It recently occurred to me — me, Queen of the Obvious, every bit as whipsmart as your average bowl of oatmeal — that I don't have any babies in my house. Nor do I have any imminently incoming babies.
Ike will turn three on June 1st, just some 50-odd days from now. When Noah turned three, he was barely two weeks away from becoming a big brother. When Ezra turned three, he'd already been a big brother for over four months. There was always another pregnancy, another baby, to ease the transition of baby to toddler to boy.
Despite Ike's insistance that we all still call him Baby Ike, he's all little boy now. His personality has exploded — all of a sudden he went from being a cute little mimicking thing to being himself. He has opinions and observations. He makes jokes and plays games. He's crazy for superheroes — he's firmly Team Marvel, by the way, so please purchase his underwear accordingly —and his favorite color is not just blue, but DARK blue. He sings and he dances, he thinks Happy Meals are the basically the greatest thing ever (whoops, my bad), and he never stops talking. Despite being wonderfully independent ("Do it myself! I do it myself!"), he's still a delicious, reliable cuddler who wants to held and hugged and kissed.
But he's definitely not a baby.
Despite "knowing" that Ike would most likely be our last baby, I tried to not think about him like that. I was afraid it would make me sad, or just kind of crazy, to always have "this is the last time I'll ever [feel a baby kicking from inside/nurse/co-sleep/whatever]" thought in the back of my mind. I turned down my OB's repeated offers to tie my tubes during my c-section. For every bag of baby clothes and pile of gear I gave away, I kept a few items that I just couldn't bear to part with. I'd happily load hand-me-downs into people's cars and then have to shake off a feeling of mild panic as they drove away with our infant tub and exersaucer. Come back, baby! Come back!
So when it recently occurred to me — me, Founding Member of the Braintrust of DUH — that I don't currently have any babies, and that the transition happened without a pregnancy or promise of future babies, it surprised me to realize that I am okay with that. I am happy with that. I couldn't imagine being pregnant right now, or contemplating getting pregnant. Because I don't want any more babies.
Boom! There it was. The mythical unicorn feeling of completeness, the one I heard people describe but secretly worried I'd never have.
I'm just...really enjoying my children these days — not to imply that I didn't before, but as much as I truly loved the baby experience, I love having these three particular people around, who still need me very much, but not in the grinding, eat/sleep/poop/rinse/repeat type of care they used to require.
I used to worry that I had it all backwards — I was a weirdo who LOVED and even EXCELLED at the drudgery of the newborn days, but whose mothering skills weren't nearly as solid and capable when it came to older children. You know, when it started to really count. I worried that I had more patience for a screaming infant with a diaper blowout than I did for a whining preschooler with his pajamas stuck on his head. I worried I wasn't the kind of long-term mom I wanted to be, because I didn't know what to say when someone asked — right before bedtime — about whether kids ever die of diseases or if the sun will ever blow up and destroy the earth.
Um. Can I swaddle you? How about if I just turn on this white noise machine and come back in five minutes?
I'm not perfect, but I can't deny that when I look around the dinner table at my three wonderful boys, I realize I'm not doing all that badly. These kids are...great. They're happy and funny and unafraid to be who they are, to be both weird and awesome. They get angry at me and I get annoyed with them and I raise my voice too much but then we apologize and move on and the next thing I know they're screaming GROUP HUG and piling on top of me on the couch.
The other morning, on the way to the bus stop, I gave Noah a little pep talk for the day. Despite so many things being so much better these days, he keeps saying he doesn't like school, so I asked him to name all the things he'd do that day that he DOES like. Not surprisingly, he named pretty much every single aspect of school. Math and science and reading centers and art and music and his teachers and his friends and recess and computers and etc. I pointed out that he sure did sound like a kid who likes school.
"Yeah," he admitted.
Right before the bus arrived, Noah pulled me aside. He looked very serious, and spoke in a whisper. "Do you know the real reason I say I don't like school?"
I braced myself. Oh God. What? Why? Please don't be anything awful.
"It's just because I miss you and Dad so much while I'm there."
I died. A little. Right there. I told Noah that I missed him during the day too, and that seeing him get off the bus was one of my favorite parts of the day.
"What are your other favorites?"
"Well, picking Ezra and Ike up from school. When Dad comes home, and we're all together again."
(I meant that, too.)
He hugged me and snuck me a kiss, then boarded the bus with a big smile on his face while I fought back some strangling emotional-type noises in my throat.
That same morning, on the way to the preschool drop-offs, Ezra casually told me he was going to draw me a special heart picture that day, "Because I'm so in love with you, Mom. And you're in love with me! Yeah, we're in love together!"
Again, with the throat noises.
And Ike? Well, I got a quick "BYE MOM!" from him, as he excitedly ran to his classroom door without me, without a look back. Through the windows, I saw him make a beeline to check on a cup of grass seeds he planted last week. When I picked him at lunchtime, though, he shrieked with joy and barreled in for a bear hug, like he does everyday.
And then he pulled away and looked at me hopefully. "McDonald's food? Can we get McDonald's food?"
I don't want any more babies. I got the three best ones already.