Finley will be 1 year old on the 30th of this month. Avery will be 3 on the 15 of next month and this fall Briar will turn 5 and begin kindergarten. I find myself laying the springs of the past five years over one another, deepening and or lightening the hues of my life depending upon they way I arrange them. Yet, even as they change, certain pangs remain.

Fin’s newly discovered walking and running talent has me grinning from ear to ear, each step leads her closer to some victory, whether it’s lifting and clutching a baby to her chest or latching on to my ankle. She teeters to and from, reminiscent of her sister’s, but in a way that is all her own.

Avery is surging ahead, her quirks and talents becoming more pronounced each day. She declares that she wants a black cake for her birthday and that she wants to wear a tutu to an upcoming wedding. She dresses herself with great aplomb and triumphant declarations, but in the safe cloak of her pjs, she comes, sidling up next to me to sleep in the early hours of the morning.

Briar is a blur—giggly and flirtatious, stormy and petulant, inquisitive and closed off. We tread lightly, she and I, questing to find a place where we can satisfy the other’s needs without embarrassment.

I remember as I traversed my first year as a mom, I tried to let Briar do everything for herself. I didn’t want to set a pattern or precedent for doing things for her. It wasn’t easy, so often I felt the temptation of fixing, of taking the easy route and stealing the glory. I did it, I still turn to the back of a book to peek at the ending, but I never did it with her. I let her strain for and ultimately reach things on her own. I was always there to catch her, but I let her do it. Own it. And each time I did the sense of accomplishment was just enough to conceal the shudders of, “I failed you, I made it too hard.”

She was six months old when I knew I wanted to have another baby. We made the decision together, Sean and I, talking softly by moonlight about how she had changed our lives. I told him on a camping trip just before she turned one, that we were pregnant again. We spent a rapturous year waiting for Ave as Bri sat in my lap, her vocabulary expanding along with my belly.

Ave made us bigger, tighter and more in love than ever with the ride of life with kids. The roller coaster was still in effect, a lump forming in my throat as she surged past each developmental marker. Briar standing on the other side waiting tempered my ache, reassuring me that from my arms Ave was running to her sister. And there it was again, the pang of longing. My belly felt empty, and as I watched the girls it seemed as if we had one more player meant to be with us.

Enter Finley, our sweet, stubborn, meant-to-be-with-us player. Briar and Avery welcomed her into their circle with fierce pride, declaring to anyone who would listen (and many who weren’t) “D’is is our baby sister, Finley Frostin’ Magee.” We’d smile, at peace with our girlie trifecta.

This first year has been a whirlwind, the transition to a family of five an admittedly difficult thing. Today we stand on the eve of a parade of milestones with a lone line of accomplishments behind us— 1st birthday and first steps, 3rd birthday and preschool, kindergarten and playground crushes, Friday date nights and working lunches. I am more satisfied than ever and yet I feel that pull, the longing for a baby and the wonder of pregnancy. I can imagine Fin kissing my belly and gurgling “bay-buh.” Briar talks about a little brother and Ave asks about another baby in my belly.

Like every year of the past five, there are shades what has been. The girls are waking from their nap, Sean and I are working on the house, it’s a classic Saturday. This year though, even as I feel phantom flutters in my belly, I know that we are done. We have our three and I think the truth is, like other moms, I’ll always wonder what might have been, but that doesn’t mean it’s meant to be. What is meant to be is this sweet family of five of mine.