My second and youngest child turns one year old on Saturday. This fall has brought with it a flurry of memories and reflections. Perhaps it’s because Abigail is possibly our last baby, or perhaps it’s simply a rite of motherhood.
Small, simple things plunge me into October of last year. The brilliant red leaves on the maple tree outside our kitchen window and the smell of autumn in the air remind me of the final days of my pregnancy a year ago. My husband and I were awaiting something exciting and keenly aware these were our final days as a family of three.
I tried to make the most of my time with my oldest daughter, Megan. We spent hours playing in the back yard. Megan flitted about acting out the story of Rapunzel and swinging from the top of her play-climber-turned-enchanted-tower. I perched absentmindedly on the step and rested my hands on my belly, feeling the baby roll in her tight confines and wondering when labor would begin.
Megan and I also spent long afternoons watching Disney movies while we snuggled in the recliner, my body tired and round. I held Megan close, tucking away memories of how her slender little body felt in my arms and how her hair felt brushing against my cheek.
Labor started at 2:15 the morning of October 27. About five hours later, Abigail was here. The nurses at the hospital complimented me on my “ideal” delivery: a relatively fast labor with an epidural for pain relief. I spent that afternoon snuggling and dozing with Abigail in my arms, and I awoke when my husband, Josh, and Megan arrived to visit late in the afternoon. Megan grinned as soon as she saw Abigail and me, and she climbed into bed with us for a
closer look at her new sister.
Those first days after delivery were idyllic. I was confident as a mother, having gone through the newborn phase once already. I reveled in the flurry of Facebook congratulations and ate French toast almost every day at the hospital. There was Abigail’s 24-hour readmittance to the hospital for jaundice treatment, a simple but annoying setback. Finally, on Halloween night, she was released and we all came home as a family for good. Josh picked Abigail and me up from the hospital. In the back seat, Megan sat wearing her princess costume and clutching a shopping bag full of treats she had collected in our neighborhood.
There was a rush of family visits. We received gifts from the neighbors and meals from church friends. My in-laws came over several times with food and cleaned my house for me. We slowly settled into our new life.
I loved all my little moments with Abigail. She spent her early months sleeping in a bassinet that attached to the side of our bed. I would pull her into bed to nurse, and I loved the smell of her head and the feel of her hair as she nuzzled under my chin. I loved fastening her into my baby carrier and enjoying the closeness.
But life as a family of four was also harder than I expected. I was often tired, had less patience with my firstborn, and sometimes felt like there was not enough of me to go around. Many days I felt like a bad mom to Megan, who was no longer the main focus of my attention, except perhaps when she got herself in trouble. She was a preschooler with a budding will of her own and a lot of time on her hands now that I had a newborn. When I did have time to spend with her, my physical and emotional resources felt tapped out. It didn’t help that winter had arrived and we were stuck at home, unable to play outside, and I was hesitant to take Abigail among crowds during cold and flu season.
But the months passed, all too quickly, and we survived. As Abigail grew out of the newborn stage, life got a little easier. She eventually began sleeping through the night and napping regularly. Megan started attending preschool. My hormones quieted. I read and reread some good parenting books. My husband offered support. Abigail became more independent as she learned to sit unassisted, crawl, and now take a few steps.
I don’t quite know how we got from October of 2011 to October of 2012 so quickly. Two children seem to make time pass doubly fast. But somewhere along the way, I realized just how happy I am with our little family of four.
This fall, as the leaves turn red on our little maple tree in the back yard, I watch our two little girls play together and am thankful for simple joys. Megan holds Abigail’s small hands and helps her walk around the yard, their feet shuffling among the fallen leaves. I sit back and feel a little sad about my baby – perhaps my last baby – growing up. Life with two little girls is a lot more interesting, and beautiful. It has been a good year and a hard year, and a fulfilling year. As I light Abigail’s single birthday candle this weekend, it will mark that bittersweet passing of time.
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