We all know about the firsts, but what about the last time your baby does something? Rachel Tompkins on those surprisingly emotional anti-milestones...
It’s no surprise that us new mums spend half of our lives looking and planning the next milestone in our baby’s life. Sleep deprivation prompts us to dream about the day they’ll sleep through, leaky boobs to the day they’ll stop feeding, and then there’s the more aspirational thoughts about them uttering their first word, taking their first step. It’s natural of course, but is also intrinsically linked with the last time they will do all these things...
A friend of mine once told me to make the most of every time you breastfeed your baby, because you never know when it’ll be the last.
‘Make the most’ of leaky, veiny boobs, of ugly nursing bras, and breastfeeding tops that your mum wouldn’t be seen dead in, you might scoff?
However, it’s only in hindsight that I can realise how true her advice was.
Because when I finally decided to stop breastfeeding the hormone change meant that I was a blubbering mess. Yes, it gave me the freedom that I’d been desperate for at times, it meant that I didn’t have to cut rare nights out short to be back for the next feed. But it also signified the end of my baby being a baby; the end of him being totally reliant on me, on that precious bonding experience. The upside of course was that I didn’t feel guilty having a glass of wine (or two) to steady the emotions...
Sleep deprivation hits you like a sledgehammer when you have a newborn. I’m sure I’m not alone in dreaming about, longing for, and even praying for that hallowed day when they’ll ‘sleep through’.
But then it came one day, seemingly out of nowhere, and part of me felt so bereft. Gone were those precious moments when the two of us lay there together in the stillness of the night, our skin touching. Gone were those priceless minutes (that often felt like hours) when his little mouth suckled whilst his hand lay flat against my chest. Of course there were, and still are, plenty of times for cuddles, and my eye-bags have improved ever so slightly with the uninterrupted sleep, but part of me will always look back fondly on those inestimable moments in the dark together and wonder if anything will be quite like it.
For my first baby I had a traditional wicker Moses basket, for the second I opted for one of those trendy plastic Moba ones. With both I positioned it at the side of my bed and that’s where the baby slept at night. Then suddenly, aforementioned cherub was too big for the basket. Whether or not that coincided with the current advice of keeping your baby in your room for the first six months, I can’t remember. But what I do remember is that suddenly, with them in their nursery, my bedroom felt strangely quiet. Of course, I had the baby monitor on, but it wasn’t the same as hearing their tiny snuffles, of glancing over and watching their little chest rise and fall with every breath. It was a double-edged sword as always, there was the sadness, but also the jump-up-and-down excitement. No more creeping around getting into bed at night. No more not being able to have the lamp on to read (even if I did only ever manage one page before falling asleep), and no more feeling like you had a voyeuristic spy on the premises if you ever had the energy to partake in any nocturnal naughtiness!
Baby music groups
The first time I went along to a baby music group, I stifled nervous giggles like a naughty schoolgirl. Singing along to nursery rhymes with a group of complete strangers filled me with horror. Apart from the fact that I can’t sing to save my life, it all just seemed so stomach-churningly cringeworthy. But we persevered, and by the time we left London when firstborn was two, I couldn’t wait to find a music group in our new area.
This one was refreshingly un-cringeworthy, the teachers had a sense of humour, and the home-made chocolate tiffin was to die for. It soon became both mine, and my son’s, favourite day of the week. Number two got dragged along when he was less than a week old, and we made friends there - good ones. So when this September arrived and my eldest started school, it didn’t feel right going along without him. We did of course, and we had fun. But as his favourite songs blasted from the speakers I fought back the nostalgic tears. That phase of our lives was gone. It was never coming back. Thankfully though, the friends we’ve made there, not to mention those annoying songs that stick in your head when you don’t want them to, mean it’ll always hold a special place in our lives.
The first time I dropped my one year old off at nursery I was a mess. Leaving him on his own, sobbing, was enough to break even the steeliest of hearts. ‘It’ll be good for him,’ people said. ‘Teach him to be independent.’ Well, it certainly wasn’t good for my nerves those first few months.
Like most things though, those two mornings a week he did at first soon became the norm. And it was only when he ran in on his last day, ladened with presents for his beloved keyworkers, that I realised what an important part of both of our lives it had been. So huge, in fact, that there were tears (no prizes for guessing who from!). And as we walked out of the door that last time clutching his workbook and photos, it felt such a poignant moment.
My chubby little toddler was now an angular schoolboy. Please can someone just stop the clock?!