I would have told you that I was a pro.
Because after three kids, what is there left to learn?
Never mind that it’s an entirely different individual that I have to get to know. This time, I know how short these weeks are, and I know it will go fast. New babies are always overwhelming but not like fourth-baby overwhelm.
The overwhelm I’m talking about isn’t the same as first-baby overwhelm.
That’s when your entire world changes.
Your life is now unfamiliar. You have to learn how to navigate all over again. Forget all your life lessons up to this point, because you have a baby and we’re starting over. All the wrong choices and crazy life-moments don’t matter anymore because you have a hangry little that is wailing away while simultaneously pooping his pants. Nothing you learned matters anymore because this is what square one looks like diaper cream and OraJel.
The first baby overwhelm is when you lose glimpses of who you used to be as you become someone’s every need and everything. While you wallow in the uncertainty that you may never find who you thought you were (but you will), you transform into a new person whose sole purpose is this baby.
The fourth baby overwhelm isn’t from the demands of four kids and pregnancy hormones, leaving you to your old self once again.
The fourth baby overwhelm is love.
I know, it sounds cliche and corny. But it’s true.
It’s the love I have for this baby, my fourth one.
I know I loved all my kids this much, but it’s different this time.
It’s not permanent.
My fourth baby is different because this time I did it right. Sure, I still didn’t love pregnancy, but this time I marveled at the blessing, and I took on the challenges of it like a champ. I cherished every kick, nudge, squirm, knowing that this is the closest I would ever be to my child. I took the job seriously instead of taking it for granted like I did the last three times.
Holding him in my arms, I love on him a little more than I did everyone else. Because with everyone else, I worried too much about sleep schedules and sleep routines. I minded being exhausted. I just wanted to go back to bed. I just wanted them to be sleeping eight hours.
This time, I don’t mind.
I choose to rock him a little longer; not for him though, for me. I snuggle him and shower him with kisses, and I can and do watch him forever because babyhood is short-lived and before long this little one will be running with his siblings and talking way too soon and sleeping without my help.
So I love a little longer.
I rock for an hour or more.
I don’t care about bad sleep habits because I know eventually he’ll want to be in his bed.
He won’t need me to rock him or hold him.
He will pass on the bedtime snuggles.
Right now, he can’t wiggle out of my arms or buck around like a cowboy out to win the rodeo of his life. Self-soothing will be a thing because his days will be so full of busy-things that it will put him to sleep longer than six to eight hours. And one day, very soon, all those nights where I snuggled this last baby to my chest and slumped in my rocker to curl into him the way he curls into me will be a memory.
Like all of life, it’s just a series of memories that constitute how we spend our time in this life.
And I’ll know that I loved him because he is a gift God gave me to take care of. I was the one God trusted to be this baby’s mom, and I love into this baby the way this baby loves into me, and I thank God every night for the fourth baby because it meant so much more this time. I appreciate every last moment, every last smell, and every last snuggle that this new baby could unknowingly gift me.
I look at the start of the wrist wrinkles and the multiple chins forming a full face that is growing out of my newborn and into my infant, and I see the time is picking up. So I love as much as I can for as long as I can. I love every hour and every day, and I take that love and spread it around to my other three kids in the hopes of making up for areas I missed as a rookie mom because my years with them are even shorter because they’re older.
I realize now that all along God gave me more than a baby this time, he gave me a lesson in love and appreciation for the only thing that matters in life: unconditional love.
And no one gives unconditional love better than our children.
They love us the way God loves us: scars, scales, and ugliness included.
They forgive us and our indiscretions the way God forgives.
Our children love us the way we are all supposed to love.
The way I love this fourth baby.
Copyright 2020 Christina Antus