Ages and stages and letting go of tiny things

I’ve been getting rid of things.

Last week I sold the high chair.  I had it for seven years.  Someone gave me some money, and I gave them the high chair.

This week, I took some of Mia’s clothes and baby toys to a consignment sale.  The worker who was sorting through them remarked on how beautiful all the little outfits were.  “Thank you,” I said, then, “It’s kind of painful to part with them.”  But she was busy and didn’t have time to counsel me on letting go.

I could have easily not had children.  After Mark and I were married I suggested that we consider not having children, but he was certain that he wanted them.  I was fine with that too.

And when, four-and-a-half years into our marriage, I gave birth to our son, I loved him more than I thought possible.  Those first few months of holding and rocking and nursing were more precious than I would have ever imagined.  He was often not a content baby, but the sense of wonder I felt as I became acquainted with Nolan trumped every challenge that was presented to me.

Four years later, when I became pregnant with Mia, I wondered if I could possibly feel the same with another baby that I felt with Nolan.  I need not have worried, of course.  My pleasure in those first months with Mia came from confidence and the hard-won knowledge that I should embrace each and every stage, for they are fleeting.

I was thirty-eight years old when I gave birth to Mia.  For many reasons, including our age and our finances, we knew that two children would be it for us.

I am normally ready and prepared to move on to the stage to which our life has brought us.  But each time I have to part with the relics of those early months and years, it is painful.  When I am purging the house of bottles and baby toys, of precious clothes that they can’t wear anymore and gear that we will not use anymore, the simple fact dawns on me that, if all goes according to our plans, I will never bear another child.

I will never again spend months with a tiny being inside of me, sheltered and nourished by my own body.  I’ll never lay, hand on my belly, feeling tiny movements and imagining what is to come.  I won’t give birth again.

I won’t nurse a baby ever again.  Not in my lifetime will I ever again fumble at my clothes and straps while the baby in my arms roots and pecks in search of food.  I won’t fall asleep with my baby on my chest.

I wonder exactly what it is what grieves me in all of this.  Sometimes, I have a sense that my ability to create life feels like the very essence of life itself, the pinnacle of my own experience on this earth…that everything in my life leading up to giving life to another was, unbeknownst to me, an uphill climb, and everything after that is downhill, and beyond that lies my own morality.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I know that there is life still to be lived.  There are good times to come today, tomorrow, and in the years ahead.  In a blink my children will be increasingly independent and my husband and I can turn once again to each other and find adventures and quiet moments.  I look on our family’s years to come with relish.

But sometimes, when I am sorting tiny clothes, I stop and remember sleepy, hazy days and nights with a baby in my arms, kissing a little bald head, and loosening my clothes for feeding time.  Such sweet, sweet memories that I will carry in my heart through all my days.

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About Joyce

40-year-old university advisor, 10-years married with two small children, trying to do it all and have it all and still manage the occasional social interaction through the wonderful world of blogging.
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16 Responses to Ages and stages and letting go of tiny things

  1. Oh man, you brought me right back to those moments! Obviously, I have thought about this but not for awhile. I thought I was at peace with not having another baby but now that I don’t actually have a baby anymore.. boy do I miss it! Even though I am tired all the time and clearly know I could not handle another one….it sure was a sweet time!

    • Joyce says:

      I miss it too…I guess it might be fair to say that while I wouldn’t want another one now, I sure would like a time machine so I can go back and hold them as babies once in a while. On the other hand, I have friends from high school who are practically empty-nesters, and I envy that sometimes as well. We got started so late.

  2. Lu says:

    I am utterly unqualified to comment – although I will say there is something naturally, inherently & biologically human about how you must be feeling.
    For some reason “puppies” jump to mind – but that’s possibly to be expected from a woman who hasn’t had babies.
    There is always being a grandmother to look forward to in the (many) years to come!

    • Joyce says:

      I think puppies might be a close proximity…I will occasionally have friends post puppy pictures of their full grown dogs on Facebook with a “where has the time gone” type comment. I totally get it.

  3. Karen says:

    Oh, boy, this post made me sad. Don’t you remember the sleepless nights, and the colic, and the poop everywhere (everywhere!) Snap out of it!

    I kinda was glad when the baby stage was over, and I had two little companions who were up and about and joining me, doing stuff, and my oldest is now able to carry on a bit of conversation, though she’s beginning to sound a lot like my addled old aunt Lucille, before she went away to live at Pleasant Gardens, with the way she tells a story about nothing particularly important, but feels it necessary to include every excruciating detail.

    And pregnancy–man, they were just nine month long anxiety attacks, punctuated by eating way to many McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets and entire tubs of sour cream dip.

    • Joyce says:

      Oh, you sound like my husband! He much prefers a older kid that he can talk to and reason with. And right now our youngest is at a stage that is not a baby stage and also is not reasonable in any way. Just a year ago she was so compliant and now she turns everything into an argument just because she can.

  4. My youngest is now 17 but I remember well the time when I had to get rid of all the old baby clothes and other paraphernalia. I never had a maternal bone in my body until I became pregnant with Prodigal (now 25) and although I love all my four boys dearly I have never felt the need to have more. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel an attachment to the baby clothes. I decided to keep a couple of my favourite items as keepsakes. I kept them in a bag at the bottom of my wardrobe. But when I moved last summer the bag was gone, I suspect my ex husband must have thrown them out or taken it with him.

    Its funny I can still picture the tiny outfits but I don’t feel any sense of loss that they have now gone. I guess the passing of years has softened the edge of that loss.

    • Joyce says:

      I’ve kept a few things…very few. I have a little box of each of their coming home outfits and such. It’s tempting to keep more but I don’t. My mother-in-law has kept boxes and boxes of toys and keepsakes and things. She has the room but I can’t imagine keeping up with moving all that stuff every four years as she did when my father-in-law was in the military. I couldn’t be a slave to all that stuff. Better to rip the bandage off now, I think.

  5. We also have two children. If circumstnaces were different, I would have liked to have a third.Alas, it was not meant to be. It feels nice to be past those early stages but sad in some ways as well.

  6. Valerie says:

    Oh those baby moments are SO special!! When we’re finished having children I know I will feel/experience the same as you. *Hugs* to you when you part with things of their early years. ❤

    • Joyce says:

      How many more do you think you’ll be having, Valerie?

      • Valerie says:

        We would like two more. 🙂 We’re working on baby #4 right now. Well, not RIGHT now…lol. He’s at work, but here lately. 😉 I wrote about the challenge it has been ttc, last night: http://atlantamomofthree.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/ttc-while-breastfeeding-a-humbling-experience/

      • Joyce says:

        LOL! “Well not RIGHT now…”

        See, five children sounds wonderful to me, if I were your age, though. It is good that you got started earlier. I, on the other hand, did not get married till I was 29. I just did everything later, I suppose. But that’s OK. I’m more patient and less controlling than I was when I was in my 20’s.

      • Valerie says:

        Oh yes, I am much calmer and less controlling than I used to be too. 😉 I am hoping to get pregnant pretty soon and then hopefully follow him/her with another shortly after because I don’t want to be in the “high risk” category of 35yrs+. 🙄

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