Another essay I wrote two years ago. A week after writing this, I discovered I was pregnant with our third (and indeed, last) child. I was blessed with one more opportunity to enjoy last times.
I pulled my daughter from my breast and kissed her chubby, milky face. She rewarded me with a drowsy smile and fat burp. At my husband’s urging, I was nervously leaving her, and her three-year old brother, for the first time. As an exhausted working mother and soon to be fulltime graduate student, I was treating myself to 72 precious hours at a woman’s retreat. When I returned home, rested and renewed, my daughter no longer wanted anything to do with my milk.
With my son, everything was about firsts—first diapers, first nursings, first baths. But Erin was going to be our middle child; I was no longer a new mom, and things came more naturally. I didn’t have to think, or plan with her, the way I did with her brother, Sean. There was always going to be one more Goodnight Moon story, another Bear in the Big Blue House episode, and endless diapers to change. Days blurred from morning breakfasts to nighttime baths. Like most parents, my husband and I had a plan. Once Erin started kindergarten, we would have one (or two?) more children who would finish rounding out our family.
Today, she calls to me, “Watch me! Watch me, Mommy!” For the last six weeks, we’ve spent every waking moment at the neighborhood pool. Summer is exactly halfway over; in 42 days Erin begins second grade, and her older brother, unbelievably, becomes a fourth grader. Every day I have been prompted to “watch her” flip, float, go under water, and hold her breath. Once again she pulls me from my writing, and I shout, “hold on” a little too loudly before I catch myself. How much longer will she beg for my audience? How long until she passes her deep-water test and joins her brother and the older kids in the diving well?
The day Erin refused to nurse, I consoled myself by saying there would be other babies I would take to my breast. Each month, when my period arrives, I consider the statistics of conceiving over 40 and calculate my odds. As parents, we are always urged to record the ‘first time’—first words, first steps, first days—but are never warned about the ‘last time’—the last time they nurse, the last time they fall asleep in our arms, the last time they kiss us goodbye without worrying what their friends will think. “Watch me Mommy,” she calls as she dive-splashes into the pool. I return her excited smile and nod, giving her a thumbs up, but she has already turned to see if her big brother was watching. I make a note to record this memory—it is likely another last time.