I sat in the rocker holding my fourteen month old daughter up against my chest. I rocked back and forth exhausted, and I tapped her little back in time. I was so tired, and the aggravation of sleep interrupted did not escape me. It didn’t help that I felt like I had not been totally rested in seven years, the amount of time I had been a mother thus far. As I rocked her small frame she let out a rattling cough, I compassionately brushed my hand against her head, fuzzy with new hair, and she hugged up against me, closer still, even though she was asleep. It occurred to me that although being ripped from my slumber and perpetually exhausted, I existed in a phase of life that would pass very quickly. Indeed each moment would never pass me by again. Each moment would be its own last time.
I knew at that very moment my daughter was fourteen months old, but the next day would bring her even closer to fifteen months. She’d never be this young again. Soon she would be two. Then six. Then sixteen. You get the point.
Each moment was there, but then it was gone. So everything I did with my children was the last time for that specific moment, and never again would I have that exact, precious morsel of time back. Made me want to savor it all the more.
Then I was reminded that this was my last baby, and that made it even further bittersweet. She would be the last baby I nourished with milk made from my own body, and once her small body grew into that of a little girl, I would never again rock an infant in this recliner at 3am. The moment would have passed, and like sand from an hourglass there would be no getting it back.
The thing was you couldn’t really know which moment would be your last of anything, so you had to treat each one as if it would never happen again. You had to approach it as if it were the last time.
The last time to rock a sick baby.
The last time to help them tie their shoe.
The last time to wipe toothpaste from the corner of their mouth.
The last time to brush their long, blond hair.
So many times in the midst of my chaotic day I grew frustrated at stray shoes strewn across the living room floor or fingerprints streaked across the bathroom mirror once again. But what if while bending down to retrieve a tiny pink sneaker I remembered that one day I would long for little bare feet running down the halls or tiny fingers dragging along my shiny surfaces? I would, you know.
I would even miss the tiny cups under the couch, and the macaroni stains on my pants. Because one day my floor would be pristinely clean, and only the stain of spilled pink nail polish by the living room bookcase would echo the laughter of tiny girl voices. I wouldn’t have to endure the snot smeared on my new blouse, but along with it I’d have to let go of the way they laid their tired head upon my chest. Every moment came like a special gift wrapped in love, but once opened it would pass quickly. Too quickly. The shiny paper would dull and be discarded only leaving behind the memory of excited eyes. Have you ever seen the glint in a child’s eye when the opened a present they really wanted? It was magical. I wanted to treat each moment exactly like that.
Because when it came down to it every single thing that happened on any given day was the last one of its kind. You could never repeat it once it was gone, and there was not a single do-over (much to my disappointment); so every drop of this life needed to be captured in a jar, held tightly to my breast, and never taken for granted.