First, the pacifiers slowly disappeared, one by one, never to be replaced. Then, the cupboard that had held baby bottles for over six years became the cupboard that held a random assortment of water bottles that have been collected from school and sport activities. The swing and high chair were given away to friends, then onesies and sleepers handed down to my newest nephew. The baby gates came down, the outlets became free of covers, the living room no longer houses a pack n play. The crib transitioned to a toddler bed, and then was eventually moved to the garage to make room for bunk beds. The closet in the nursery emptied of baby socks, baby shoes, and receiving blankets, save a few muslin swaddling wraps that I cannot bear to part with and still occupy their place on the top shelf. The changing table is gone, the corner of the nursery houses a bookshelf instead of a box of diapers.
For more than eight years, our home was set up for babies, but it has slowly transitioned into a house for school-aged boys without me fully realizing that we do not have babies anymore, our youngest about to be four and start pre-school. The changes in our house happened slowly and sometimes reluctantly. My husband is the one that cleaned out the bottle cupboard a full year after we had ceased to use them. And our youngest had not slept in the nursery for months, preferring to sleep in the big boys’ room, before I finally repainted the walls from mint-green to blue, turning it into an office.
The decision to be done having kids was easy. Three kids had made life sufficiently busy and expensive enough that another baby was never seriously considered. Accepting that that part of my life is over has been a more gradual process, even though most of it was welcomed change. Prolonged bedtimes of pacing the floors and rocking babies replaced by a bedtime story and simple kiss on the cheek, naptimes that were hard-fought for with all of us snuggled up in one bed replaced by quiet time, packing a diaper bag with extensive supplies for a day out replaced by simply walking out the door, and long evenings at home walking the floors with a fussy baby in the Moby have turned into long evenings on the baseball and soccer fields.
And though our family feels complete, and another baby is still not a serious consideration, there will always be a part of me that mourns that that phase of our life is over. There is a part of me that longs to know the intimacy of breastfeeding again, to look upon the face of our contently sleeping baby, to smell their hair and breath, to sit for hours in a recliner holding them while they sleep, to watch in awe as they make their first smile, their first coo, and develop their own personality. I remain grateful for the three babies that I have watched grow into boys and appreciate that I knew that our third would be our last, because I think I was able to enjoy his first year more with the knowledge that it was the last time.
My grandma always tells me “This, too, shall pass,” I just did not realize how fast until I looked around our house and realized that we do not have babies anymore.