That let-out-a-sigh feeling when the evening bedtime drill is done--- pajamas, teeth, scriptures, prayers, stories… water cups all around. When the little ones are all finally tucked into bed, the first thing I usually do is grab a bowl of cold cereal and then unwind at my computer for a bit.
But this night was different. I knew that although everyone was situated for the night, my job wasn’t done. My three-and-a-half-year-old, Juliette, was weepy. She, the sunshine in our home, was carrying a dark cloud and wasn’t her happy self. It seemed like everything was irritating her, so I got under her blankets, put my head on her pillow, looked into her deep blue eyes and tried to talk to her about happy things.
Normally at about this time, she’d be shamelessly poking her head in and out of my room, waiting for me to spot that she wasn’t in her bed. When I'd notice, I’d call her name in a sing-song way.
“Jul-i-e-ette… go to be-ed.”
She’d grin and run to my side at the call.
“Good night, Mommy,” she’d say quickly, as she reached up for another kiss. And then she’d plant a second kiss on my pregnant belly and say, “Good night, Charwee; I love you, Charwee.” With that, off she’d run to bed. It’d become an unofficial and ever-so-cute part of our nightly routine.
But, like I said, none of that was happening on this particular evening.
As we talked in her bed, I was glad to see her smile start to resurface as she began asking the usual questions about the baby in my belly.
“Is Charwee kicking you, Mama?”
“Is Charwee sweeping, Mama?”
“When baby Charwee come out?”
It’s hard to explain to a three-year-old about when the baby is coming out, but I always try anyway.
Tonight she beat me to the answer. “Six more weeks!”
“Actually, I think it’s five more weeks now,” I said, as I stroked her beautiful blonde hair out of her face and once again admired her eyes that were still a little wet. I love her eyes.
With both a little sadness and a little happiness she said, “Charwee can have my baby’s bottles (the ones she uses for her dolls). I don’t need them anymore.”
I went on to tell her that he might not like the bottles.
“All of my babies have only wanted booby milk,” I explained. “… Isabella would only drink booby milk; Liam would only drink booby milk, and Juju would only drink booby milk!”
All that booby talk made her laugh like I had hoped. It made me laugh, too, and reminded me of the funny incident the other day when she’d gone around telling people she had six boobies (owies). Boobies and owies are interchangeable in her head—same word, but very different meanings.
“I still have so much to do to get ready for Charlie,” I continued. “I still need to wash his clothes, buy him diapers, set up the pack ‘n’ play…”
“And swimming diapers!” she reminded me.
“Yes, I need to buy him swimming diapers.”
“Nooo, mommy!” (She was giggling now!) He can have my swimming diapers, sillwee goose.”
“Oh, that’s right! He can have your swimming diapers since you’re a big girl and don’t need them anymore. That is so, so sweet of you.”
Her smile disappeared and elephant tears resurfaced.
Crying, she slowly and almost defensively said, “I’m not a big girl; I’m a little girl now… Juju’s not a baby anymore.”
I suddenly realized that as much as I’d been enjoying the fact that she’s old enough to be excited about the baby coming, she was also old enough to understand that very soon she wasn’t going to be the baby in our home anymore. And she was deeply sad. I felt my eyes well up. She knew it was almost over.
“I don’t want my big girl pwincess bed,” she went on. “Take it down. Charwee has my cwib. You buy me a new cwib.”
I completely lost it. Our foreheads touching, the tears streaming down both our faces, I knew I was just as sad to say goodbye to baby Juliette as she was. She wiped my tears; I wiped hers.
Sobbing, I held her cheeks, forced down the knot in my throat enough to whisper to her that she would always be my baby.
“Always, always. I love you so much, Juliette.” I told her.
“Please stop crying, Mommy,” she pleaded as she began to cry harder.
I took a deep breath, wiped my tears, smiled big and said, “Look, I’m happy.”
I told her that I didn’t like it when she was sad, either.
We both smiled bravely for each other as we continued to lock our eyes together to be sure we were both okay.
And because I once had to say goodbye to baby Isabella and baby Liam, I do know everything will be okay, and that it is natural to feel a little sad as family dynamics change. I know the new baby will bring us indescribable joy, and I honestly can’t wait to hold him. But it still hurts to say goodbye to an era. With both Liam and Isabella, the sorrow hit me hardest as I headed for the hospital to have the new baby, driving away from them, knowing that when I returned things would never be the same. They both had no clue what was coming. With Juliette it happened a little differently and sooner. And I think it hurt a little more because she understands.
And so my last words to each of my babies is that the beautiful thing about a mother's love for her children is that it’s forever. Whatever the time, no matter the place, it’s always.