I’m trying just as hard to hold onto as rush through my final pregnancy.
I know this will be my last baby; as much as anyone can know such a thing. I methodically keep records this time: writing short snippets of prose right after heaving my meal into the toilet bowl for the fifth time on any given day. I want to remember this experience—even though I accelerate through my days, through my moments, as if I need to move on, get beyond this season.
Isn’t that the way? Grandmotherly-types gaze longingly at frazzled moms in the cereal aisle at the grocery store, wistfully admonishing: “Enjoy every moment. It goes by so fast!” While the poor woman attempts to wrangle a whining preschooler off her leg while keeping her toddler from climbing out of the grocery cart and overturning the neatly stacked display of chocolate milk on sale.
I feel this last baby moving all the time now—the strange limb-protruding motions, unpredictable and sudden: a first expression of her own will and independence. I know in a few short months I’ll forget. I’ll forget it all. There will be new lasts to consider, as each milestone she achieves and moves beyond marches her forward through time, oblivious as I look back longingly, idealizing the discomfort, the fatigue, the exasperation of carrying a child and caring for it during the first needy few years of its life.
I’ve always been sentimental about closing time. In eighth grade I convinced a bunch of middle schoolers to write letters of appreciation and commitment to friendship upon starting high school. They were all nice sentiments but I was disappointed they weren’t more emotionally heartfelt, like my own overly dramatic pledge to stay true to my preteen confidants. Each stage of life I’ve felt the next could not live up to; so I cling naively to the remnants of an idealized period instead of readying myself for the potentials to come.
My feet are starting to disappear again, slowly. I need to lean over my protruding abdomen to see them fully. I remember this stage and know the discomfort inevitable in these last few gravid months. There’s a layer of wistfulness, though, as I pause here, able to appreciate that I’ll never again feel the mightiness of a body that can house and grow another human being. But simultaneously, practically, I’m looking forward to the parturitional end: my body my own again, knowing I’ll never be this achingly uncomfortable again.