I’m sure that I just had a baby.
It’s as clear as day in my mind, the labour, the birth, those long weeks sat in neonatal willing him to get better. It feels just like yesterday when we carried him out of the hospital, drove 10mph all the way home, introduced him to his brother and sisters, watched as the girls stood up on their tip toes at the side of the cot. It’s like no time at all has passed since he was nestled in the crook of my arm, dressed in his tiny babygros, as we marvelled at his perfect fingers and toes, his eyelashes, the windy little pouts and adorable cooing noises. I’m sure that it was just a couple of months ago, six months at tops, and yet somehow, in the blink of an eye, my gorgeous little newborn is eighteen months old and there is very little “baby” left in him.
It’s hard to remember exactly when he stopped being a baby and became a little boy. Perhaps when he began to walk, to babble away, to become so fiercely independent and discovered a love of climbing. Perhaps when I found myself surprised when his long spindly legs no longer squished into his tiny babygros, when his toes hit the end of his cruisers and I could no longer fasten him into his baby car seat. Perhaps when I stopped counting his age in weeks, or even in months, and just told people, “He’s one” or even worse, “He’ll be two in May!”. Perhaps when I noticed myself going gooey eyed over other babies, when my ovaries twinged and my arms ached to hold my tiny little newborn again.
“Be nice to Harry, he’s just a baby!”, I repeatedly tell the girls when they are playing too rough. “It was only an accident, he’s just a baby!” I explain at least ten times a day when he has launched a toy in their face or plonked himself down on their head. “Ssshh, Harry needs to sleep, he’s just a baby!” I tell them as he gets ready for his afternoon nap, a nap which he no longer goes down for so readily. But he’s not a baby anymore, not really. Technically he is a fully fledged toddler. And worse than that, it’s not just that he isn’t a baby anymore, it’s the realisation that there are no more babies full stop!!!
And I thought that I was okay with that, I really did. When we agreed for Gaz to have a vasectomy there wasn’t a single part of me that questioned whether we were making the right decision. I drove him there with a look of sadistic pleasure on my face, laughed myself stupid when he hobbled out of there like John Wayne and with every moan, groan or whinge I would shoot him down with, “I gave birth five times!”. And I was fine with it. Really, I was.
But the older my baby gets, the older they all get, I do feel quite sad to think that this is it. I’ve had a baby for three consecutive years and to realise that there will never be another suddenly feels very final. Never again will I feel those gentle little flutters in the pit of my stomach, those brutal kicks in the ribs, the rolls and the turns as they struggle for space in those final weeks. Never again will we debate over baby names, hours spent pouring over the “1001 baby names” book, drawing up lists and agonising over whether the baby will suit their name. Never again will I experience a labour, the agonising pain of each contraction nor the indescribable feeling of joy as they are placed in my arms. Never again will I take home my tiny little newborn, change a gazillion explosive nappies, endure sleepless nights and spend hours patting their back just praying for that elusive burp. Never again will I look down on that perfect little baby, breathe in the scent of their head, hold my little finger in their tiny fist and marvel at what I created.
What I will have, and what I do have, is four healthy children. Children who, although admittedly no longer babies, are growing into the most amazing, intelligent, beautiful individuals and reminding me every single day why I persevered with my dream to extend our family. And although it is sad to see how fast they have grown and to accept that the baby days are over, with every new word that Harry says or every funny little thing that he mimics from his siblings, he makes us happier than we could ever have thought possible. They all do.
And today when I was feeling sad at hitting 18 wonderful months, I realised that actually I’m not sad at the fact that there are no more babies, although admittedly I shall be eternally broody, I’m just sad that mine are no longer babies. Everyone tells you, “They don’t stay babies for long” and there has never been a truer word spoken. You can try your hardest to keep them small, you can keep them in their cot, in their little white babygros, refuse to give up the bottle, the breast, their dummy. You can baby them as much as you like and yet the fact remains that one day you will look at them and realise that whether you like it or not, they are walking, talking, packing their bags and leaving home. It’s the hardest job in the world letting go of your children and it starts right here as young as this, letting go of the fact that in the blink of an eye our babies aren’t even babies at all.
And my only real consolation is that hopefully, in a long, LONG time from now, I shall be surrounded by Grandchildren, by newborns, toddlers and children….and by my own babies, who regardless of how old they are, will still ALWAYS be my babies to me.