Before I had kids, I remember hearing mothers mention how they had so many more pictures of their first child than any of their other children. Not only that, but their firstborn’s baby books would be chock full of details – when they first began eating solid food, when that beloved first tooth poked through the gums, what their first word was and the day they said it, and so on – while any children they had after that were lucky to even have a baby book with even a few details listed inside. I’m a firstborn, so when I heard this I felt really sorry for all those younger siblings. I also decided that I would never let that happen to my youngest once I had children of my own.
When Caroline, my oldest, was born I was diligent about recording as many of her milestones as I could in a baby book. Every single month for the first year of her life I took a picture of her in her crib with a little card next to her that had how many months old she was written on it. My husband and I would take out our video camera and record little moments like when she was giggling because we tickled her, or when she was having a blast jumping up and down in her bouncer. When I was pregnant with our second daughter, Emma, I vowed to do the same for her. I desperately wanted to make sure she knew how much we doted on her and loved her and, at the time, I thought that meant having pictures, videos, and handwritten notes to prove that.
After Emma was born things started off just as planned. In the beginning, I did a great job remembering to take that picture every month on the same date, sleep deprivation and all. Then, slowly but steadily, time got away from me to the point where I would completely forget to take the picture until the following month. I don’t even think I took a picture for her 10th or 11th month at all. Her baby book sits amongst another stack of books in my bedroom, barely touched. The reality of it is that my plate had never been as full as it was after having Emma. I now had two children under the age of three who required so much time and energy, in addition to working full-time, cooking and cleaning. Nonetheless, I started feeling like I had completely failed her.
The first two years of Caroline’s life she flew solo. She was our firstborn and had mommy and daddy’s undivided attention. Luckily, she transitioned magnificently when Emma entered the picture, and the girls typically get along like best buddies do. Even so, I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for Emma. She’s never had that experience of being the only child around to absorb every last crumb of attention and affection. She’s always had to share it with her big sis. The moments I get to spend alone with her are small in comparison and sprinkled in wherever it fits into our hectic lives. Now that she’s a toddler and walking, running, and really beginning to talk, I’m realizing how many moments may have snuck by me; how many milestones I failed to record in that empty baby book and how many missed opportunities to take home videos of her. Her life has not been chronicled like her sister’s was.
Time seems to fly by even more quickly when you add another child to the mix. So often I am convinced that if I blink my eyes, even for a second, I’m going to miss something important – if not with one child, then with the other. In my heart I know I’ve never neglected Emma, and I certainly don’t love her any less than her older sister. I love them both with every fiber of my being, equally and entirely. If and when she asks to see her baby book, I’m going to be honest with her. I can only hope she understands that although there may not be as many pictures of her as a baby, or as many hand-written anecdotes in her baby book, it does not mean I love her any less. I want her to know that I was doing all I could to live in the moment with her. I was just doing my best not to blink.