When I found out I was pregnant for the second time, my daughter was only ten months old and still very much a baby. I had been fortunate enough to stay home with her and, as a result, we were really close. I know that sounds weird. Of course, I am close with my own child but our closeness went beyond a mother-child relationship. We were buddies, partners in adventure, we consoled each other when the other was upset… Our bond amazed me and I just couldn’t imagine another child competing with it.
Our relationship was immediately affected by my pregnancy as I became tired, nauseous and achy. I had never intended to have two kids so close together and hated being pregnant when my eldest was still too young to understand why mommy had suddenly become so lame. I’d also planned to breastfeed my daughter until she was two, so when my milk dried up around her first birthday, I felt myself resenting this new baby for yet again robbing my daughter of her babyhood.
My son was born through an easy and quick labor at home. I was elated to meet him and thankful to have had an uneventful birth, but I didn’t actually cry those powerful tears of joy until a few hours after his birth when my daughter crawled into bed to meet her baby brother. Watching her nervously point out his “tiny ears” and “yittle fingers” was enough to make anyone cry; I was immediately flooded with thoughts of them growing up together and being best friends for life.
During the first few days of my son’s life, I had terrible afterbirth pains every time he nursed, was sore all over and felt very alone since my husband was always trying to get our daughter out of the house so I could rest. I longed to spend more time with my daughter and really didn’t feel much love for this tiny stranger that was causing me intense pain every time he nursed (which was all the time).
As you probably know, newborns are incredibly needy and rarely say ‘thank you.’ Although I greatly appreciated all of the help I was getting from my husband, I was also jealous of the time he was getting to spend with our daughter. I wanted to go on daily trips to the beach and spend special time reading stories before bed. Instead, I was stuck sitting on an inflatable donut in a recliner all day with a demanding newborn attached to my boob.
Aside from the pain and loneliness, this new baby also looked very different than I imagined. I guess I expected a mini version of my daughter, but he was a wrinkled newborn and though I hate to admit it, I thought he was rather… ugly. I even went so far as to imagine something happening to him and thinking that I wouldn’t really be that upset. That’s when I knew I needed to talk to someone. I figured this was an early sign of postpartum depression and I didn’t want to mess around with that.
I voiced my concerns to my husband by saying that the baby looked like a stranger and that he didn’t look like he was really ours. The more we talked, it dawned on us that our daughter had actually created our family whereas our son was coming into it as an outsider of sorts. We saw everything through the lens of our daughter’s life. We worried about how having another kid was going to affect her. Would directing so much of our attention to the new baby cause her to suffer? There was little discussion over what all of this meant for our son. Neither of us thought to consider how having a big sister so close in age would affect him. He was secondary to our concerns for her.
Luckily, these feelings truly only lasted about a week. My hormones balanced out, my pain subsided and my son’s little personality started to win me over. He slowly morphed into a child who looked like he belonged to me. In fact, looking back at pictures, he looked exactly like his sister did when she was born; I guess I had just forgotten her early days.
Soon, I was totally addicted to him. Little things like the smell of his hands (stinky from clenching his fists) completely melted me. I felt protective and maternal again. I even began to favor him a bit because I had the instinctual need to protect him from his rambunctious and loud sister who gave him hugs with a little too much enthusiasm.
My son is now 9 months old and my daughter is 2.5 and thankfully, I can say that I love both of my children equally. Life has settled down, we have all gotten used to one another and our family definitely feels complete. I feel so lucky to have two amazing kids and love them both so much.
Okay, maybe I love whichever one sleeping at the moment just a teensy bit more.