“He’ll never remember life before his brother,” everyone tells me when I start to let the guilt of ending your only child years seep in. “To him, it will always have been this way.”
I know they’re right, and their assurances give me comfort in those quiet moments when I feel the rush of remorse stronger than any other emotion I can identify. But the fact that you won’t remember our time before your brother—a time I have cherished more than you can ever imagine—is often even harder to come to grips with than the fact that this era is coming to an end.
But I know it’s true: you won’t remember.
You won’t remember the early days when we learned together how to be a twosome; that first day when daddy’s car disappeared around the corner, off to work and another life while I sobbed holding you, tiny and new, wondering how I’d ever survive taking care of you alone for nine unrelentingly lonely hours.
You won’t remember that, in time, we found our groove, you and I, that we built a life and a routine all our own, filling our days with stroller walks and picnics in the park, aquarium outings and playdates with new friends. You won’t remember the lazy days when we never left the house, when we ate pancakes for breakfast and snuggled up on the couch watching Curious George in our pajamas well into the early afternoon.
You won’t remember how doted upon and spoiled you were; mommy and daddy’s first baby, Nani and Grandpa’s first grandchild, the first to smile and crawl and walk as we cheered you on like maniacs and filled up our memory cards with 8 billion pictures of your towheaded, gummy-smiled self. You won’t remember that all the clothes and books and toys were yours first and that, for 17 months, you never had to share them with anyone at all.
You won’t remember that you were the one who made me a mother, who gave me the most fulfilling, life-affirming job on the planet. That you literally changed my entire world the very moment that you entered it, red-faced and wrinkly, gulping lungfuls of new air. That the second the nurse placed you on my chest, I loved you with a ferocity I could have never comprehended in a thousand previous lives before you.
Thankfully, you also won’t remember the steep learning curve of new motherhood and all the times I royally screwed it up. Like the time I didn’t pack an extra outfit in your bag and you had to ride home from the store in just a diaper with snow still blanketing the ground outside. Or the time I forgot about your special swim class with daddy on the very last day you were an only child. Or all the many times I failed you in little ways—losing my patience, letting you watch too much TV, prioritizing the wrong things over my precious time with you—ways that your lack of early memory will whitewash over, never to be remembered.
No, you won’t remember these last 18 months and I know it’s just as well. You will grow up to know nothing of life before your brother, that slightly smaller boy who tags along beside you, stealing away the toys you never knew were solely yours. You will never remember that you once had mommy and daddy all to yourself, that our attention was never split or compromised, which will, thankfully, protect you from jealousy over your brother’s arrival. It’s true that there was a method, after all, to our madness when we mapped out our family plan and chose to have you both so close together, even though my guilt sometimes keeps me from remembering that.
You won’t remember anything of life before this moment when your brother joined us in the world. It’s a clean slate, a new beginning as a family of four.
But that’s why I’m here: because I will. I’ll remember it all—every precious second. I’ll remember for us both.