First was your sister. After your father and I married, we couldn’t wait to have a baby. I needed your sister like I needed oxygen. It was all I’d ever wanted.
Then she was a toddler. I was young, healthy, and financially stable. We wanted your sister to have a sibling. Our family felt incomplete. So, we had your brother.
For five years after that, we were a family of four. We were happy. We felt whole and complete. We didn’t need anything else. We didn’t need you. But we wanted you so much. It was a very different decision. It was pure indulgence.
Your sister was the appetizer and your brother the entrée, and then we were full. Stuffed. But still, we craved something sweet. We wanted our dessert. And that, my sweet babe, is you. You are our extra sweetness, our extra happiness, our extra fulfillment.
And I get to be the mother I never was for your siblings. When you stay up past bedtime because your sister is reading your stories and snuggling you tightly, I don’t worry about your sleep schedule. When your brother sneaks you some of his goldfish crackers and whispers, “Don’t tell mom,” I don’t worry about their nutritional value. When you wake in the night and look for me to nourish and comfort you, I don’t worry about whether I will ever again sleep all night. I let you wrap your growing body around mine, and I breathe deeply, knowing we are peacefully one.
When your coos and babbles turned into the first time, you looked into my eyes and said, “Mama,” I didn’t worry about how old you were or what other babies were doing at that age. I let myself bask in your sweet voice.
At a family party recently, all the kids were running and playing on the lawn while the parents socialized on the patio. I stood with a group of women, one of whom was holding her one-year-old baby (the same age as you). It was her first (and only) child. At one point, her husband came over, and they dutifully discussed the time and length of the baby’s most recent nap. They looked through their giant suitcases (ok, maybe it was a diaper bag) as they wondered if the baby was dressed appropriately, which of the organic foods they’d brought should be offered next, and whether the bottle had been sterilized that morning. I smiled, remembering your sister’s infancy with fondness.
Meanwhile, you were getting dirty with the rest of the kids (though I hadn’t thought to bring a change of clothes for you). You were laughing and screaming. My husband came over and asked if you’d eaten anything. “I’m not sure,” I replied, “I think one of the kids shared their pizza with him.”
That wasn’t entirely true; your sister’s friend had said to me earlier, “He ate some grass. I tried to take it out of his mouth, but I think he swallowed it.” “That’s ok. Thanks, sweetie,” I told her. So I did know you ate at least one thing.