This piece was origninaly posted on the BirthME doula blog in September 2016. I wanted to share it again here so it can be part of my personal archives. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!
I’m fairly certain I ruined my son’s life when I decided to give him a sibling. Of course, being the overachiever that I am, I gave him not one sibling, but two. At once. TWIN. SISTERS.
Just like his daddy and I, the poor kid was blindsided. Back in the day, he was a pretty big deal. On his daddy’s side, he is the firstborn of a firstborn of a firstborn. The first grandchild on both sides of the family; the first great grandchild to several living great grandparents. He made me a mom and transformed my life. He was my world and my one pure love.
And then there were three. At 4 years, 4 months, he became Big Brother. Not the baby anymore, but the big boy, the helper, the one I can rely on, the one who has to just suck it up and let his sister play with his toy for a minute because do you really want to listen to her scream and I know it’s not fair but she’s a baby and doesn’t know any better and I need your help because it’s just really hard for me right now because there are two of them. That one.
And for me, the eternal guilt of never again being mother to only him.
The other day I read this blogpost, a letter from a mom of two to her firstborn, telling him how much she misses him, misses being just the two of them. The piece was heartfelt and genuine. She conveyed the special memories she had with her firstborn, and the bittersweetness of adding another child to the family, the inner conflict that many moms have felt as they figure out how to love more than one child with their whole heart.
While I’m sure it was not the author’s intent, the piece left me feeling incredibly sad. I too miss when it was just the two of us, mostly because I never really appreciated how freakin’ easy it can be to care for one baby, rather than a 4-year-old and two babies, or a 6-year-old and two TWO-YEAR-OLDS. I used to think it was so hard, when it was just him. And it was. He was a challenging baby, and the learning curve is so steep when you are thrown into this big crazy jungle called parenthood, and venture forth to cut your own path for the first time. But I’m sad because, although I remember how much I’ve always loved him, I don’t really have fond memories of “just us.” I was always distracted by something else, mostly just by making it through each day. The first year felt like an exhausted blur, as I struggled to recalibrate my life and sense of self while learning to be a mom and teaching full-time. As he turned two, I was planning my wedding with his dad and took a financial blow as my job was cut back; when he turned three, I was battling breast cancer; by his fourth birthday, I was pregnant with his sisters, and the rest is history. I’m sad because I wish I could go back, oh-so-briefly, to when it was just us, and appreciate it a little more.
I’m sad because my baby, my boy wonder, my firstborn, turns seven next week. His childhood is slipping away and, as I struggle to keep my head above water, to keep his little sisters alive and happy, to make some small dent in the housework, to grow my business, to manage our household logistics and finances, to maybe exchange some meaningful words with my husband, and to nurture my own body or soul in some small way, I end each day feeling like I have mostly failed him. I have not made him the center of my universe enough that day. I have not looked him in the eyes enough and given him my undivided attention. My voice became impatient; my nagging was too much. Or maybe I was too lenient, letting him slip away to watch TV, when I should have sat down and read with him, or known how to ask the questions about his day in a way that would solicit more than monosyllabic answers. Does he know, I mean really KNOW, how much I love him?
YES. The answer is yes, he does.
He is not the center of my universe. I am the center of his. He is my World and I am his Sun: the constant in his life, his light. I know this when he still asks me, nearly every night, if I will lie down with him while he falls asleep. I know this when I walk upstairs with him to turn on a light because he is scared to do it alone. When I leave for yoga class and he balks and asks, “Why do you have to leave all the time?!?!?,” even if I haven’t actually been away from my children for more than two hours that week. When I pull myself into the moment, look into his eyes, and laugh at a silly joke he has made, because then he knows that we share a funny, grownup secret that his sisters don’t understand. When we find time to snuggle in bed and read about Star Wars, and Minecraft, and monsters, and Battle Bunny, even though it makes my mind numb and I would rather read Charlotte’s Web.
Even when I feel spread so thin that there cannot possibly be enough of me to go around, he knows. In those moments, I remember that, despite my many shortcomings as a mother, I am, indeed, his Sun. And just knowing that gives me the strength to shine a little brighter.