Counting the memories

We were driving to pick up Remy and Eero at daycare when it came lilting on the radio. 

One, two, three, four …

Tell me that you love me more.

Ruby piped up from the back seat: “Hey, uh … don’t I know this song?”

It took me a beat. I looked into the rearview mirror. I saw a young girl looking back at me. Not a baby. 

A wrecking ball to the chest.

The song was Feist’s 1234, which had been adapted for Sesame Street a few years back. When I went back to work after Ruby was born, and I was figuring out how to get out the door on time in one piece, William would take Ruby and watch Sesame Street clips on his phone with her in bed, to distract her from her personal milk machine, harried and hurrying around. 

1234 became a near-daily tradition. I remember squeezing into my polka-dot Target jeans — the only pants that fit me at all — and the feeling in the pit in my stomach at leaving my baby and going to work. My rage.

The heartmelt of my husband and babygirl snuggled together in bed. 

God, I was a mess in 2013. Overjoyed and yet internally screaming. Counting the scarcest drops of breastmilk. Feeling like the worst parent. Because — despite my absolutely unending ocean of love — I could not stop time, stop the world, stop the need to pay bills, to be with her for every second of her babyhood, even the seconds I yearned desperately for a break. 

I used to drive home with a beehive in my chest. (A mother I adore in a secret Facebook group said that once and I’ve never forgotten it.) I couldn’t wait to hold her and inhale her scent, to try to make up for all that time we were apart.

It was visceral.

Oh, oh, oh you’re changing your heart … 

Oh, oh, oh you know who you are.

That little Kewpie doll with her uneven baby mohawk, one dimple, giant eyes with long black lashes. Her little mint-green onesie with the popsicle printed on it. She was instantly the light, the center, the reason. 

Now her hair is halfway down her back. She has written whole stories, solved math problems, tied her shoes, navigated difficult diplomatic schoolyard relations.
I found myself completely choked. 

Sleepless long nights …

That is what my youth was for.

“Mama?”

“Yes,” I finally managed. “You know this song. It was a little different the last time you heard it—”

“SESAME STREET!” she yelled, trigger tripped before I could finish. 

A contrast sharp enough to hurt a little, this budding reader in my backseat, well beyond her Sesame Street interest. 

Sometimes I battle myself: Do I want another child, or do I just want to be able to rewind back and do it again with the ones I have? Ugh, I have no answers. 

All I am sure of is how lucky I’ve been, even on the worst days. 

One, two, three, four, five, six, nine or ten.

Money can’t buy you back the love that you had then.


Katie Dohman is currently living in the midst of a full-house renovation with her three kids, two pets and one husband. Follow her adventures at instagram.com/dohmicile.