I think there’s a moment when every mom looks at her baby and is suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that her baby is no longer a baby. I remember that moment vividly with each of my children. My daughter was 21-months old when we brought her baby brother home from the hospital. And somewhere in those first moments in our house as a family of four, I looked at my daughter differently. Suddenly I didn’t see a baby when I looked at her. I saw a giant toddler trying so hard to hold her newborn baby brother. And the realization stunned me. It’s one of those bittersweet life moments where you don’t know whether to be happy or sad. Your child is growing up, reaching milestones, loving on her baby brother. But she’s growing up. How did that happen? It seemed like just yesterday she was my newborn.
The circumstances were almost identical when I realized my baby boy was no longer a baby. He was timidly peering at his tiny newborn brother in our hospital room. He didn’t have his big sister’s confidence to immediately burst out in impromptu love song lullabies and beg to hold him. But he looked on, with loving fascination, as daddy lifted his baby brother out of the hospital bassinet and held him out for his big brother to see. He carefully reached out a finger and gently touched his baby brother’s hand. And it clicked. I’d lost another baby. How had another one of my children grown up overnight on me? How had my cuddliest baby who still could snuggle up and fall asleep in my arms in an instant suddenly seem so grown up? And he was older than his sister had been—already nearly two and a half and would be starting part-time preschool in just a few days time.
I guess I just assumed I’d have a similar epiphany around the time our fourth baby arrived. My third baby is still frequently referred to as “the baby.” My adorable little squirt doesn’t talk much yet and it seems like only yesterday we were celebrating his first birthday.
But something unexpected happened at Kenilworth Castle. That ‘ah-ha’ moment came far too soon. He explored the castle entirely by himself. Only occasionally was I allowed to lend him a hand as he descended uneven castle steps.
He tirelessly followed in his sibling’s footsteps, well ahead of his stroller-pushing mommy, as they explored every nook, cranny, and stairwell of the castle complex. He didn’t need my help. And he certainly did not want my help. All of a sudden he was one of the big kids.
I’d just lost another baby and he was only 20-months old. He didn’t need a tiny sibling to shine light on the humongous size difference between my grown baby and the new baby. His relentless determination to be one of the big kids had finally paid off. It had worked. He climbed everything they climbed, chased them down steep hills, picked himself up when he fell, and kept going without looking back at his mommy. Time had stolen away another one of my babies.
The painful realization was still settling in as I followed my three kids up the tallest tower at Kenilworth. Again, I wasn’t allowed to help. And, thankfully, the very modern steps within the 16th century Leicester Tower made it impossible for a small child to slip through the steps or fall between the railing.
While his older siblings were actually enjoying the views and checking out their surroundings at each new level we came to, my youngest’s only concern was being the first to the top. He climbed on, at times on all fours, to reach the top level.
He sprinted towards the end of the platform where a windy, but spectacular view awaited him. Pride glowed on his face. He was first. He had conquered. He had done it all by himself. But then, the expression changed. He gripped the rail as a look of sheer terror consumed his face. My fearless explorer was suddenly terrified at the top.
“Eww, it smells like poop!” my daughter hollered as she reached her brother at the furthest point on the platform. He wasn’t scared. My constipated child was finally pooping. He hadn’t gone in days, and I knew the results would be painful and unpleasant. As his struggle continued and the grunts grew audible across the platform, he needed his mommy again. I knew what had to be done. Gigantic man-poops emerge from his butt after days of bowel irregularity. These aren’t baby poops. They are monstrous, hardened logs emerging from his butt in one giant piece. The combination of diaper, onesie, and jeans covering his bottom makes it impossible for the log to break free. The diaper had to be opened so he could complete his bowel movement.
One small problem. Diaper and wipes were in the stroller at the bottom of the tower. But I did what had to be done. There, lying in what was once Queen Elizabeth’s private chambers, he was freed from his diaper and expelled the unspeakable monstrosity. The relief was immediate. He wanted up. Mommy had to figure out what to do without a clean diaper. Wiping him the best I could with the little unsoiled area left on his diaper, I resnapped his onesie and stood him back up. I planned to remove his jeans so in case he peed, only his onesie would be wet. But big boys wear pants like all the other big kids. He screamed as I tried to remove his pants. He was going commando.
As luck would have it, I’d packed two sets of wipes in the stroller and left his diapers in the car. He happily galavanted around the castle grounds sans-diaper for another half an hour. And, miraculously, there were no accidents. Potty-trained by age two? I’ll try not to get my hopes up.
He grew up on me that afternoon. He’s one of the big kids, not my little baby anymore. But he still needs his mommy. Maybe not always in the same ways, but I’ll still be there to help him through the constipated poops and all the other messy mommy tasks life has in store. I just wish time could slow down a little. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and be walking them down the aisle.