“When We Became Four”
I recently had the pleasure of previewing a new keepsake book for that special transition to having a second baby, Jill Caryl Weiner’s “When We Became Four, A Memory Book for the Whole Family.” Even though I’m well beyond that now with a family of five (and definitely no bigger), I remember that transformation like it just happened, and I wish I could have had a book like this. In the noise and speed of modern parenting, this kind of keepsake helps us slow down, write it down, and truly remember.
My daughter was 14 months old when we found out I was pregnant again. I will never forget the look on my husband’s face when I had her give him a onesie as a surprise –he was definitely not expecting to be an expectant father.
I swear it was days after knowing I was pregnant again that our sweet baby became an ornery toddler: I vividly remember the tantrum she threw about staying in her stroller. My naïve Mom brain scrolled through the possible reasons she was acting this way: hunger, thirst, fatigue, head injury? Little did I know the actual reason: she was now going to act like this until about age 4.
But what I remember most from this time were my complicated emotions, swinging all over the place, with hormone-induced velocity.
I remember the fear there was no way I could love another child with as much fierceness as I loved my first. It seemed completely impossible.
I remember the guilt that we were robbing our first child of our finite amount of attention (and maybe love?).
I remember the worry that the demands of a second child would break me – I barely kept up with my job, my marriage, and being mom of one child. Having another child was sure to be a reckless act.
I remember the excitement of creating a whole new person; even though she wouldn’t make me a mother or my husband a father, she would make my daughter a sister.
I remember the confidence that was nonexistent with my first. I had already done this once – I could do it again.
The moment our second child was born, I knew in that instant my heart’s capacity to expand. This Mom love stretched and grew; it did not have limits or need to be rationed.
I will never forget the first meeting between the big sister and her new baby sister. The “big” girl coughed right on baby (cue heart palpitations) and in her cute 23-month-old voice listed off, “baby HAT, baby EYES (jabbing them), baby NOSE, baby MOUTH.” She ended her litany with a kiss on baby’s FOREHEAD.
I confess, though, that the rest of it is a blur. A sleep-deprived, messy, nonstop action blur of parenting a newborn and a toddler. I have not yet met a family who can keep up with the frenzy of pictures and mementos garnered by the first-born. Because yes, some of my fears came true: there was even less time and energy in our lives to single-mindedly dote on one child. (Honestly, though, not such a bad thing . . . )
You don’t have to think too much – she gives checkbox options for questions along with space to write freely. She remembers everything you WANT to remember, but wouldn’t without her guidance. The book nicely balances the gravity of welcoming a second child with realism and fun.
Example: In “Family’s First Daze,” choices for “Big Sib’s” response: Wanted to return you, Stuff you under the couch, Put you in the washing machine, Squeeze you so tight you’d either pop or poop, Hold you and love you and never let you go!
Sweet, funny, and moving parenting quotes also sprinkle the pages. Jill captures the essence of parenthood and creating a family in a way that memorializes this chapter of your life in real time, while honoring the reality of a big adjustment full of highs and lows.
We always think we are going to remember it all. In the moment, the diapers, spit-up, exhaustion, rolling baby thighs, newborn sleep smiles, and first sound gurgles feel impermeable because it is constant and all-consuming. Until it’s not.
With each growth spurt and new phase it becomes harder to recall what your child was like before. Until suddenly they are in third grade scolding, “Don’t embarrass me!” as they walk to school with a friend (hypothetically of course).
You think you will remember. But you don’t. It all becomes hazy, the crisp edges of the present blurring as the present becomes the past, as time moves faster each year. I’m not saying I would have a fourth child if Jill wrote a “When We Became Six” version, but it might be a little tempting. Instead, I will put this on my list as the perfect baby shower gift for the family who already has everything they need. Except that second baby.