For the past 11 days, I have been a mother to four instead of the usual three. My one and a half year old niece stayed with us while her parents were away. This is why all of our meals last week were pulled from the freezer, why all my posts from last week were pre-written and why we took an early Spring break from school.
Her stay went really well. She is such a sweet little girl and took this visit to her Auntie's in stride. She slept beautifully, ate well, played hard and by the end of the stay had graduated to fully-accepted status as part of our family by Sam and Sadie. They were treating each other like real siblings- hugging one moment and getting annoyed with each other the next.
I was curious to see if this additional (albeit temporary) member of our family would reveal something to me about a sense I have been having. You see, since Miriam (now 8 months old) was about two months old, I have been experiencing something new.
When the three kids and I were in a room together, I would get this strong sense/feeling that there was another child (under my care) somewhere else, but not with us. Somewhere else in the house. Now, don't get freaked out. I'm not freaked out. Honest.
Does it ever happen to you that when, maybe, you lay a child down for a nap and a few minutes later you find your eyes scanning to locate their whereabouts only to remember that you put them down for a nap? That's the same exact sensation that I have been having except there is no realization of where the missing child is. I've had this feeling several times a week. For the last six months.
At first I thought it was just me getting used to and adjusting to having a third after only having two children for three years- and this could very well be what this is. I thought this feeling/sense would lessen with time in it's strength and frequency, but it has not.
Here is where my niece comes in. I thought that maybe having her here would dispel the sensation, seeing as I would have my "fourth" to look after, but it didn't. Several times during her stay, I'd get a quick visual of kids (making sure no one was where they shouldn't be or doing anything they shouldn't be doing) and sense (it's the best word I can come up with) that one was missing. Maybe down for a nap. Maybe upstairs with Jamey. I don't know.
What I do know is that I have never experienced this before. Not after Sam was born. Not after Sadie. It doesn't scare me. It usually doesn't make me sad. When it does make me sad, I'm not sure if I'm sad because I wish we could have more children (we won't) or because there is this perceived child out there that is supposed to be with me. This sense-of-child is of no particular age except young and I never have/get a mental image of what they look like. It's just a sense.
Where does this leave me? In prayer. I believe it very well could be my mind still adjusting to keeping track of three children versus two. Psychologist friends out there, care to weigh in on my state of mind or don't I want to know?
Whatever it means or doesn't mean, for the time being I will just continue to be curious until this sense-of-child fades away... or doesn't. And, I'll pray that if this is some sort of message from God or my subconscious, that it will work itself out in time.
With my niece gone home, I'm back to three. Or is it four?