Mixed emotions: Chicago mom longs for and dreads life without babies

Many years ago I sat in church, with two smallish children and pregnant with another. In front of me sat a mother and her four children, all much older. Four children — tweens and teens — all old enough to walk themselves in, sit and listen without being reprimanded constantly or feed a never ending stream of Cheerios. Four children that I presumed could feed and wipe themselves and who got dressed and bathed on their own. I remember looking at her not with longing but more with awe, like you would look at an amazing creature in a zoo. I just couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t involve babies.

Today my youngest is 18 months old (although I’m pretty sure in his mind he’s at least three).  While I know I am a long way from the coveted time of everyone being responsible for their own bodily functions, that time is coming. I can see it like a faint shadow of a building on the horizon. I’m watching that spot with both longing and sadness. I honestly still can’t imagine a life that doesn’t have babies.

I spend my days shifting my view between the road right in front of me; the busy, sleepless, messy road, and that shadow on the horizon. I want to hold on, linger here longer. Pull the car over and just stay in this spot. Nuzzling cheeks that are still so unbelievably soft and brushing the blondest baby curls that we have ever had.

Then reality hits me in the face in the form of a truck or a matchbox car. Those Melissa & Doug wooden trucks seemed like such a great gift until he he entered the tumultuous twos (we do that early around these parts). With every screaming kicking fit, diaper blowout and middle of the night wake-up I start narrowing my focus on that fuzzy horizon.

What no one really tells you about this parenting thing when you get started is how every day will be a million years long and also go by in two seconds flat. Watching another person grow and become a real thinking, talking person is an amazing experience. Somedays it feels like I am bystander watching a nature film that has been sped up so you can see the growth. All while simultaneously standing still at the same time. It’s true what they say, parenting is not for the faint of heart.

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