I watched on the monitor as she snuggled up next to him on the fluffy nursery rug. She gently rubbed his tummy and talked sweetly to him in a voice I’ve never heard. Minutes earlier, I had crouched over the baby, talking in my best high-pitched Auntie voice.
My daughter mimicked my movements and shifted me with her hips, hockey-check style, indicating I was hogging the baby.
“Let me do it, mom,” she said.
So I went to another room and watched as she entertained the baby. He laid there peacefully, cooing and flinching his arms and legs reacting to her.
Only three years ago, her brother arrived and she wasn’t as patient, her preschool body and mind couldn’t be stopped to slow down. But now here she was, sweet, patient, helpful and interested in the baby.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about another baby. Instances like this remind me that the baby phase is over for my motherhood and each time it is sad for me.
The sadness of being done having babies hits me at different times.
When I look through photos of my children as babies.
When I watch home movies and see their baby bodies in high chairs, immobile on the floor, and wordless in their baby conversation.
When I clean out their clothes each season and discover a baby item that was forgotten deep in their dresser. And truthfully, each seasonal cleaning of their clothes is bittersweet, feeling that they are growing too fast.
When parents with older children tell me they grown up “in a blink” because I know it has already gone too fast.
When I think my own body will never again grow a child, nurse a baby or carry my own baby in my arms.
And most recently, when I see my children with babies. Holding babies, stroking them, talking sweetly.
The sadness rushes over me.
Normally I tuck this sadness away, I never tell anyone, I don’t find comfort in words or hugs, I just move on. Until last week.
I appear on television for cooking segments and at a recent show, one of the other guests was a psychic. I was admittedly, frazzled that day. She offered to give me a reading. She touched me and said, “You seem very sad about not having more babies. It’s on your heart.”
The tears started to fall.
It was true.
I was sad.
Especially most recently seeing my children interact with my new baby nephew.
She stood there with me, holding my hand. And her advice to me was simple, genuine and loving, “Grieve this feeling. Find something new to grow.”
I drove home and sobbed. Finding solace in my empty minivan, I let it all out. The sadness that I pushed deep down for so long, I finally let myself cry. I let myself be sad about not having more babies. For the first time, I grieved that the baby period of my motherhood was over.
It’s OK to grieve the end of babies in your motherhood.
Grieve the fact that this phase of life is over for you.
Because it is sad.
The baby phase was a fantastic and beautiful time. We have the pictures and home movies to prove it, don’t we?
Recognizing this feeling as grief allows you to give yourself grace when you are sad at different times in your life because this sadness will continue to pop up unexpectedly.
I thought about why I get so sad about the baby period and I think it’s because I feel life with my kids is just going so fast. I want to be a better mother. I regret the mistakes I’ve made over the years. The baby period was a time of innocence and infancy both of my children and of my motherhood. The chalkboard was clean.
The reality is that I don’t get a do-over on the mistakes I’ve made in motherhood. But every day I get another chance to do better in my motherhood.
We may be done growing babies, but we are not done growing in our motherhood.
We are not done growing.
What am I growing now?
That is our own question to answer.
If you’re done having more babies and you feel moments of sadness, don’t be ashamed. It’s OK to feel both confidence and sadness about being done having babies. Talk to someone, talk with another mama. Be sad. Grieve that the baby phase of motherhood is over for you. And take solace in knowing you are not done growing in your motherhood. Your kids are going to keep growing and so are you.
This essay was originally posted on Dining with Alice.