The Last Firsts

I can’t imagine a bigger thief than time. The fact that one year can pass by so quickly is both amazing and upsetting. At this time last year, I was preparing for our baby boy’s impending arrival. Swollen, grouchy and uncomfortable yet embracing those final weeks.

Man I miss that bump…sometimes.

Somehow I am currently preparing for his first birthday in a couple weeks while trying to figure out where the last twelve months have gone. So check in on me friends, because I am struggling at the thought of never having an infant of mine in the house again.

You would have thought that I mourned this phase once already when we sold all of our baby items after our second daughter was a toddler. We (and by we, I mean my husband) were sure there wouldn’t be another baby for us. Whatever I didn’t pass along to family and friends, I sold at a garage sale. It didn’t sting at the time for me, though, because I secretly knew that there would be more one day.

Maybe that’s why this time feels different. We have officially committed to the completion of our family, and the realization has set in that we will never again live out those beautiful first year milestones with a baby. As my son’s first birthday approaches, I find myself hopelessly longing for those precious and fleeting moments once more. It all caught up with me at once. These are our last firsts and there is no redoing them.

Basking in newborn splendor as the summer sun crept across the corner of my bed early in the morning. The up-all-nights that had me running on fumes and coffee for days on end. The first time I saw his face and our first nap together in our birthing suite. The first sleepy smile and the first time he slept through the night. His first bath, first trip, first foods, first tooth. The first time I heard his rolling laughter and the first time he army crawled across the living room floor rug. The last time he used the bassinet and the first time he went to the crib. The last time he wore newborn clothes before packing them away. The last time I used my pump and the final time I fed him a bottle before transitioning to sippy cups. The very last time I walked out of the hospital as a new mom, and the final moment we welcomed a brand new baby home.

No more dirty burp rags scattered throughout the house. No bottles drying on the drying rack or empty formula containers on the counter. No jumperoo, play mat or walker under the living room window. The spaces in our home that were once totally occupied with baby necessities are freeing up as he grows, and it is a bittersweet reminder of how quickly time is passing by.

Looking back I think of all those sleepless nights I was quick to wish away, the challenges that tripped us up and the times I desperately wanted things to be easier. Life goes by fast enough without me rushing along the rough parts. There is room for growth in chaos, too–a lesson hard learned this past year. So don’t worry mamas and daddies of the itty bitty ones; we’re all just wingin’ it.

Side note: babies were easier in my twenties. 

Gone are our baby years, yes. An incredible season that has come to an end. Transitioning from one stage to the next is busy and beautiful. In an effort to shield my mama heart, I am trying to not dwell on the finalization of our baby years by welcoming gratitude for having them in the first place. Walking the very fine line where change is good and necessary, but also surprisingly hard. Such is the contrast between grasping the things that keep him a baby and letting go (ever so slightly) so that he can grow into the wild toddler I suspect he will become.

Before I know it, another stage will pass. More rapidly than I will ever prefer; just like his sisters before him. And that’s okay because I can take all of this with me. Every memory. Every milestone. Every little thing. I write them down, share it here, put some in a slightly neglected baby book and refer back to it all anytime I want to say, “…look how much you’ve grown.” That’s the best part. Being able to say we did it all together.

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Baby boy, I am so excited to celebrate your first trip around the sun. We love you beyond words! 

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On This Day…

Five years ago today, we received a phone call. Earlier that morning I had taken Tessa to the hospital to get her labs drawn. She was on a wait and watch protocol for Myelodysplastic Syndrome, and we knew at some point she would likely transition to leukemia. Many months led up to that moment in our living room where my husband and I sat together while listening closely to the voice on the other end of the phone. She had only said my name and I knew. Before she could finish her sentence, hot tears streamed down my cheeks.

Even though we knew this was coming, we still clung to the little bit of hope that this was all a mistake. That her labs and biopsies were incorrect. That there was a chance she could avoid treatment. It was something we told ourselves on the surface to save face; all the while knowing that this was inevitable. Our daughter had cancer and lives shifted forever.

Her body was covered in petechiae. Her skin was as pale and mottled. She was weak and miserable, crying in our arms. Our baby was sick…really sick. On the phone, the doctor urged us to get her to the hospital immediately. She told us to pack bags for at least a week long stay in the hospital while they ran more tests to figure out the best course of treatment. In the midst of packing, I remembered our six month old baby at daycare and my heart shattered. What would happen to our family?

Before leaving town, I pulled up to our daycare to see our littlest babe while my husband and Tessa waited in the car. Unaware of our troubles, her face lit up with excitement when she realized her mommy was there. As I scooped her up in my arms, I wondered when I would get to see her again. I walked away from that house not knowing if that terrible disease would take her big sister from her. Fear won that day and several days to come.

The hours that followed are now muddled memories. People rushed in and out of our hospital room, throwing medical terms and phrases at our blank faces. They asked questions we didn’t have answers to and said things that didn’t make sense.

There were treatment road maps, complicated documents that required signatures, beeping machines and many unfamiliar faces. The food trays that the nurse had ordered for us were cold and untouched on the counter. I quietly rocked our girl to sleep as she received blood products for the very first time, desperately trying to wrap my head around how we were so swiftly caught in the undertow of our current situation.

This was our life.

A small, but significant chapter, in the big book of us.

Like a puzzle, our pieces remained scattered. Each piece just as meaningful and necessary as the next, despite how confusing and frustrating they were on their own. Sometimes coming back together, only to be broken apart again and again.

But even apart, we were whole; and when all of the pieces aligned just right, we created a beautiful scene.

Every year on this day I recall our heartache and desperation. How I spent the first night on that cold hospital bed, hopelessly bargaining with the man upstairs to let me take her place.

For parents like me, diagnosis day isn’t something we can escape. It may become less obvious in time, but the effects of that day linger. From how we plan and prepare to how we confront and overcome, and everything in between.

I do not relive painful anniversaries for the sake of sorrow, rather to remind me how far we have come. To remember the mountains we moved when climbing them wasn’t an option. To pay homage to moments that changed our course; acknowledging that we absolutely can handle hard things in life.