They warned me that my first would suddenly look like a giant. They promised labor would be easier than before. They cautioned that time would begin to move even faster once there were two. They assured me I would be able to love another child as much as I loved my first. They prepared me that I would grieve the loss of that time with just Ian. And they were right about all of it. What they could not prepare me for was the reality that I would never see my baby boy quite the same way again. Before he was my only child. Now he is my firstborn...and there's a difference. Not better. Not worse. Just different.
I found out I was pregnant with my oldest baby on May 25, 2010. For the last three years, he was it. Even though I spent 41 weeks pregnant with this new one, my mind was still almost entirely focused on my oldest. Most days I forgot I was pregnant until I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror or received a swift kick under my ribs...or found my torpedo belly the center of a stranger's long stare. For three years, Ian's been my one and only baby. I knew he was growing up, but I still thought he looked like the squishy little newborn I brought home from the hospital. Call it denial or a mother's bias...call it whatever you'd like...I had no idea just how much he had changed. Now I am fully aware of it.
I was prepared to look at him and think he was huge, but I wasn't prepared to look at him with new eyes altogether. It's as if I saw him through one lens - the lens of my only child - and now I am watching him though a new lens, the lens of my firstborn. This lens highlights every nuance of how he has grown and reminds me of all the ways he is no longer a baby. And that shift in my perspective...this sudden change in our dynamic...it's here to stay. I cannot see him with the same eyes I did two weeks ago. We cannot fully relate to one another in the same way we did before. Our relationship is by no means less than it was, it's just different.
In the first week, this made my heart grow heavy. The tears I cried were not from feeling overwhelmed with two children, but instead flowed out of adjusting to seeing my baby boy for all the ways he has grown. And they poured out of a heart that was learning to interact with him as my oldest of two children, rather than my only child.
Recently my grief has changed to joy. And pride. As I become more aware of the ways he has changed, I also become more appreciative for each of his milestones. I have a new love for the way he has imaginary phone conversations with the air phone he pretends to hold in his hand. I love his ability to explain something to me when I'm having trouble understanding his words. I love watching his mind piece things together that six months ago he could not have worked through. I appreciate being able to ask him for help with tasks around our home and then watching his pride as he steps in to assist.
There will certainly be days when I'll continue to cry, unable to slow the speed with which he is growing up and limited in the energy and attention I can give him. But I'm also excited to watch him through this other lens as he steps into a new role of his own - big brother.