I reactivated my Instagram account today. Harmless, right? Right. Except that I’d last used it over two years ago. Two years ago, I lived in my dream home. Two years ago, my babies were, well, babies. Two years ago, my dad hadn’t fought cancer. Two years ago, I was happily (or so I thought) married. I. was. married.
There were pictures of so many of my girls’ firsts on my Instagram page. First smiles, first tummy time, first Halloween, first time meeting each other. And every one of those firsts were something my ex-husband and I experienced together. It got me thinking about all of the firsts we experienced watching our girls, and my heart became heavy. Not because we’re no longer together to share more firsts, but because I’m moving on. I’m dating again, and it hit me: The next guy, whoever that may be, wasn’t there for any of those firsts.
My ex-husband was pretty involved during both pregnancies and births. He was there every step of the way, supporting me, supporting us, and sharing every intimate (and sometimes really disgusting) detail with me. There’s something powerful about hearing that heart beating for the first time, about seeing that baby together on the ultrasound screen, about finding out the gender together, about hearing that first cry together. It takes the man who did it to you to appreciate the growing belly, changing body, and uncontrollable hormones. Surviving and still loving after that makes a relationship special and sacred.
The girls’ dad is still very much a part of their lives; in fact, I often say that he’s an even better dad now that he doesn’t also have to be a husband. We’ll always share the memories of experiencing all of those firsts together. But the next guy and I? We won’t share those memories. He wasn’t there for those firsts. My hope is that he becomes an important man in my girls’ lives, that he loves them as if they were his own, but I worry there will always be something missing. He wasn’t there to reassure me that I was still a good mom when I cut (read: butchered) our oldest daughter’s bangs. He wasn’t there holding my hand as I cried about my perceived weakness at giving in to an epidural when delivering our youngest daughter. He wasn’t there when the oldest took her first steps or when the youngest giggled for the first time.
There is an intimacy that comes with sharing those firsts with someone. Those shared moments were a piece of what made us a family. I know that there will be more firsts, more experiences that I, that we, will share with someone else, but that doesn’t take away the sadness that I feel right now.
If I’m being honest, I almost feel like I’m cheating by not having those firsts the next time around. Many of those firsts weren’t easy. I’m not having any more babies, so I won’t be sharing that newborn stage with someone else. Spending sleepless nights together and taking turns getting up with a newborn who refuses to sleep anywhere but in Mommy or Daddy’s arms? Those things count for something. We survived those nights, and we wore them like a badge of honor. Parenting is no joke, and these first five years of it have not always been a walk in the park. They’ve been worth it all, and they’ve defined me as a person. But the next guy in our lives? He wasn’t there for it all.
I have to remind myself that life is kicking me forward. There are so many memories to be made, so many firsts yet to come. I have two girls. There will be first dates, first heartbreaks, first kisses (not until they’re thirty, obviously). And there may or may not be a man by my side, seeing these firsts with me. In the meantime, I have to focus on the firsts that are happening now and rejoice in the fact that I am experiencing them with my girls. We have a first loose tooth (note to self: stock up on one dollar bills). My oldest is finishing her first year of kindergarten in a few months. My youngest has her first soccer clinic tomorrow. And my girls and I have been together for those firsts.
Tonight, I’m going to let myself be a little sad about those missed shared memories. But tomorrow? Tomorrow, I’m going to jump out of bed (ok, groggily crawl out of bed and to the coffee pot), wake up my girls with a smile on my face, and make sure we experience some great firsts together.