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December 18, 2016

Little did I know when I picked her up and out of her crib this morning, it would be the last. The last time I would walk into her room to see her standing there, patiently waiting for me. The last time she’d be cozy in her blue sleepsack, fluffy and as squeezable as a teddy bear. The last time she’d need me to help her start her day.

I carried her up to our room, “Let’s have some morning snuggles!” I said, hoping I could relax in bed for a few more minutes before her baby brother woke up, too.

We snuggled in bed, warm under the covers when her face suddenly popped in front of mine. She looked at me with wide, serious eyes, and whispered, “Mama, today I want to nap in a grown up bed. So I can get up and go potty all by myself and wash my hands and get back into bed.”

I looked back at her, my mind processing this sudden request to grow up.

She nodded seriously as she saw me considering, “Yeah, Mama, I think that’s what I want to do. Can I nap in a grown-up bed?”

Ben and I had been talking about switching her out of her crib. Eventually. But it never feels like the right day to change up routines that are working beautifully for the family, so it took this confident, determined request to finally bring about the change.

“Okay,” I smiled, simply. I knew the time had come. She was ready.

. . .

Everyone is always so quick to celebrate the firsts: first word, first smile, first step. I can’t help but also pause and feel a bittersweet appreciation for the lasts.

Oftentimes, the lasts creep up on you. Then it’s gone before you even realized what was happening. Tonight was her first time in her big girl bed. Which also meant that last night was her last night in a crib. Ever. It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t aware of that last night, or I would have been an emotional wreck.

Sure, part of me was thrilled to be moving forward. This would begin a new era in our lives- one without diapers! One where she got herself ready in the morning. One where maybe she’ll wake up and, instead of calling out for us to get her, she’ll pick out some books and read quietly and let us sleep in a bit longer. But it was also the end of an era. The official end to any trace of babyhood and one huge step into her growing independence.

Not gonna lie, the lasts hit me hard this time. After we put her down in her new bed, I watched her on the monitor. She was lying in her bed, looking around her room as if for the first time. My eyes were glued on the screen as I watched her get out of the bed herself, go to the potty, and patter back into her little bed. She didn’t pull the blankets over herself completely and I fought the urge to go in to straighten them out for her.

And then I gave in and went in and tucked her in all over again. I was sure I was breaking sleep training rule #382 by going in to assist her when she wasn’t even requesting it… but this momma still wanted to take care of her baby, even if her baby was now a big girl sleeping in a big girl bed.

. . .

It’s not always so clear, the moment separating the last and the first. Like last week. We were eating lunch when she said to me, “Mama, yook at that yeaf… leaf.” Her correction immediately caught my attention, and I noted that this was the beginning of the end. The end of the adorable way she cried out, “Yook Mama, yook! A yitto fyower!” and her “Awo oways wuv you!” (I will always love you!)

Another last I recently experienced was nursing my son for the last time. He had been on and off about it for a while, and I knew the last nursing session could happen any time. I went into each nursing session thinking, This could be the last! Or… maybe he won’t take it, and… maybe last time was already the last… *SOBS* The uncertainty was driving me nuts, so I took a cue from the dating world and decided that if we were going to end this, it was going to be on my terms. Selfish? Maybe. I think he’ll forgive me. I picked a date and we slowly and naturally tapered off when the time came.

It was bittersweet. I never knew that bonding through nursing was even a thing until I was pregnant the first time. Even then, I doubted that I’d be one of those moms that looooved nursing her babies. I’ve just never been super touchy-feely like that. But I guess it’s built into me to love nurturing my babies this way, and sure enough, I found myself cooing and cuddling with my babies and warmed to be able to bond with them in this special way. So when the time came to stop, I did it with a heavy heart.

Part of me was also thrilled to cut the last cord to freedom. Sort of. I mean, now I could go out to dinner with my girlfriends and then STAY OUT for milk tea, instead of driving out for dinner, rushing back home to nurse my son, then driving back out to meet them for wherever they were hanging out afterward. Because if you are an exclusively breastfeeding mother, you are basically on a 3-hr leash with your baby until they start on solids (which is what we call real food (even if it’s pureed and liquidy)). The “leash” gets longer as your baby starts dropping nursing sessions and consuming more solids, but it’s no easy feat to breastfeed the whole way through!

Not to frighten you though- there are definitely other options, like these that I came across while browsing mom stuff at Honest.com. I know there is a lot of pressure for moms to only feed their babies mother’s milk, but this life stage is hard enough as it is. Moms, do what you need to do!

Now that I was done with breastfeeding, I had a newfound freedom that meant I could play sports at night again. That I could even go for a girl’s getaway if I wanted. OH THE POSSIBILITIES! I was also happy to be able to enjoy a beer and to be able to take Dramamine again!

Motherhood. What a roller coaster. The things that make you sad also make you happy, and the things you never thought twice about before (like the freedom to take motion-sickness pills) now make you ecstatic.

My friend once posted something like, “One day your parents put you down and never picked you up again.” Uh, way to destroy motherhood forever for me. Ever since then, I’ve been hyper-cognizant of the lasts, and very sensitive when I sense the beginning of the end. It’s probably the reason why I take way more pictures than anyone should be allowed to of seemingly insignificant moments… but Future JoEllen, surely someday you will thank me for that.

So when the lasts near, I will celebrate. And also appreciate. Appreciate that I get to do this job as a mother and know that I will probably miss all of it- the good and even some of the bad- someday.

2 responses to “Treasuring the Lasts”

  1. S.K. says:

    What a touching, heartfelt post! You capture the bittersweet emotions beautifully <3

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