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Last Time, With My Last Child

I held my daughter, who was fourteen months old at the time, to my chest while I sat in the rocker. I rocked back and forth till I was quite fatigued, and in time I tapped her little back. I was in such a state of exhaustion, and the frustration of having my sleep disrupted did not escape me. It did not help that I had the impression that in the seven years that I had spent as a mother up to that point, I had not been able to get a good night’s sleep. As I gently rocked her small frame, she let out a rattling cough. In a caring gesture, I stroked my hand against her head, which was fuzzy with new hair, and she snuggled up against me, even though she was asleep, drawing us even closer together. It dawned on me that despite being rudely roused from my slumber and being continually fatigued, I was going through a period of my life that would only last for a short amount of time. In point of fact, I would never let another moment slip away unnoticed. Every instant would stand alone as the final one.

I was aware at that exact time that my daughter had fourteen months under her belt, but I anticipated that the following day would bring her one step closer to having fifteen months under her belt. She would never again have the same amount of youth. Soon, she would turn two years old. After that, six. Then sixteen. You have grasped my meaning.

Every moment existed, but then it was over and it was gone. Therefore, everything that I did with my children was the last time I would ever have the opportunity to do that particular activity with them at that precise moment, and I would never get that particular, priceless snippet of time back again. I felt an increased desire to relish every bite.

The realization that this was going to be my final child added an additional heartbreaking dimension to the experience. Once her tiny body transformed into that of a little girl, I swore to myself that I would never again rock an infant in this recliner at three in the morning. She would be the last baby that I fed with breast milk that was produced by my own body, and once she outgrew her baby body, I would never again do so. The moment would be gone forever, just like the sand that falls through an hourglass; there is no way to get it back.

Because there was no way to know for sure which moment would be your last of anything, you had to live each moment as though it were your last and act as if it would never happen again. It was imperative that you tackle it as though it were the very last time.

The final time that a sick infant was rocked.

This will be the final time you assist them in tying their shoe.

One final time to remove any trace of toothpaste from the inside corner of their mouth.

The final time to give their long, blonde hair a brush through.

During the course of my hectic day, I became irritated on numerous occasions as a result of wayward shoes that were scattered across the floor of the living room or fingerprints that were once again streaked across the mirror in the bathroom. But what if, as I knelt down to get a baby pink sneaker, I had the thought that one day I would long for little bare feet to race down the hallways or for little fingers to drag along my polished surfaces? What if I had that thought while I was bending down to retrieve the shoe? You are aware that I would.

Even the tiny cups hidden behind the couch and the macaroni streaks on my clothes would be something I would miss. Because one day my floor would be spotless clean, and the only thing that would remind me of the giggles of little girls would be a stain of pink nail paint that had been spilt beside the bookcase in the living room. I would be spared the discomfort of having snot smeared all over my brand-new blouse, but in exchange, I would have to let go of the way in which they rested their worn-out head on my chest. Every moment was like opening a special present that was wrapped in affection, but it didn’t last long after it was experienced. A little too rapidly. After some time, the shiny paper would lose its luster and be thrown away, leaving just the recollection of delighted eyes. Have you ever witnessed the sparkle in a child’s eye when they opened a present that they had been anticipating for quite some time? It was like a miracle. I desired to approach each moment in precisely the same manner.

Because, when it came down to it, each and every occurrence that took place on any given day was the very final instance of its kind. Once it was gone, there was no way to get it back, and there was no such thing as a do-over (much to my dismay); thus, I needed to bottle up every moment of my life, clutch it tightly to my chest, and make sure I never took anything for granted.

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