would never fly with a baby who work the idea up in our heads as something so difficult to navigate. But honestly, at this point, it doesn’t really matter. I’ll never regret not knowing whether I could have been more outgoing and adventurous, rather than cautious and relatively homebound, back when my kids were babies. And now that I’m not having another baby, I don’t even need to worry about it. It’s a really, really good feeling.

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