Minding The Gap


By Sarah Muthler for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

My daughter pedals away from me on the bike she received for her fifth birthday. Her bulky toddler legs have stretched into the slender limbs of a child, and she pumps joyously with them. She is testing how far ahead she can go without reprimand. I have no hope of keeping up. Her baby brother bounces along in our clunky stroller as I stride faster. This wasn’t how I imagined my family—one of my babies bounding into childhood when the other had barely emerged from the womb.

I wanted my children two or three years apart. In accordance with that plan, my husband and I conceived our second baby a few months before our daughter turned 2. Every family that I knew had two or three children with this spacing, and every parenting book and article touted its logic. Endure the early hair-tugging and arm-pinching, and someday, fighting would give way to friendship.

My dream for our family evaporated when our second daughter was stillborn. My girls would not tussle over the same doll until the stitching burst. Nor would they walk hand in hand to the elder’s first day of kindergarten.

Almost as much as I mourned my daughter, I mourned the loss of a sibling for my child. With my ideal family impossible, I constantly cycled through the age-gap math in my head. Wait a year to try again after my C-section. Plus nine months of pregnancy. If everything went perfectly, I would cradle a big belly while my daughter blew out the candles at her fourth birthday party. My children still might play together someday.

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3 thoughts on “Minding The Gap”

  1. I really needed this today. My son was born in the middle of my 4yr graduate program, and having him slowed me down more than I realized. I was anxious to start for number two, and as soon as I graduated we tried. Finally pregnant again, I was still sad because they’d be 4.5 yrs apart; that was not in my “plan”.

    Last week I found out I miscarried at 15 weeks. When you said you felt like you deprived your child of their sibling- that’s how it felt to me. My son was devastated when we told him. I know one day we will try again, and I hope he will have the experience of being a brother. I have 6 younger siblings (ranging from 18mos to 13yrs younger), and even the largest gaps can be bridged. I am very close with my four youngest siblings, and it’s such a wonderful thing to see them grow into adulthood.

  2. I can totally empathize with your feelings. I lost our 3rd son in 2006 suddenly at 18 weeks after fertility treatments. Then went onto 4 more years of treatments to bring home our beautiful rainbow daughter. It was a high risk pregnancy, and a preemie. I am incredibly grateful she made it home alive. There are still times almost 8 years later I look at my boys and my daughter, I see the physical gap due to his Absense. My sons are now 12 and 10, our son would have been 8 now. My daughter just turned 4. Always wonder what life would be like with my 3 boys so close together. But then we may not have our beautiful little girl. I don’t think it ever leaves you. I am happy to hear of your rainbow. I know there are times you still think of what could of been. It is definitely hard. I know life just makes it all work eventually. And that gap will close at some point. Though maybe never in your heart. Prayers and healing on your loss. From another angel mom xx Terralynn

  3. My two are 6 1/2 yrs apart and I am grateful for the spacing. I am not equipped for multiple children under age 5. We are considering a 3rd and my youngest is 8. I know my limits, and wanted to bond and enjoy each child.

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