Loving the Gap

My children are five and ten months. Sometimes people are surprised at the age gap – they have a soft puzzled look on their faces, but they rarely ask why. Others say “Smart. We planned ours that way too – couldn’t handle two in diapers.”

But I didn’t plan their ages this way. This almost five year age difference was not how I daydreamed about my unborn children’s lives, back before I got married. I wanted three kids, stair step, two-ish years apart. (Like my own family – me, my brother, my sister – when I was growing up.) That is not how it happened for us.

Mattie we welcomed easily and with little thought to how simply she was able to join our small family. Our dog was downgraded to being the “second” child and Mattie took first place in our hearts.

And then. Spencer took almost three years to arrive. Two years of fertility treatments, six miscarriages, including twins, emergency surgery for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, two rounds of IVF, one frozen, and then finally, finally, a terrifying but ultimately happy ultrasound that showed Spencer’s heartbeat.

Everyone’s baby journey is different and personal. Some have experiences that are devastating; others have few if any bumps along the road. Ours was painful, and often felt very isolating. I grieved profoundly for the family my husband and I dreamed of. I grieved for the simple joy and unfathomable depths of love a child brings — love I knew firsthand because of Mattie. I know I notice more than anyone the age gap between my children, because I still remember what was going on in our lives those four years between Mattie and Spencer’s birthdays. It’s a scar that will heal over time, eventually. We are so fortunate that the healing process is very much eased because of Spencer’s arrival.

We are so blessed to have our chubby, joyful baby boy.

We are so blessed to have our chubby, joyful baby boy.

While not how I planned it, the age gap between my children has allowed for several things those whose children who are closer together might not experience. For instance, I have thoroughly, and I mean completely, been able to exhaust Mattie’s babyhood. She was my only baby for more than four years, and so I easily focused on every single minute with her. Her funny sayings when she learned to talk, her sweet hugs, many, many books at night, fun trips to Atlanta to the aquarium and to Disney. I didn’t have a second child’s needs to take time from my relationship with her (as much as I wanted one). There was much I was able to do with her: endless crafts, trips to the pool or park after work, cooking, baking, two different dance classes, trips to get ice cream on Saturday afternoons. I didn’t, until now, have to balance another child’s nap with what Mattie and I wanted to do with our afternoon. I am thankful for those special days with her.

Mattie and Spencer

With Spencer, given that I have a self-sufficient five year old that I can park at the kitchen table with a pile of crayons and a plate of mac and cheese, I can linger over his bath and laugh at his cheerful splashing. In the same way I was able to with Mattie because she was my only child, I can hold and rock Spencer before I put him down at night, because Mattie is great at playing by herself when I ask her to, and I don’t worry too much about her getting into trouble like a younger child might. And when Mattie is absorbed in a playdate with a friend or having her required quiet time on the couch with a movie, I can give Spencer my full attention. I again can appreciate and pay close attention to every baby moment – I soak it in!

Now that Mattie is five, I have fun doing things five year olds can do with her, like swim or read, Legos or puzzles, mazes or connect the dots. She loves to play dominoes and Uno, and we make it a point to play a game of her choice almost every night after Spencer’s asleep to spend some special time with her.

And with Spencer, I am able to delight in every baby step or advancement he makes and share it with Mattie, who is old enough to be excited too.

This is not how I planned it. But I know how fortunate we are to have Spencer. And I’m taking care to not mind the gap, and instead trying to take full advantage of it!

Was the spacing between your children “planned”? What are some advantages you’ve found having children close, or further apart, in age?

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8 Responses to Loving the Gap

  1. J v Jan 27, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Mine are 7 and 19 months for almost the exact same reasons. I didn’t quite understand my journey and why it was going the way it was going, until I realized that I never would have gotten my older one to the point he is at now with his disabilities if it hadn’t have been for that gap. I have always said “things happen for a reason”. (((HUGS)))

  2. Megan Johns
    Megan Johns Jan 27, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    Wow! What an incredible story Meg. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Kathy
    Kathy Jan 27, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    Love your story! 🙂 We would have preferred ours closer, but yes embracing “the gap”. It really does have its advantages!

  4. Jessica S. Jan 27, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    Our situation is the opposite – my son was a bit of a surprise, and the gap is 18 months. There were many times during the first year when things were incredibly difficult, and I felt like neither were getting the attention they deserved. The baby would spend the day in a carrier or his car seat while I chased my daughter around, and the next day, my daughter would want me to get on the floor and play with her, but I was pacing the house with a screaming baby. It seems like things are starting to settle, and I hope that their closeness in age results in a close bond down the road.

  5. Natalie Jan 27, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

    This is a beautiful story…and like you said everyone’s journey is different…and happens for reasons we don’t understand at the time. Thanks for sharing yours!

  6. Jill Jan 27, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    Mine are 5 years apart as well and it was not planned. The navy tool care of that for us. I feel the same way about the Ge difference as you. My first is at school all day and I get to spend all that time with #2 and then since she’s older we get time alone while the baby sleeps. It’s a win win now as well as later…no 2 kids in college at the same time!

  7. Kristen Jan 27, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    Love this Meg!! It is such a sweet reminder that we are all on our own journey and you never know what anyone might be going through! We had fertility issues with my first and struggles to get pregnant. After our 1st was born…..we were so blessed to be pregnant right away with second with no help (they are only 14 months apart). Many odd looks and inappropriate statements and I would always think, if you only knew. THEN 4 years later surprise, pregnant again. 3 amazing kids over 8 years and it is perfectly timed, not like I planned, but the way it is suppose to be 🙂

  8. FeistyIrishWench Nov 29, 2015 at 1:23 am #

    Our 5 living kids are diapers to drinking age, with gaps of 15 months, 7 years, 7 years, and 4 years between them, spanning a total of 20 years. The big gaps definitely afford opportunities not available to stairsteps. My older kids are immensely helpful, and they are often a great help in diffusing tension when the younger kids are pushing boundaries. They keep me young at heart and I can connect with the various ages and stages. We had a miscarriage this summer, and that has rocked our boat in so many ways. On one hand, I am heartbroken and left feeling robbed. But on another hand. I’ve been granted a gift of being able to focus on my toddler and next older 2 kids, and not have to balance two little people the same way that I had to do with our first 2 kids.

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