What If This Is My Last Baby?

by Mary Katherine
Kristina Hernandez / Getty Images

I’m at a crossroads.

I feel it every time I box up an entire season of little girl’s clothing and carry it to our storage closet. Baby Girl is growing up quick. She’s in 2T now. I’m in denial.

That storage closet is full of onesies and blankets and tiny little hats. As my husband lifted the box marked 18-24 months to the highest shelf, he wondered out loud if now was the time to buy our daughter a toddler bed.

I bristled at his suggestion. Clearly, we don’t have enough space in storage for her crib. Where would he recommend we put it?

We are keeping the crib, right? …just in case?

I always assumed that I would know–just, know–when it was time to stop having children. But I have no clear answer in my heart, and the stress of not knowing is keeping me up at night.

On one hand, I tell myself that nobody regrets the child they have. The joy that a tiny new life brings to a family? That is impossible to deny. Of course, we’d be happy with another baby. However, with that argument, we could also end up looking like the Duggars. Maybe that works for them, but if I’m being pragmatic, I have to admit: my hands are already full with two.

But then, I’m scared I’ll regret the child I don’t have. What happens if I’m well beyond maternal age, and there’s a sudden, clear ache in my soul for one more baby? What happens if I feel that clarity and it’s too late? That fear is almost enough to make me say “screw it.”

Let’s jump in with two feet. Let’s just try one more time.

But then something inside of me says “not yet.” And that pause is enough to make me wonder.

What if she’s my last?

Our baby is getting big, fast. I feel this acutely as I fold up her new, bigger clothes and organize them for her drawer. We’ve graduated from sweet cotton blends and muslin to the sturdier fabrics designed for a rough and tumble child. I know it’s silly, but my mama heart wasn’t ready for that. I’m still attached to those lovies and footie pajamas. I’m still attached to the baby that wore them.

We didn’t take enough pictures, I think. As if the album of 1,000 photos in my phone is somehow insufficient.

But what if she’s my last?

My daughter’s cheeks are thinning and her curls have grown to her shoulders. They pull up into a tiny little ponytail now, and it is so damn adorable that it makes my heart ache. She’s my joyful, vibrant baby — except that she’s every bit a toddler. That sweet, infant scent has all but disappeared from her tiny little head. And I wasn’t ready for that either. I didn’t sniff her head enough, I think. Which is probably weird — but other moms would understand.

Because, what if she’s my last?

My husband and I were just finishing up our sorting and organizing when our little girl woke up and called our names from her crib. We looked at one another and smiled, then took off racing down the hall, elbowing one another for the chance to be the first one through her nursery door. The first to lift her out of her bed. The first to hear that elated “Mama!” or “Dada!” when she realizes that her after-nap rescuer has arrived.

It’s funny how we fight over those precious moments, now. The night time snuggles, the Sunday morning strolls, the trips to the grocery store. Even the diaper changes. These are things we may have taken for granted when our oldest was a baby, but not anymore. Because we know that one day you wake up and your roly-poly infant is a knock-kneed kid…which is a beautiful thing, in and of itself, but can time just slow down please?

My husband beat me to the nursery. He changed our daughter’s diaper and kissed her face and sang Twinkle Twinkle in the most ridiculous voice my ears have ever heard. Watching from the doorway, I smiled. He eagerly soaks up every second, as if babyhood is a commodity that will soon expire.

I know how he feels. The question is looming in both of our hearts, reminding us to treasure every moment.

Because, what if she’s our last?