Not quite asleep, I hear my bedroom door open, see a slight hesitation as a small, sleepy form ascertains through blurry eyes if in fact a parent or two has yet made it to bed. He sees me stir, and the door clicks shut. A millisecond later the bed shifts as he hefts his tiny body up onto its king-size height. One breath passes, then I feel his warm baby body pressed against my back, and one arm is slung possessively across me, his mama.
He’s my third baby, and he’s my last baby. Baby Number Last.
I never shoo him away in the middle of the night, or, in this case, shortly after eleven p.m. Halfway through his kindergarten year, he’s getting too old for this, but the truth is, so am I. I’ll be forty this year, and Jonah is my last baby. The one who was unplanned, unexpected, and still surprising us daily. I’m too old to shoo him away, because I know with this Baby Number Last, the lasts are happening faster and faster.
The last time he crawls into bed with me, teddy bear in tow. Last time he says “pack pack” instead of “back pack.” Last time he reaches to me for comfort when he falls down. In truth, those are about the only “baby” things he’s yet to shed. In truth, he is really a BIG boy. In truth, I freak out every time he gets a haircut and instantly ages two years. In truth, I am mourning the ebbing of his little-ness like I did not do with my older two children.
He’s my last baby, and he’s not a baby anymore.
He made his daddy a valentine yesterday at school. It said, “I love when you read to me at night” in his haphazard, kindergarten hand. My eyes welled up with tears. My husband, genuinely touched, vowed to keep it forever.
How many more scrawled love notes will come home from school? How many more months (weeks? days?) will he crawl up on the couch with me EVERY time he sees me there with a blanket on, requisitioning half the covers, squishing his arm against mine. How many more times will he reach for my ear when he’s really tired, and rub it instead of his own? How many more times will he search for and gleefully find his teddy bear before bedtime, delight sparking in his eyes when he finds his beloved nighttime friend?
I don’t know the answer to those questions.
I know only this: I’m not going to try to keep him stuck in his babyhood, but I’m not going to hurry him along to the next stage, either. What I am going to do, is savor. Savor every last moment of every “last,” and every last moment of every “first,” as this little boy becomes a big boy, a teenager, a man.
Because the truth is, there’s joy and delight in every stage. He may be my last baby, but I’m his only mama. And him being mine is the greatest privilege I could hope for or imagine.
As I lay in bed, drifting off quickly, I feel his breath on my hair and I smile softly and whisper a prayer of thanks for this awakening, and all the ones still to come.