This morning, as I was making waffles for my family, I heard my boys wrestling on the bed. Their ecstatic squeals of laughter made me smile. I heard my big boy playing with my little guy, saying, “I’m going to wrap you up in a blanket like a burrito just like Daddy did when I was your age.”
But as I poured the batter into the waffle iron, a shudder went through me. I remember so vividly before our younger son was born, when it was just our big boy getting wrapped up like a burrito by his daddy. I remember how tiny his body was then, swallowed up by the blanket, and the shrieks of laughter that were all his own filling up our house and our hearts.
I loved being a family of three. There was a beauty to it: one child for us both to love and adore. The three of us lost in our little world of books, baking, arts and science projects, bike riding, park going, and endless conversation. The three of us cuddled in bed at the end of our long days, Mommy and Daddy on either side of the amazing boy we had created together. And I remember how terrified I was of changing anything.
Part of me longed for another baby, but another part of me was scared shitless. So I waited. I waited for my son to sleep through the night. I waited for him to be out of diapers. I waited for him to sleep in his own bed. I waited for him to go to preschool. I waited for him to go to Pre-K.
And then he was 5 years old, and I realized that if I waited much longer, I might just never do it. I remember the day we conceived our second son. As I lay in bed after sex, I shut my eyes and meditated, trying to relax my body and let conception happen. Lying there, I pictured our next child. I knew he’d be a boy, and I knew I’d name him Peter. I pictured his cuddly body in my arms. I imagined that I would, in fact, love another child.
But two weeks later, when the two little lines appeared on the pregnancy test, I was utterly terrified. I spent a few weeks having complete panic attacks. It was real. It was happening. We were going to do this thing of totally changing our family dynamic.
I spent the pregnancy wavering between being certain that I had made the worst decision in the world and feeling at total peace. But the feelings of fear and dread were so strong that I often forgot how nice the pregnancy really was and how darling the little boy growing inside me seemed.
Toward the end of the pregnancy, everything felt like a last time. The last time it would be just the three of us getting bagels together. The last time we’d all read in bed together. The last time I would put my son to sleep without having to worry about tending to the baby. Each of these things ate at my soul more than I thought they really should have.
Then something crazy happened. Our second son was born on a beautiful September morning and just like that, the panic, guilt and fear simply vanished. I was right: My little Peter was the sweetest soul. He was kind-hearted as soon as he was born, never one to steal the show, never one to ask for too much. He was easy to love, and I loved him fiercely as soon as I saw him, without looking back.
Yes, there were some bumps in the road as we adjusted to being a family of four. There are times, even now, that our older son vies for our attention, and I am wracked with guilt. But it is nothing out of the ordinary, nothing so devastating I can’t solve. It doesn’t knife me in the heart at all—not like I imagined it would.
Peter will be 3 years old in a few days. When the waffles were ready, I called him and everyone else into the kitchen. As he walked in, he looked taller than I expected, chattering away with his big brother. I began to have some of the same feelings about his upcoming birthday as I did about his birth those years ago. I couldn’t believe that his baby and toddler years were behind him. I felt a sudden terror about that change, because part of me wishes my Peter (like his namesake) would never grow up.
Yet I know that it will be okay, that the changes within a family happen as they are supposed to, as bittersweet as they often are. Tonight I will hold my boys close, remembering how quickly time is slipping through my fingers and feeling so utterly blessed to have them here with me every day.