Yesterday, my adorably dimpled almost five-year-old son looked up at my husband and I in between digging in his plate of waffles (like Elf, his basic food groups are candy, candy canes, and syrup) and let out a sigh.
“What’s wrong, buddy?” my husband asked, lifting his coffee cup to his lips.
My son looked somber for a minute before dejectedly dropping his cheek into his still-chubby hand. “Well, Dad, I like playing with my toys by myself, ” he explained. “But sometimes, I wish I had a brother.”
Cue the heart break for this mama. Because I tried, I swear I did, to give my boy the playmate he deserves. But my body had other plans. I lost our fifth baby this summer, in a loss that caught me very off-guard (although, what loss doesn’t?) because it happened just as I had cleared that mental space in my head and heart and welcomed the new family member with joy. But it was too late.
And I feel, deep within my heart, that place where Mama wisdom lives, that the baby we lost last summer was a boy that would have been my son’s brother and even if we had another baby, I worry that it’s just too late for my son to ever have that kind of brother relationship that I wish so much I could have given him. At five years old, my son would be almost six before we would have another baby if we started trying again and assuming that we would be able to get successfully pregnant (and trust me, this is not something I take for granted.) What would that kind of gap look like for brothers? By the time a baby could “play” and roughhouse and tag along on his brother’s adventures outside, my son would be reaching the preteen years and most likely into more worldly pursuits than playing Legos with his brother.
It breaks my heart to think that he will never get that. It breaks my heart that I’ll never get that. I’ll never be the mother of “boys,” watching two little men tumble across my living room, sighing with exasperation as gangly teenage boys wolf down everything in my fridge and cupboards, but secretly relishing watching them grow.
But in the moments that I mourn the loss of the son I might have had or the playmate my son might have had, I am also so grateful for what I do have. And I know that’s important. I don’t dwell on my miscarriage or what my son is missing out on all the time. And after all, he probably doesn’t even realize how annoying a brother would be, right?
My son is a lucky little boy to be surrounded by three loving, creative, and amazing sisters and he’s lucky to have all the “boy” stuff he needs in his life from my husband, who happily takes him to his workshop and lets him ride in tractors on the farm that are bigger than some countries. He’s lacking for nothing and I feel grateful to have the experience to be the mother of a little boy who is growing up, not only all boy, but with the influence of women who make him the loving, sensitive little man that he is.
So yes, I count myself lucky and I know that we don’t always get to write our own stories, especially when it comes to the families we hope to have. But surely I can not be the only mother out there who wonders, just every now and then, what my little boy is missing out on by not having a brother.