I think of the little things, like how we’d sleep in as late as we wanted, have breakfast on the rug, and then — on a whim — go out for a walk in the crisp spring morning. I’d wrap you up in the baby carrier, covering the both of us in my oversized coat. As we walked, I’d tell you the names of the trees, or we’d talk about how the clouds looked like snowmen, unicorns, or whipped cream.
And of course, we’d look for the moon, your favorite. The “day moon,” we called it. Remember?
Back home, we’d cuddle up on the couch, still talking, and then we’d read a book, do a puzzle, or draw a picture — just the two of us, in that tiny apartment, nowhere to be, no distractions. A mom and toddler, joined at the hip, living a simple life to together, head over heels in love.
I know that in my memories I’m forgetting your epic toddler tantrums, your iron-clad willfulness, and the fact that you almost never liked to play alone, so I barely had a moment to myself those days. I know I’m forgetting how restless a sleeper you were, still waking multiple times a night, and how so very tired, stressed, and overburdened I really was.
I have blacked out the summer when you were 2 1/2 — when all the stress of those first years of motherhood caught up to me, and I suffered through some sort of late-onset postpartum anxiety, replete with daily panic attacks.
No, I am past all that now. What I have left are the memories. And they shatter me. I miss it. I miss us.
I know what I have now is everything I have ever dreamed of. Two boys, both of whom still like to cuddle on my lap — who still appreciate the little things in life, including the moon or a stunning sunset outside our window. Two boys, each of whom I get my “special time” with, and who are growing up to be smart, caring men — amazing contributors to our world.
But it’s a different life now, isn’t it? You are growing up. I know you don’t need me as much as you used to. I know you love your brother more than anything and couldn’t imagine life without him.
Life in general is just busier now. Most days, we can’t sleep in. No more breakfasts on the rug. Now it’s breakfast in front of the TV, then off to school. When you come home, I’m often busy working, cleaning, nagging you about homework, nagging your brother about cleaning up his endless messes, and getting everyone ready for the next day.
There is love in our life. There is connection, but it’s so different. Our worlds don’t revolve around each other like they once did. You will never have me — all of me — the way you had me then. In many ways, the fullness in our lives is beautiful and inspiring, but in other ways, it just feels like a loss.
When I was pregnant with your brother, I had a fear that I told barely anyone about. I feared losing us. It occupied my thoughts in unexpected ways, and as much as I wanted your brother with all my heart, I could not deny that I dreaded the change that was to come.
But when he was born, all that was washed away. I immediately fell in love with him. And I realized I had enough love for both of you. I called it my “boy love,” and it knew no bounds. It still doesn’t. I told myself that I didn’t lose anything when your brother was born. And I didn’t in so many ways. No, in so many ways things are just where they are supposed to be.
Still, I can’t deny that I still have moments where I long so much for those days, where I wonder how it’s possible for something so intimate and particular to be gone just like that.
The bond between a first child and a mother — how can it ever be replicated? How can you ever truly get over the loss of that connection, that level of attentiveness, that moment in your life when time stood still, and your one child was your whole world?
Maybe you don’t ever really recover from the loss. It may not be a loss you think about every day. It may not be something you obsess over like you thought you might. But it’s a loss nonetheless, one that sometimes still has the capacity to break your heart in half.
Sometimes I think motherhood is just one loss after another like that, and that maybe all I can do is get used to it.
But oh, sometimes I’ll think about it — I’ll remember those little things, like your beautiful golden locks curled on the back of your head just so. Or how you’d ask me to carry you to bed as though you were a sack of potatoes, laughing all the way, your free hand gently stroking my lips.
Sometimes the tiniest details will come back in a flash, and I’ll long for those days so deeply it hurts. I still miss it. I still miss us. And maybe that will never change.