Struggling To Say Goodbye to the Baby Years


Blogger Allison Slater Tate (writer of the glorious piece The Mom Stays in the Picture earlier this year) brought me to tears with her articulate piece “The Change of Life” on the Huffington Post about her soul-searching process while giving consent to her husband’s vasectomy and bidding farewell to her years of babydom.

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Share your tips on letting go of the baby years below!

“I have spent the the past year counting up my lasts, filing away my memories: my last pregnancy, my last childbirth, my last newborn,” she writes.  “I find myself slowly adjusting, turning my face and my mind fully forward toward my children, realizing that from now on, I will know exactly how big of a kitchen table we will need and exactly how many chairs will be around it.”

In her piece, she eloquently describes how she’s biding farewell to the lasts of being a mother to young babies and welcoming the firsts of being a mother to older kids.

So unlike me.  As a mom who birthed five babies in 6.5 years, I have struggled to say goodbye to the baby years.  No more babies? Like Allison, I am so grateful to have my five healthy troublemakers, but unlike her, I am stuck.

Am I Ready For No More Babies?

I wonder am I ready for the next stage of life? Here are a few tell-tale signs that I am not letting of the baby years and not moving on from my last pregnancy:

  • One of my larger kitchen drawers (precious real estate) holds many years’ worth of now unused breast pumping equipment.
  • Our changing table remains in the nursery. It’s now a storage area only, but no one is planning a retirement party.
  • Stacks of baby clothes decorate the corners of my bedroom.
  • When people ask me when baby number six is coming, I get excited. (By the way, does anyone ask a reformed cigarette smoker when his next cigarette will come?  Thanks!)

I tell myself that I haven’t had time to move to the next stage, but miraculously, I have found time to weed through and organize my own closet.  So no, it’s not for a lack of time.  Like so much of my indecisiveness, it’s rooted in fear.

Have a question about a baby feeding or sleeping schedule? I’m your woman. I might not be right, but I have some ideas.  But ask me how you respond when your 7-year-old tells you as you help him with his piano that you’re spitting on him?  I’m at a loss.  Diaper sizes? No problem.  A child who says “I feel like no one understands me?”  I’m just not quite sure.  Do you say that sucks, or do you try to cheer your kid up?  I’m doing my best in the moment but oftentimes, I don’t think I’m getting it right.  And that’s just the present.  Facing the future of raising five kids and issues such as video games, Googling with porn surfacing up, first cell phones, and then the larger financial and personal stresses, like perhaps even parenting them alone should something happen to my husband?  It’s too much for me to think about.

So as I react to Allison Slater Tate’s piece, I’m realizing that because I’ve always had a young baby, the intensity of the baby years has allowed me as a mom to dodge my fears about being a mom to older, more complex kids.  Maybe this is behind my excitement when a new mom asks me a question about a newborn… I’m not just helping out, I’m avoiding the complexity of my own station in life.

I usually try to offer up some sort of practical tidbit in my blogs but today I’m the one who really needs the help.  To those moms who have been through this, how did you find the confidence to move on past the baby years?  How did you let go of your onesies, your baby-sleep sacks, and your infant hats and embrace the challenges of parenting older kids?  I really need your parental help!

I would love any advice you have because I’m realizing this has to change.  I have to move on.  For my own sake and for my kids.  It’s time mommy grew up.

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  • Allison Slater Tate

    Hi, Melissa!

    I hate to break it to you… but I think you have a baby left in you. Maybe more than one. LOL. That is how I felt before I had Lucy. I didn’t give anything away, I hung on to the idea of babies… I kind of wondered if I would EVER feel “done.” Now I do. And I do feel done even as I am absolutely crushed to see her babyhood flying by. That’s how I knew it was really, truly, no more arguments done.

    I do think that parenting older kids is a terrifying idea. My oldest is about to go to middle school, and I am taking deep breaths and planning to keep my head low and plow through what I am hoping will not be a traumatizing few years for us both. It really is true that little kids have little problems, big kids BIG problems. It only begins when they are born — ten fingers and ten toes doesn’t mean that there won’t be issues lying ahead, I have learned the hard way.

    In any case, I am really learning to just soak in my kids. A friend told me once that she knew she was ready to move on when she realized that she didn’t yearn to have another baby — she only missed her kids being babies, and that would never change. I am now there. Good luck on your journey.

    Allison

    • Wow — I am so flattered that you posted here!! I like the distinction between missing your kids as babies and wanting another baby — that will help me too. I really appreciate all the great blogs you’ve been writing and I can’t wait for your next one!! I hope I will be where you are soon. Melissa xo

  • Michelle LaRocca

    I finally feel I’m ready to be done. This is something I never felt before. After having four girls ranging in age from 16 to 10 I had a surprise pregnancy. We must admit we weren’t thrilled immediately but as time passed the idea grew on us. The 16th week into the pregnancy, we went to learn the sex and the heart had stopped. It was a boy:( I was in a deep depression and now couldn’t imagine not having a baby. 6 long months of trying and I finally got pregnant, with twins! Sadly my daughter lost her sister in the 16th week. I couldn’t imagine that happening again but it did. We now how a beautiful baby girl and none of us could imagine our lives without her but I am finally DONE at 42:)

    • Michelle, I cried reading your story! I can’t believe you went through all of this…You now have 5 beautiful girls though, what a blessing…

    • Congratulations Michelle — you are the winner of this giveaway. We’ll be in touch about your prize. Have a wonderful weekend and thanks again for sharing your story.

  • Lori S

    Maybe I’m in the minority here, but when my firstborn was out of the baby years and now potty-trained too, it was such a huge relief for me. Yes, it’s a struggle some days to handle a toddler who talks nonstop, but it’s also such a relief to have him be able to tell me what he wants or needs and even do some things on his own now. Our second was born 3 months ago, so we are back in the newborn stage. It’s a little easier this time, despite it being nearly 4 years since my last newborn experience, but I am still looking forward to her being able to communicate with us. One thing I will miss, though, is that she has just started to make those adorable cooing noises and wide-awake smiles. 🙂

    • Lori S, do you think it’s your last baby? It’s so good that you can appreciate the moments when they grow…

      • Lori S

        Yes, I think so. I have 1 boy and 1 girl, just what I wanted. When I first met my husband, he originally wanted 6! I talked him down to 3 before we got married, but I think 2 is all I can personally handle. I was so scared all through this pregnancy about birth defects because of my “advanced maternal age”, as the doctors like to call it (I hate that term!). Not sure I can go through that stress again. There are other reasons, too… still haven’t lost weight from the first pregnancy, fear of household chaos when kids outnumber grown-ups, etc. 🙂

  • Kim mayo

    Good timing! My guy is the third and last and grew way to fast. He’s 13m and just in the last week we are getting rid of a lot. We are so sad. I just put him in a big boy car seat and am looking at the infant one and might hold on for a bit. I cried when I sold his bouncy seat and play mat kind of wanted to go back and get it. I do keep favorite outfits and blankets and other stuff. I do like his new stage learning about his world. Needless to say we are done can’t turn back so i need to move on and enjoy the ride. I will say sounds dumb but I try to really soak up the lil things his baby smell, baby sound, the cute faces etc. to all of us may we enjoy the ride! 🙂 mine are 10-7 and 13m I love all stages they have all had challenges and excitement but its hard to let go of that sweet chubby face, the snugly baby.

    • Kim, I am trying to hold onto the moments too but my problem is I break down in tears when I am in them …. like right now!!

  • Jennifer

    I am going through this same thing right now. I just had my third and don’t know how to tell if I still want more or not. I am walking through with this baby in fear thinking that all of these wonderful precious infant moments maybe the last ones I’ll ever have. I felt the same way when I thought about my pregnancy possibly being my last. I am in the same boat as you so know that you are not alone. I am going through this crazy emotional rollacoaster and not sure what to do to get myself through it.

    • Jennifer, thanks for saying that… when I don’t think about it, I’m ok, but when I think about it, I just well up in tears! I think it’s the realization of how special those baby moments are, and how precious! Thanks for commenting!

  • Kathy

    As a later-in-life mother, we knew that baby # 2 would be the last. After enduring a record-breaking heat wave during the last stages of my pregnancy, which only exacerbated my swelling and joint pain, I was ready to be done. 17 months later, as he inches toward toddler-hood now, I am relishing those nights he falls asleep in my arms or cuddles in any way. The main thing I did to “say good-bye” to the baby years was to sell off a bunch of newborn and maternity clothes plus some baby gear at a big consignment sale. Going through all the clothes, although I did put this or that aside for a relative or for when my kids have kids, helped clear the house, and my mind, of all the little baby stuff, to make room for the big boy stuff, which will come this spring when my oldest son starts t-ball.

    • Kathy, you seem to have a great grip on this whole thing, you are my hero!!

  • Jennifer

    Letting go of the baby years has been a process for me. I still have yet to let go of the Boppy I used to nurse both of my little ones. However, as busy as little toddlers & preschoolers have proven to be for me, I have found myself enjoying the process of “purging” the babyhood items like bottles, receiving blankets, and in my son’s case DIAPERS because he has successfully potty-trained. Mine are 18 mos and almost 3 years old now, and neither one wants to be “babied” unless they are not feeling well. I am donating to charity or handing-down our gently used clothing to other families who are still adding to their family, so it’s fun to see the soft, comfy clothing my children wore on our friends’ kids. I am now embracing preschool and all the toys you can play with as you get older since you no longer put EVERYTHING in your mouth to learn its taste, texture, etc. 😀

  • Kristy

    One step at a time. I’m not sure we are done having babies at this point, but as far as the baby clothes and items… I just think of it this way, there is always someone I know who could use boy or girl stuff. Here I have garbage bags full of adorable clothes that I’m basically hoarding for future babies and for the memory of my older kids who used to fit in them. But it has brought me so much joy (after the initial sadness and trudging of my heart) to give new moms some cute (free) hand-me-downs as they await the making of new memories with their own coming baby. The joy is freeing. The empty closet space gets filled up quick with size 6T hand-me-downs from other moms doing the same thing, giving those shoes or overalls or bouncer seat to someone else to make new memories in 🙂

    • Kristy, this process of moms sharing these clothes and toys is so special – so many of our things are hand-me-downs from my sister or friends and you are right that to see it pass on is a real way to fight the sadness of letting the baby years go!

  • Kathy

    I am probably the wrong person to ask this because I am doing this myself. Althougth Olivia is definitely not a baby and has been off the bottle for over a year. I still have her baby clothes hanging in her closet ( as if she was going to shrink and be able to wear them again)
    My little girl is still in her baby bed – for a couple of reasons. One , I am not ready for her to be in a “grown -up ” bed and too I feel that she is safer in this. She hasn’t climbed out in over a year!
    Whenever I start to miss the baby days I go visit friends w/ babies. I don’ t miss the sleepless nights but I sure miss being able to hold Olivia as much as I wanted. Now she just wants to run all the time (by the way we are still working on our nap issues) Hasn’t had one in 2 weeks but left school early today because shew as actually asking to go to bed lol!
    thank you for all yor advice

    • Hi Kathy, you are so right those sleepness nights were killer so I just have to think back more to those — hang in there with the naps, she will get there! xo M

  • I have a preschooler and a toddler. I would love another baby, but my husband is set with our 2. We are not planning surgery for either of us to become sterile, but, at age 30, it is really hard to accept that he may never want another baby. I know we have plenty of time to decide, so I keep my hopes high and I am hanging on to all of my baby stuff for a while.

    • Don’t give up your stuff yet — wait and see what happens and whatever it is, it will be great!!

  • Elizabeth C

    My son will be 2 in less than 2 weeks and I can’t believe it. I don’t know where the time has gone. I can’t even look at his newborn clothes let alone pack them away or give them away. The other day he found his newborn hat and I almost started bawling. I’m not an emotional person, but this is killing me! I don’t know how I’m suppose to let go of his baby years. 🙁

    • Elizabeth, I might still have those newborn hats in my room when they graduate from High School — ha! Sharing all of these stories with you guys is helping me!

  • Nicole

    No advice to share as I’m not there yet! Definitely want more kids but after we do have our last I know I will totally be in the boat you’re in now! Love my babies, raising older kids terrified me! Thanks for sharing your journey as you forge ahead into that unknown territory

    • Thanks Nicole so much for reading and your support, it means alot to me!

  • Amanda Carney

    My husband wants to be done. We have 2 girls, 2 years and 8 months. I want more, lots more. I was always hoping for a big family and he was too until he found out how much work kids can be. I refuse to sell or get rid of anything! I am determined we’ll have more because I know in my heart that I am no where near ready to give up the baby stage. I miss being pregnant and having a newborn in the house, and my baby is only 8 months old!!! I feel crazy, like I’m in constant baby fever!! It’s gonna take a lot to get me to face that we may not have anymore. But it’s all about being convincing, and when to be convincing…. (;

  • Suzie Little

    I’ve always wanted 3. However, after a 4th miscarriage a couple days ago – and being ’43’ (just)… I realize it is ‘time to let go of those dreams’ and focus on my present. My husband is scheduled for a “V” and I realize I don’t want to be the mother my poor child has to respond to “that isn’t my grandmother, it is my mom!” As time went by, the age gap of my 2 older are now 9 & 11. I want to embrace them before they go. As well, I realize I loved being in my 20’s and being the ‘adventuresome adrenalin junkie.’ I want to ‘do those things again’ but at the same time, not be worried I have a small one at home thus to not take those risks. So…. snip goes my husband. I too, saved ‘all the baby boy clothes from ages 0 – until now, and same with my daughter, all the adorable Little Einsteins, Blue’s Clues, Dora… a pained memory it was ‘not so long ago’ singing along. Now it is Pokemon, and ‘more mature’ girlie shows. Yes, a hard phase to say goodbye to. As well, the pain of having babies in your 40’s with the increased chance of miscarriage (and believe me -it is real, and a ravishing pain that one grows tired of). Sanity is a straw you grasp at realizing ‘wow… I have 2, and yes, they’re growing up fast! Get off the baby train and step into now! Good luck!