Dina L. Relles

writer. editor. curious + common.

It’s my first time. Since becoming a mother, this is the first time I haven’t had a baby.

Tomorrow, my youngest son will turn two. My three boys are all 20 months apart. When anyone turned two, there was already another baby in the house. It’s been six years of consecutive pregnancies, nursing, and newborns, without a break or a beat. But now it’s been a full year since I’ve given a breast or bottle.

And lately, I find myself looking around as if something’s missing.

I’ll accidentally happen upon the infant aisle in Target and move quickly past the pacifiers and swaddle blankets, the boppy pillows and breast pumps—but not before a lump forms in my throat. No need for them now.

I ventured into my grandmother’s basement earlier this week to retrieve Rubbermaids stuffed to the brim with baby clothes–now hand-me-downs for my nephew-to-be. I pause to finger the soft cotton hospital-issue onesie and am instantly transported. Oh it’s trite, but truly, were they ever that small?

Now, while I’m fixing breakfast for his brothers, he darts by, impossibly fast, a flash of fleece pajamas and towhead blond hair. I know those pajamas, I think. Navy blue and orange with soccer balls dancing all over the legs. They are size 2T. They are the ones that always fit the toddler waiting for me to bring home his baby brother. And my arms search and heart aches for the newborn who must, it seems, be nearby.

But I only find him.

My littlest boy. Who wraps his arms around my neck and squeezes, tight. Who sits next to me and puts a plump hand in mine. Whose soft blond hair is still wispy. Whose face, when he sleeps, still resembles the grainy ultrasound picture from before we even met.

But suddenly the clarity of his language surprises me.

And his pudgy toddler thighs fill my lap.

And he helps himself to a cup of water.

Brushes his own teeth.

Now I walk by the full-length mirror and the reflection of a baby too big to be carried startles me.

And it’s almost awkward to gather him on my chest.

Tiny, yet epic moments that were somehow missed the first two times around, or at least muted by a newborn’s urgent cries or a firstborn’s insistence.

Now there is no new person here to suddenly make this boy seem huge. And so he remains my baby.

But he will be two soon. Too soon.

Even his entry to the world was earlier than expected–four days in advance of the scheduled C-section, a burst of amniotic fluid during his brothers’ bedtime routine signaling his dramatic arrival. From the start, all of it passing us by far too fast, and ever so slightly before we are ready.

And here I am, nostalgic for the hospital’s postpartum ward—its soft turquoise and peach décor, its long, slick hallways. Trays of comfort food and shuffling, doting nurses. And of course, the tiny, pink infant alternately swaddled in the plastic mobile bassinet or carefully tucked in my grateful arms.

It’s as if I don’t quite recognize myself without a newborn.

We’ve been hurtling towards two with a sense of inevitability—an impatience almost. Because ’22’ and ’23’ months are suddenly too cumbersome to say. Because it comes, regardless.

And as my sons grow, so does the chasm between what they need and what I can give. Their world will expand far beyond this home with me in it. And me, oh with my fixation on the small—from tiny newborn hands to the simple challenges of a life with little ones to the ordinary moments of our everydays.

We are outgrowing them all.

Yes, I feel tethered by my children, but anchored too. And now, as the ties slacken slightly yet steadily, I wonder what will secure me. On a recent afternoon to myself in Manhattan, I ascended the subway steps only to arrive at a corner, disoriented, battered about by brazen passersby. Without the weight of children in tow, I come loose. Whipped about, like a stray plastic bag in the breeze. A bit lost.

Sometimes I worry when they’re gone, I’ll no longer recognize myself at all.



27 thoughts on “Two Soon

  1. Lovely. I remember years ago reading the words of another mother, Sarah Piazza, about never having a daughter. I couldn’t imagine arriving at a moment when babies were behind me, when the thrill of ‘am I’ would be tamped out. What a brick wall it was at impact.
    The sensation as I read this was akin to the best kind of muscle ache. Thank you, Dina.

    1. I wish I could take comfort in knowing that someday the ‘am I’ would be tamped out…I wonder sometimes.

  2. This is so lovely. You will, I promise (recognize yourself). And oh, that chasm … it’s so broad now, yawns so much … I fear it. There’s so much I can’t give them that they need now, and so much they must do alone. I know just what you mean. xox

    1. Yes, somehow that is the part getting to me most these days…the widening space between what they need and what I can give…it used to be everything & with ease…and slowly, but surely, that is shifting. I love getting your perspective from a bit farther down the road…xo

  3. Your love for your boys can not be denied. I know what you mean… your youngest always seeming small because another baby does not come around to fill the place of “baby”. That feeling is deep inside me when I look at my youngest (also a third) and I have the memory of how his older brother went from my baby to a big boy overnight. I think I’ll always miss my babies but then there is always the hope of grandbabies!!!

    1. He seems *so* much smaller than the others did at this age. It’s wild that way — almost like the mind playing tricks on you. All of this growth and change is so relative, a matter of perspective…

  4. acb23 says:

    My youngest was 2 and a half yesterday… and I’m so there with you. I love watching her become a real little person- she is hilarious and fierce and dramatic, and so different from my son. But oh how I fear her being too big to be in my lap, and all that follows. Part of me longed for this time when my kids were “easier” and more mobile, when I wouldn’t be so tied down by naps and such. But now that it’s approaching I find myself holding on to the rocking and the bedtime cuddles and all that I know is about to change… xoxo

    1. Yes, no question, there are aspects of this growth that make things much easier. I marvel at how much more we can do, how independent he is, how often I can turn my back and know all will be fine (most of the time ;)), and yet…I have such a hard time letting go. I’m right there with you…xo

  5. fourhungryboys says:

    Your post is spot on. My youngest son (of four) is turning two years old this Friday. Venturing into the uncharted waters, beyond babies, brings on a host of emotions for me. As I navigate my way through these emotions, I am realizing how I have grown in the past 8 years and slowly recognizing the woman I am sans babies. Here’s to a new chapter and the wonderful journey ahead!

    1. Aw, thanks for your kind words & happy birthday to your little guy. Glad to walk this path with you…

  6. ameenaq22 says:

    I too have a toddler who is about to turn three. I will definitely miss all the cute things she says, does, and is–but I am ready to part with the baby stuff. There are times when my oldest tells me he wished he had a baby brother, but I am now closed for business! I do miss the moment when you bring the baby home, the smell, the sounds–but as they get older it becomes a lot harder. A. lot. harder.

    1. Ah…the moment you bring the baby home…your comment has had me thinking about that all day. It does get harder from there, doesn’t it?

  7. zsmc says:

    Dina, I loved this so much and I am so familiar with that longing that you describe. Since I only have one child, it seems like that aching started almost the moment he was born, because I knew I wouldn’t have another one. I struggle so much with not wanting him to be my anchor — I feel like that is such a huge pressure to put on a child, even though we do it unwittingly. But I am painfully familiar with the feeling, with struggling to define yourself outside of motherhood. It will all work out. Right? Right???? Anyway, lovely writing, as always.

    1. Thanks so much, friend. Love these musings. Gave me a great deal to think about. Yes, it will be alright. Just as everything is…once we get there. (p.s. that afternoon to myself in Manhattan? on my way to meet you ;))

  8. Shannon says:

    Oh, how this post brought me back to that time when I would bring home a newborn and the toddler’s hands would suddenly look huge. My kids are 18, 15, and 12 now, but your descriptions of your boys allow me to remember a glimpse of my own 2 year old son who now, at 15, shaves and drives. But he also still “wraps his arms around my neck and squeezes, tight.” Some things don’t change. Hang on to that.

    1. Oh I love that he still does that. Thank you for this.

  9. Oh, Dina, so beautiful. My youngest turned two at the weekend too, so perfect timing for me. I try to think of the wonder & opportunity of this next stage — but there’s no denying the sadness & strangeness of the baby days being behind me. And, yes, yes, to that feeling of being un-anchored in the world without a small child in tow.

    1. Wonder & opportunity…sadness & strangeness…I love how you put that. Such a pleasant surprise to see your name pop up here; thank you. And happy to walk this path with you.

  10. Nina Badzin says:

    I totally get this. My youngest is three and it goes feel like the first time in a DECADE I haven’t been pregnant or taking care of a baby or getting ready to get pregnant. With four kids, I know I am done and also I’m not the spring chicken I once was. I think that’s part of it, too . . . the reality of aging. Three of my good friends just had their last babies, I see them taking of the babies and sometimes feel a little pang, but mostly I’m glad I’m not the one nursing, etc. So I guess I’m okay with the change!

    This was so well done, and glad to see it at Scary Mommy, too!

    1. Thanks so much, Nina! I suspect the pangs will never go away completely, right? But it’s good you know yourself & your body enough to say ‘this is it.’ I can’t say I’m there yet ;).

  11. Mimi says:

    As always, Dina, so beautifully written! I can totally relate to this, and my baby is three and a half! I especially loved the part about Target. The other day I had that same funny feeling, as I wheeled my cart past the diapers. It’s only been a few months since I bought my last box, and even though I can’t say I miss them, it still feels strange somehow. I agree with Nina. Listen to your body. It will let you know when your baby phase is really, truly behind you. Sounds like you’re doing just that. : ) xoxo

    1. Thank you, Mimi! Wow…a last box of diapers. Truly, I can’t imagine that now. But, oddly, I’m sure it will bring tears…

  12. I’m right there with you, though with one child less and currently sobbing on my keyboard over your poignant expression of my similar feelings.

    1. Aw, I’m touched, Carisa. And wishing you waterproof keyboards…xoxo

  13. Dana says:

    Oh my goodness, that last line just killed me! As did this post. My littlest is just three and I find myself longing for his baby days, yet he is my last child, my youngest, my baby. Now at three I am trying to imprint the feel of his arms right around my neck, his warm breath in my ear, the (less frequent!) kisses he gives me. Oh the sweetness of these days, mixed in with the monotony and exhaustion, it’s all such a gorgeous crazy muddle.

    1. “A gorgeous crazy muddle” — that’s it exactly. And yes, somehow already at three, the infant days are long since passed. I love how you put this. I’m so glad this post spoke to you–and thank you for adding your words here!

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