Saying Goodbye to the Baby Years

Our sweet Adeline turns one-year-old this week.  Technically, she's now a toddler, but I think she'll forever be our baby even though in the past few days she's tackled new challenges, climbed new heights (i.e. the couch), said her first words, added expressions to her already exuberant vocabulary of mannerisms and run away with time faster than we could blink.  

She'll also always be our baby because she's our last.  Yep.  We're done having babies.  Lately, as I've been putting away, or giving away, baby gear and clothing, and taking out the next batch of stuff, I've been doing a bit of reflecting.  

It seems a cruel twist that I entered these baby years kicking and screaming (have I ever mentioned I was never going to have kids), and now I want to hold onto them for as long as I can.  As we move to the next stage in our life as a family, I have a few things to say to these baby years...

Baby years, you've given me three little ones who have been life's greatest surprise, blessing, curse, joy, sorrow, and challenge.  

Baby years, you've shown me the beauty of new life.  I remember so vividly the face of each of my babies the first time I laid eyes on them.  Each so different.  Each so perfect.  Even now, I find myself staring at the faces of my children as I'm caught in the wonder of their lives and their moments. How such a miracle can exist is beyond me. 

Baby years, you've made me more aware of each and every sense.  How I love to bury my nose in that sweet scent of baby.  How I love to hear the sounds made by those developing airways as they breathe in and out.  How the sounds of my baby's cry can send my heart rate into overdrive.  As if I've got a baby pacemaker.  How the relentless care of a newborn threatens to drive me mad and then that first baby smile wipes away even the memory of exhaustion.  I love how the warmth of a baby cuddle calms even the most tense moment.  

Baby years, I will never be able to sing "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," or "My Jesus, I Love Thee" without thinking of you.  I will also think of you every time I vacuum a rug or see an African violet.  Side note: running a vacuum may work wonders if your baby is colicky.  Also, please don't ever give a new mom a finicky plant like an African violet - it may just send her into a panicked frenzy. 

Baby years, you've taught me all about strength.  How there is, deep within women, a strength unlike anything else.  Our strength is different and unique - given by God in order to sustain life.  It is beautiful and powerful.  Baby years, you've shown me how to embrace who I am and who God made me to be.  

Baby years, you've taught me to slow down and appreciate the chaos of living in the unexpected.  You've shown me how to quiet my own voice as I listen for the voices of those around me who need me.  You've taught me what it means to combat selfishness.   

Baby years, you've shown me that through the power or prayer and the community of good neighbors and friends, a person can get through just about anything.  Including a baby with colic.  Including postpartum depression.  I've never been so surprised by the generosity of others than after the birth of our children.  From gifts to meals to phone calls to cards - it has been one of the greatest blessings to know we are so well cared for.  

Baby years, I'm angry that I had to walk the painful and difficult road of postpartum depression with my first two babies.  Depression stole my joy and made me believe I wasn't capable of taking care of my children.  It drove me crazy with needless worry and anxiety.  It robbed my babies, especially my first baby, of the kind of mom I am now and wish I had been back then.  

Baby years, I'm so very thankful that I was able to experience the joy of my third, and final baby.  Oh, what a fantastic year it's been.  The cuddles, the coos, the late-night feedings, the memory making and the FUN we've had as a family.  I will cherish this time, always.

Baby years, I'll miss you, but I'm relieved to be through with you.  We've traveled some of the most difficult paths in this time.  For that reason alone, I'm glad to be moving on; however, I'm glad to say I didn't rush you, that I took my time and learned from you.  In you, I've seen tragedy and triumph.  

Baby years, you have been *mostly* good to me.  You have changed me.  For the better, I believe.  You've shown me areas of myself I didn't know were there - courage, stamina, determination, sticktuitiveness, unbridled joy, and love so deep I can't see the bottom.  

Thanks, baby years.  

I bid you farewell.   

That is, of course, until we have grandkids, but then I'm just gonna give you cookies and ice cream and we'll have no problems.  Right?