Nine short days ago, I gave birth to my third baby. A little boy.
My last child.
Thrilled and completely drowning in love, we brought him home the next day. I was ready. I had been preparing for this day for months. Preparing for the crying, the feedings, the sleepless nights, and the adjustments my other children would go through.
If I'm being honest, I had been scared. Petrified, really. Wondering how we would juggle it all and get through the first weeks.
And yet now all I can hear is the ticking of a clock that is counting these fleeting moments. These last experiences with a newborn. And it is deafening.
There will be no more pregnancy tests. No more shaking hands as I stare in disbelief at two pink lines. Nights awake as I consider the future, our child's future, and all the plans we have to make.
This is the last time I will go through the journey of pregnancy, difficult as it is for me. The last time I will experience the joy of first seeing my child on an ultrasound screen. The final time I will feel the initial flutters of movement that eventually turn into all out kicks and punches.
Never again will I go through labor. Feel the increasing intensity of contractions as a baby wills himself out of my womb. Go through the excruciating pain of labor immediately followed by the transcendent euphoria of a newborn being laid on my chest for the very first time.
No more golden hours. Moments that span a lifetime as a newborn gazes up at me and slowly inches towards my breast. Tears of joy as I hold this precious gift in my arms and make a million promises of love and protection. A heart bursting full.
This is the last time I will bring a newborn home from the hospital. Driving 10 miles under the speed limit. Introduce the baby to his siblings and the dog before laying him in his bassinet for the first time. Dress him in his lovingly selected clothes purchased months before he was even born.
I will never again stay up all night, watching my baby breathe. Caressing his hair and cheek as I marvel at the miracle of his arrival. Pick him up to nurse in the dark, snuggling him close and loving the feel of his breath on my skin. Feel satisfied when he finally pulls away, drunk with milk dribbling down his chin. Smiling as he stretches his tiny arms above his head.
No more first smiles. Gummy, wet smiles that make my heart nearly leap out of my chest. Radiant eyes that light up my soul as they cast their beaming warmth over my tired, wrinkled face.
This is the last time I will hear a baby's first coo. Lyrics of perfect contentment sung out of pink pursed lips. Gentle chirps followed by soft sighs of happiness.
Never again will I pump milk in the middle of the night. Soothed by the rhythmic whirring of a machine that chants whi-SHOO, whi-SHOO as it fills bottles with food for my baby.
No more obsessions over ounces gained and inches grown. Amazed by this infant who is literally sprouting into a little boy before my eyes. Willing his baby hands and feet to slow down, just a little.
These are the final tummy time sessions. The angry cries of a frustrated baby who wants no part of lifting his head off the ground. The encouragement and cheers once he does. The stunned face of an infant who has just rolled himself over for the first time.
The last hours of perfect cuddles. Falling asleep under the warm weight of a baby resting his head on my shoulder. Holding, forever holding, wanting to cherish every second before he's too big to be cradled or pulls away to run and play. Smelling his sweet baby head and drinking in every sound and expression.
Ultimately, this is the last era of innocence. My final moments sharing the purest forms of love and trust with someone else. The last time I will ever be needed so wholly, so completely.
I feel lonely already.
So I squeeze him a bit tighter. Whisper into his delicate ear. And breathe him in as he clutches my fingers and begins to peek out at the world around him.
While the clock continues to tick.
Faye is a mid-life mother of three who has recently left a career in the financial services industry to pursue her passion for writing and to spend more time with family. She writes for The Huffington Post and her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, Modern Mom, and in various other publications. She chronicles her experiences in making the leap to self-employment, her adventures in parenting, and her other favorite topics on her blog at Leap of Faye. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.