When You Know It's Your Last

There are things I will and won’t miss about those early days.

by Raquel Kelley
A young mother lays in her hospital bed with her crying newborn baby on her chest.
Layland Masuda/Moment/Getty Images

My son, our third child, was born this past summer. But honestly, at first, I wasn’t sure I wanted another kid.

For some it’s crystal clear when they’re done having kids. I’ve had many friends who knew right away and they were ready to unload the baby stuff. They were done and resolute in their decision, completely thrilled they’d never have to do it again.

But I was torn. My work/life situation in lockdown with two little girls suggested a “hell no!” to the question, but there was still something inside of me that couldn’t shake the desire for another. Yes, I was on the verge of a mental breakdown, throwing bags of cheese puffs at the girls in order to keep them quiet on my calls, but for some reason I knew I wasn’t done.

As all the gear accumulated more dust in the basement, so did my urge and sense of “knowing,” that didn’t come from a logical place, but a very primal place, a place that I have a hard time putting into words. Almost as if you know that person already exists and just needs to get over to the other side.

In the end, we went for it, and I was so glad. After suffering postpartum depression after my second, I was glad to feel better and to experience the pure, genuine joy with the last. But it’s also been hard and there are definitely things I will and won’t miss about those early days.

There are things I won’t miss, of course. There’s the colic: Is it a dairy allergy? A histamine intolerance? I wish I was paid by the hour for the amount of time I spent googling and reading comment sections on eczema, reflux, and food allergies possibly causing the crying. After switching formulas, an EEG, and allergy testing, the final verdict was Sandifer’s Syndrome, which is spasms based on the discomfort from acid reflux. A condition he should thankfully grow out of. Even though it’s your third kid, they all have new problems, and you never know what the hell you are doing.

Then there are the days that all blend together. Google Photos likes to troll me with their “Similar Shots” collage with pictures of me in the same bathrobe I sported for weeks looking like a haggard zombie from last summer. I had a hard enough time remembering what day it was but thank you for the friendly reminder. The days of countless swaddles and feeding, while no two alike, have a way of all blending together. And the isolation, although a tiny human was always by your side, is endless.

And of course, the midnight feedings. The first weeks you are running on pure adrenaline, high-fiving yourself after week two that you survived the every-three-hour feeds. But then it sinks in… it’s only just begun. By the four-month mark, I had hit my wall. After a hospital stay with RSV, sleep deprivation took a toll on my physical and mental health. There’s a reason prisoners of war are tortured with lack of sleep. It was then that I decided the never-ending milk train needed to end.

But you know what I will miss, one day far down the road, when all my kids are teens and practically grown? Honestly, probably the colic. Instead of gas, reflux, and allergies causing the crying, it will be tears spilled over boundaries being pushed and broken hearts. Whether it’s emotions over body image as your body grows and changes. Or the breakups and makeups with your high school Ex. Cleaning up the literal mess of the early years will seem far easier than cleaning up the figurative mess of the later ones.

And the groundhog days that all blend together. Nap, eat, sleep, repeat. The routine I once loathed will someday be turned into a path of uncertainty. College or no college, what to be, where to go? All questions that can only be answered by you. A path I wish I could go on with you, but must be done alone. One I won’t be able to pave for you, or protect you from, but only do my best to ready you for.

And the midnight feedings, too. Someday I’ll be staying up past midnight when you become a teenager, but you won’t be with me. No more quiet darkness alone like we’re the only two up in the world. Instead, I’ll be worried where you are and wishing you were back in these same safe arms.

Isn’t it funny that sometimes it’s the things you liked the least that are the things you’ll remember the most? The moments that tried and tested us in motherhood often become the memories that make us most proud. And while your last baby may have left your body or your nest, they will also have left you feeling what you instinctively knew you always needed to feel… complete.

Raquel Kelley is a writer, TV producer, and host of the MOMGUL Podcast. She worked at NBCUniversal for over a decade for such shows as Live! From the Red Carpet and Fashion Police. Her work has appeared in HuffPost & Conde Nast.

Raquel's debut book, Where'd I Go? is the first lift-the-flap board book written for moms. It’s a comical yet relatable take on motherhood and a portion of the proceeds go to Mental Health America.