The Wave of Emotions That Comes With Packing up Baby Clothes - Baby Chick
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The Wave of Emotions That Comes With Packing up Baby Clothes

A mom reflects on packing up baby clothes for the first time — and the heart-wrenching realization that time flies by in the blink of an eye.

Updated July 10, 2024
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There’s no doubt that picking baby clothes is an exciting rite of passage for new parents expecting a new addition. They’re tiny, adorable, and symbolic of all the fun to come. In hindsight, I probably overdid it with shopping for baby clothes during each of my pregnancies — especially for my firstborn. My baby girl.

What I didn’t see coming was the wave of emotions that would one day accompany parting with those itsy-bitsy, cozy-as-can-be, memory-holding articles of clothing. The extreme feelings of joy and gratitude, heartache and longing that would — soon enough — come with packing them up. At least for a while.

Babies Don’t Keep . . . And Their Clothing is a Physical Reminder of That

We’ve all heard it time and time again — babies don’t keep. They’re only new, fully dependent, innocent, and small for a short time. Then they’re grown . . . just like that. Whether I think of being two or 20 years down the road from here, I believe one of the hardest parts of parenting will always be how fast time flies. Baby clothes are a tangible, precious, heartbreaking reminder of that.

I’ll be completely honest. It took me over a year to move my daughter’s newborn clothes from their once semipermanent spot on display in her open-concept closet to the confines of basement storage bins. It’s not that I didn’t have the time or energy to move them much sooner. I simply couldn’t bring myself to. It was too hard. Her newborn clothes reminded me how fast she was growing up on me. And I wasn’t ready.

Packing up My Daughter’s Baby Clothes Brought Me on a Roller Coaster Ride

side view of a young pregnant woman holding a small white suit in her hands while sorting her baby's clothes in the drawers. loving motherhood concept.

As much as those precious newborn coming home outfits, button-up pajamas, feather-soft bamboo swaddles, and first winter coats brought back smiles for the memories they held, they brought just as many tears. Lots and lots of tears. Tears for a moment in time that had gone by far too quickly . . . despite the clothes themselves sitting as though time had stood still. The truth is, the clothes sat still because the newborn days couldn’t. They flew.

Oh, the Joy and Heartache All at Once

Reminiscence for the sacred memories of baby’s first Easter. The one where she was even smaller than her basket . . . and looked like a real-life baby doll sitting beside it. She had donned her first frilly Sunday best dress, an accompanying pair of then-too-long newborn knee highs, and the sweetest white bonnet.

Happiness for the cherished core memory of our first family trip to the beach. The one where tiny toes kicked in the sand for the very first time, guided by a curious little human sporting her freshly monogrammed blue and white pinstripe swimwear.

Regret for the new-with-tags (but no longer new) pieces I once so excitedly picked out — and yet, somehow, must have forgotten about. The new-with-tags pajamas with one too many tiny little buttons . . . before I knew how much easier two-way zippers would be in the middle of those never-ending nighttime changes and feeds. Before I knew which coveted materials my precious little bundle would best take to. All before I knew.

Oh, the Yearning to Turn Back the Clock

If only we could turn back the clock. The yearning, the longing, the moments of humility. For the brief moment in time made up of days that felt much more drawn out back then. For when it once seemed like my precious baby girl would continue to wear her newborn and 0-3 month attire over and over. As I witnessed other February 2021 babies in my Facebook due date groups move up to sizes ranging from 3 to 18 months, I sometimes wondered when we’d break out the next size. Why were we still in the tiniest outfits?

Oh, How Naive I Was Back Then

In the grand scheme, that “still” was gone in no time at all. Time crept by without warning, and we didn’t get to try on so many of those “next size up” pieces. So away they went, tossed gently yet reluctantly into bin after bin. Countless tops and bottoms and onesies and footies and even tiny shoes. Perhaps for the next baby girl . . . if there’s ever another in the cards.

Oh, the Grief and Gratitude Cemented Together as One

The sadness and stillness and “what-if-ness” and gratefulness. Sadness and stillness for moving away from the very days I once dreamed of. For moving on from the lingering scent of newborn detergent, milk-stained burp cloths, scratch mittens, and all things defining the days that went by the absolute quickest. “What ifs” for wondering, hoping, and praying that I’d cherished it all enough — amid all the fog and blurriness of those earliest days. Gratefulness for growth and the journey yet to come. For my once-tiny human getting bigger and stronger and healthier and wiser. For moving on to new chapters, stages, milestones, and ages.

I Wasn’t Prepared for How Hard It Would Be

Sentimentality in tangible form aside, I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to fold up and pack away my firstborn’s newborn onesies, knotted gowns, and everything in between. I wasn’t prepared for the bittersweet reality of physically moving on from the newborn days to the older baby stage and now, somehow, the here-for-a-brief-moment toddler-turning-preschooler phase. I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotions that would come with the seemingly simple act of packing up dresser drawers and closet racks full of baby clothes. Piece by piece, stage by stage.

But when it comes to this ever-evolving, never-stopping journey of parenthood, is anything ever really as simple as it seems?

Oh, the feels. All the feels.

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Katie is a proud mom of two young children with an extensive background in childhood education and social-emotional development. She holds her Master's in Education from University at Buffalo and… Read more

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