I grew up the oldest of three. It as commonly stated in my house that the youngest was “spoiled rotten, babied” and “got away with everything.” Since many of my classmates growing up were also firstborns I had lots of data to back up this claim: the youngest in the family was spoiled and babied. I swore that would not be the case with my own children.
Then we had our second child, and for four years she was our baby. In fact we feared she would remain forever our baby after our son died at 18 weeks. Seeing myself baby her was one of the things that pulled me out of my grief and depression and helped me try again. She was too old to be babied and I knew it.
When we had our rainbow baby (another girl) I knew she would be babied. I was so grateful to have her, to have this second chance I never wanted to put her down, never wanted to let her cry. Then she grew up. She became an unruly toddler who reminded us why we had rules and were strict.
I realized the biggest reason the baby ends up appearing to “get away” with everything is because we are so dang tired and busy trying to do everything we need to do for everyone that some of their misbehavior is just plain overlooked. I started to realize that my parents didn’t let my sister have the easy way out; they were just too dang tired after me to go through it all again. They let things slide.
After another loss, we now find ourselves with our forever baby, the one that will forever be the youngest. He is another rainbow, filling empty arms we worried would stay empty. He is loved immensely and yes, he is spoiled. I tell myself you can’t spoil a baby as I lay down beside him so he can fall asleep, a little hand gently resting on my cheek. You can’t spoil a baby I tell myself as I eat dinner one handed while bouncing him on my knee.
I believe it too, that you can’t spoil a baby, but he won’t be a baby much longer and you can spoil toddlers. I realize that every milestone he hits is the last for me. The last first tooth, the last first step, the last baby onesie. There will be no more tiny baby snuggles, no more sweet baby giggles. As he grows up and moves out of these stages I realize how close I am coming to my next stage, to being a mom of only big kids. Kids that go to school, dress themselves and don’t’ rely on mommy for everything.
So I understand now how it is that babies in the family end up, well, being babied. It has less to do with them and more to do with the mothers. Accepting that I will have no more babies is acknowledging my own mortality. It’s easier to snuggle a little more and allow him to be a baby just a little bit longer than to face my own future and what might be next.