I found the diaper bag in the closet the other day. When was the last time I used it? It used to be an extension of my body every time we left the house. It’s been everywhere with me.
Now, there it is. Buried in a closet with a lone, outgrown diaper, and a few dried-up wipes.
I’m feeling it right now. The changing seasons of motherhood.
There’s the crib, too. I got so excited for my new babies when the cribs were finally set up and waiting in the rooms. New sheets, carefully washed in the baby detergent. A special stuffed animal, lovingly chosen, propped neatly in the corner. To think that we would soon have our very own tiny babies to put in those cribs seemed beyond my wildest dreams. A crib in your home is an undeniable sign that a precious little one lives there.
For the past six years, we’ve had at a crib in our home. Six.
Now, we are taking it down.
Six years is longer than I was in high school or college. Longer than I was wife before kids, and even longer than my teaching career. I’ve mothered my babies and toddlers longer than I’ve done anything else in my entire life. I struggled through breastfeeding and pumping, sleep issues, and illnesses. Navigating all the uncertainty of raising babies and learning as I went, the journey has been exhausting, but amazing.
Here I am now. I have this baby and toddler business down. I know how to manage my baby’s sleep as well as when and how to start solid foods. Mastitis, croup, and pneumonia are nothing new. I can tell the difference between call the doctor illnesses and wait-it-out illnesses. I know how to encourage tots to eat their veggies and help with clean-up time. Screen time guidelines are comfortably in place. Potty training does not intimidate me. I handle toddler tantrums like a boss.
But, what do I do now?
Now that I don’t need any of that hard-earned knowledge anymore?
Now those beautifully messy baby and toddler years are over?
Just like that.
Do I want another baby?
Do I think another baby will give me back the role I know and love so well?
While I’m staring, wide-eyed, at the complexities of raising older children, do I think a sweet little baby will make me feel competent again?
Yes, yes, and more yes.
I fear the child I’ll never have will always hold a piece of my heart, but are these the best reasons to take the risks that come with having another baby?
Especially when the other half of this decision is an unwavering no.
What do I do when the seasons of motherhood are changing and I’m not ready? I will never again surrender my whole heart to a tiny bean on a fuzzy ultrasound. Never again, will I be the first to kiss a tiny human who has just entered the world. There will be no more first smiles, first steps, or first words. The last sweet song to a swaddled infant or a scared toddler in the night has been sung.
What do I do now?
Now, I guess I’ll be on the go without a diaper bag. I’ll cry while my husband takes the crib down, but celebrate my little girl’s big kid bed with her. I’ll learn how to sit on the parent side of a parent-teacher conference. I’ll figure out how to handle my curious daughter’s increasingly specific questions about reproduction. “But WHAT MAKES the tiny egg in a mommy’s belly start growing?” When my preschooler says she doesn’t have any friends or a boy at school tried to kiss her, I’ll be calling in reinforcements from moms who have been there.
How many activities are too much or not enough? How are we going to pay for all those activities? What is the best school for them? Should we consider homeschooling? Are they doing enough chores? How do we teach them to be financially responsible? How do I instill the morals and values they will need to be good and kind people? How do I help them make sense of both the sorrow and the beauty of this world?
One day in the future, these are all the things I hope to say I can handle like a boss.
As the seasons of motherhood change, I’ll be clumsily adjusting to this new season, just like I did the last. All along the way, I’ll be seeking advice and support, apologizing when I mess up, telling my kids how much I love them, and making sure they know how incredibly proud I am to be their mom.