Join Club Momme for exclusive access to giveaways, discounts and more!

Sign up

It's Over: Never-Again Parenting Moments

I gave birth to my last child on a cold January night, just a couple hours before the first light of dawn. The labor was fast, and, like labor usually does, it hurt like hell.

During the last awful contractions — the ones that made me feel as if my body would break before it birthed — I silently repeated the same phrase over and over to myself. It was a phrase that kept my eye on the prize — one that reminded me there was an end in sight to all the hip-exploding pain.

“I’ll never have to do this again. I’ll never have to do this again. I’ll never have to do this again.”

RELATED: I'll Always Be a Mom

I was dead serious about this “never” too. I knew in my heart of hearts that I would be done having babies after my third. With three happy, exuberant and delightful sons, I was finished. No more pregnancies. No more babies. And, thank God, no more contractions.

Fast forward a few years, and my healthy baby is now a healthy 3-year-old. According to plan, my husband and I have opted for permanent — wonderfully permanent — birth control. Unless the universe (and my husband’s urologist) is cruel, I’ll never have to give birth again.

Over the past few years, this finality has inspired a mixed bag of emotions. It has provoked a round of goodbyes, both bitter and sweet.

The bittersweetness of my baby-making and baby parenting goodbyes began early in my youngest son’s infancy. I savored the hazy chaos of the newborn weeks. This third time around, I finally appreciated how fleeting those weeks are. I laughed when the meconium poops were done, bidding those disgusting, tarry diapers a hearty farewell. I cried when I gave away the last of our infant onesies.

I found myself silently repeating the same phrase over and over again: “I’ll never have to do this again. I’ll never have to do this again. I’ll never have to do this again.”

Some of the goodbyes were hard. Some of them, not so much.

Then the toddler years struck.

Toddlers and toddlerhood have become the ultimate parenting punchline. Toddlers have a terrible reputation, and perhaps, unfairly so. Sure, they melt down faster than candle wax under a flame thrower. Yes, they whine, make messes and get into everything. But they’re also amazing people who learn and grow and change at an astounding rate. Better yet, they can be really stinking cute.

Yet, despite all that is wonderful about toddlers, toddler parenting is still my kryptonite. And I’m not much of a supermom to begin with.

My 3-year-old has put some of the worst toddler stereotypes to shame. His favorite activities include: dumping things, ripping things (such as his older brother’s homework) and spitting on things. He climbs on furniture and loses his temper easily. He loves to run away from my husband and me — far, far away from us — whenever we’re at a playground, soccer field or even just in our front yard. I can’t count the number of times people have said to us, “Wow, he’s fast!” He didn’t sleep for longer than a two- or three-hour stretch until he was 2-and-a-half years old.

Saying goodbye to this particular stage of parenting has not been such a bittersweet challenge for me. And thus it came as no surprise when, as I stood and observed my toddler son in the midst of a major meltdown just the other day, I found myself silently repeating the same phrase over and over again:

“I’ll never have to do this again. I’ll never have to do this again. I’ll never have to do this again.”

Just as it got me through the painful parts of my labor with him, it got me through this particularly difficult meltdown of his.

I was exhausted and overstimulated. ... But at least I knew that, someday, I wouldn’t be the parent of a melting-down, furniture-climbing, homework-ripping toddler ever again.

He wailed. I called upon my Zen-like tranquility: I’ll never have to do this again.

He stomped his feet. I knelt down and told him that I knew he was sad and that he still needed to eat his lunch before he got a cookie. ("I’ll never have to do this again.”)

He tried to hit me. I stopped his hand and informed him that I would not let him hurt my body. (“I’ll never have to do this again.”)

He went on for five more minutes, which, in toddler-meltdown-time, can seem like five more hours. I waited out the hour-long minutes quietly. ("I’ll never have to do this again.")

He dribbled tears and slobber onto my shirt. I wiped them from his face before I wiped off my shirt. (“I’ll never have to do this again.”)

He stopped crying. He took a deep breath. He went to the table and finished his lunch (but not before scowling at me). I gave him his cookie. (“I’ll never have to do this again.”)

I was exhausted and overstimulated, much like I once was at the end of an especially painful contraction in labor. But at least I knew that, someday, I wouldn’t be the parent of a melting-down, furniture-climbing, homework-ripping toddler ever again.

Later that night, at bedtime, my toddler son and I snuggled on his bed and read a giant stack of books together. He curled his bare toes over my legs, his chubby feet poking out of his blue monkey pajamas. He begged me to “Wead one more book!” And so I did. He rested his head on my arm and nuzzled his face into my sweater.

He said, “I wuv you, Mommy.”

I kissed his head and told him that I loved him too.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Deal With a Toddler's Tantrum

In those tender moments, nestled next to my youngest child, the last toddler I’ll ever parent, I silently repeated the following phrase to myself:

“I’ll never get to do this again.”

Image by Kristen Oganowski

Explore More: baby care
More from baby