The Last Baby

by Rachel Hillestad
Originally Published: 
A girl wearing a pink button-up sweater, standing in the field with a surprised facial expression

She’s two and a half but in my mind she’s still new, needing me for everything and wailing her sorrow when it isn’t my arms that pick her up.

To me she is the most beautiful baby in the world; to everyone else in the Target checkout line she is another tantrum-throwing toddler who may as well be there as an extra in a RomCom about people whose lives end the minute they have kids.

Words have begun to spill out of her at an alarming rate, a rate my heart isn’t ready for.

The day she was born was the day I lost my fertility. I’ve been raising this third child of mine, knowing full well that each tender transition would be the last.

The last.

Last indignant newborn being lifted up under harsh surgical lights, the sound of my happy cry filling that room, a space so sacred I cry just to think of it.

Last first tooth.

Last morning nap.

Last nursing time in Target while grandmother-types smile and spur me on with their open, kind faces.

Maybe in those moments they’re remembering their last baby’s lasts, too.

I weep as I write this, because there is one more “last” I haven’t had the courage to face.

My daughter has been nursing for 2 and a half years, and before you click away from this piece, just know that breastfeeding happened to be the only thing in having children that was anything nearing remotely easy for me.

Today, I will put on some soft music, gather all 27.2 pounds of her up in my arms, and sit down in the ugly easy chair in our living room. That chair has rocked four babies (one was a little foster boy), and this will be the very last nursing rock.

Let’s be honest: It will most likely last 10 seconds because my boobs are freaking killing me and she has more teeth than a 36 year old great white shark, but it will be symbolic, OK?

I will cry, and my husband will roll his eyes. She will scream about wanting some dumb object that wasn’t hers in the first place, and dinner will be burning.

The levity will be lost on everyone but me.

You see, having a needy baby attached to me has been a nice, warm safeguard against my fears of failure and inadequacy.

When someone little needs me, I have an excuse not to learn more Spanish or re-license for teaching or write a book or be the Box Top Queen for PTA.

People expect me to be dressed like a homeless woman with a bad haircut when I am the mother of a little baby.

Having someone little allows me to avoid what I fear most: my own failure.

I think I’m a pretty damn good mom, but I don’t know who I am with those other book-writing, Spanish-speaking things.

It’s not my youngest needing me less that makes me sad, uneasy, in center of the frame, feeling edgy.

And I’m scared.

I’m scared of the possibility that lies before me, the possibility in creating something new, finally something that doesn’t involve a romp in the sheets and 97 Dollar Tree pregnancy tests.

Sometimes, I guess, the last baby’s lasts are a good place to start…well, some firsts.

Here goes.

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