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.