There is a very sweet and beautiful blog post floating around the internet about the experience of realizing that you’ve had your last baby, and thus each first also being a last as a mother. As I read the post I realized that, while it captures the experience of many mothers, it didn’t quite capture all of us. The experience it relates is one in which there was a point in time when she was able to think about another birth, first tooth, first word, and first steps.
When you know that your first child will also be your last child, you know that each of those firsts are also an “only” experience. When your child outgrows those newborn clothes, you might save a few as keepsakes, but instead of packing them away for future children of your own you pass them on to friends and family, or Goodwill. You might be like me and do this quickly, both to make space for the new clothes your child has suddenly grown into, but also to rip away the experience like a band-aid because lingering too long only reminds you even more how fast this little person is growing and how quickly it is passing by.
You probably feel extreme pressure, admittedly totally self imposed, to be 100% present 100% of the time. Because dear lord the whole “they grow so fast, treasure this moment” warning is ringing so loudly in your ears and if you blink and miss this moment you will never get it back and there are no do-overs or “next-times”! In case you didn’t catch it by that run on sentence, it’s a lot of pressure to feel.
You don’t get the benefit of experience having one child. You will make mistakes, a lot of mistakes, and they will be what they are and you’ll try to pass your wisdom on to other mothers who may benefit from it, because you won’t. This also means you will have fear and anxiety about simple things, like a bump on the head, that tend to ease with future children, so you might get that reputation as “that mom” when you call the pediatrician about every rash, cough, or fever.
However, knowing your first is your last also has some inherent magic to it. For me, the desire to not miss out on any firsts and to be present also propels me to actively create special moments that maybe I otherwise wouldn’t have had with my daughter. It also helps me find the beauty and the pleasure in the simplest of moments I have with her, like when she crawls up my leg while I’m cooking dinner.
Her firsts are also firsts for me. Each new discovery and experience is just as amazing for me as it is for her. These moments never feel tired or old.
Just like a mother with other children on her last, my heart pangs each time she outgrows a stage and advances to the next. But unlike the mother that has done this before, I still have the excitement of not knowing yet what will come next and I get to look forward to each stage coming as a totally new experience.
While it is a slightly different experience when your baby’s first is your first and also last, one thing is definitely the same for all moms- watching your child grow is a wonderfully beautiful complicated experience. You feel happiness seeing your child interact with the world, learn new things, become independent; but you also feel a twinge of sadness each time your child no longer needs your help for something. We all want to cling to those precious newborn weeks, yet we eagerly want to meet the person our baby will become. We are all doing our best to be the best mom we can be, and really, we are all hopefully treasuring the firsts and the special moments with each of our children whether it be a first, a middle, or a last child – although there is no denying that you will clutch at these memories a little more when you know you will never get to experience it again.