My baby daughter smells like freshly baked bread lightly misted with unicorn sweat. I spend most of my day inhaling her while she sits on my lap, gently nuzzling my cheek against hers so I can feel the insane softness of her brand new perfect skin. I've had to stop myself from nibbling her earlobes, because they look delicious. This must be what it’s like to have a drug problem, as I’m clearly addicted to Baby. But what happens when my stash runs out?
No matter how hard I try to keep her on my lap, this particular baby, at 21 months, is rapidly outgrowing her infancy. Though her hair still barely touches the top of her ears, and her chubby foot still fits in my palm, she’s started running. And jumping. And singing “Happy Birthday,” regardless of the occasion.
She’s also been having these tiny tantrums when things don’t go her way (we have this crazy rule about not playing with steak knives), tearing across the room with her arms above her head until she flops, sobbing, onto a bean bag pillow.
How much longer until she goes full toddler, insisting on choosing her own clothes, refusing to eat vegetables and melting down when it’s time to leave the park? And from there it’s just a hop skip to snarking that I’m “the worst mom ever” when I deny her use of my lipstick. I know this, because I have a 6-year-old who might as well be a teenager.
When that 6-year-old was a baby, I swear time moved slower. Some of her stages, particularly the nursing all night long phase, seemed to go on forever. I cheered when she met her milestones, grateful to get past things that seemed scary and hard. I had no idea what scary and hard was.
Who will shriek with delight and clutch my leg when I reappear after 30 seconds in the kitchen?
Now I realize it is much more challenging navigating a big kid’s moods and homework and social dramas than it is to bounce a gassy baby on an exercise ball. Which is why Baby #2 has seemed like a breeze. And her easiness combined with her utter lusciousness makes me wish she could be a baby always.
She’s my last baby, this one. And mostly I'm okay with that. Our family feels complete, and two is frankly all we can handle. I just don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with my baby obsession when I don’t have a baby anymore.
Who's going to gaze lovingly into my eyes for minutes at a time, curled into me, raptly listening to my lullabies like I’m Beyonce? Who will shriek with delight and clutch my leg when I reappear after 30 seconds in the kitchen? What will I do when there's no one to carry on my hip, no one to scramble onto my lap, no one to soothe when the vacuum cleaner is too loud?
Cry, I think. I think there will be crying.
Knowing I'll never again have a baby who is my baby is a heavy thing. I'll miss the nursing and the baby wearing, the first smiles, words and steps, the board books and tiny spoons. I think I'll even miss changing diapers. I may not miss the night wakings.
I was always a baby person before I even had babies. I’d make googly eyes with them in restaurants, proud if I could get a giggle. Having my own babies was an absolute miracle and dream come true—everything I hoped for and more. I never guessed it would also be so strangely heartbreaking, watching them grow and change, every step further away from me.