My good friend recently gave birth to her second child, a gorgeous boy to join his 27-month-old spunky sister. As I look forward to meeting the little guy and welcoming him to the world and to our extended family, I think of things that may go unsaid during that first visit. Not advice, mind you. Even a first-time mom doesn’t really need much of that (if she does, she’ll ask for it) and my friend is not a first-time mom. She’s also one of the strongest, most capable women I know. Due to complications toward the end of her pregnancy, she spent the last several weeks on hospital enforced bed rest, yet maintained her good humor and positivity throughout. I’ve never felt that comfortable giving advice because it seems to presume that I’d know what’s best for someone else or their child, and I’m generally pretty sure I don’t. No, what I want to say, but won’t say until I know she needs it is just this…
[quote]You’ve got this. It is OK. It WILL be great.[/quote]
The first time I had doubts about having a second child was pretty much as soon as I saw the positive pregnancy test. After struggling with infertility and treatment to get pregnant the first time, I hadn’t expected the second attempt to work so quickly. A Big Fat Positive pregnancy test was in my not-so-steady hand after a mere 2 cycles of trying to conceive without the previously needed treatments. Who knew that was going to work?!!? It felt like a shock but then again, after what we’d gone through before, I also felt almost miraculously blessed, elated. And so I muddled through an uneventful pregnancy which is now all that much more of a hazy blur because I was also chasing after an active toddler.
As I neared my June due date, fear and anxiety struck again, with a vengeance. Through the unseasonably warm early summer evenings, I hobbled up and down our street, walking with one foot on the curb and the other in the gutter (following my daily pineapple snack) because I’d read somewhere online it might help to induce labor. Women in the 39th and 40th weeks of pregnancy will do anything to induce labor.
Yet while I was physically desperate to be done with the pregnancy, I was terrified of the end result – another baby. I’d look at our daughter — this sweet, precocious, just-turned-two-year-old, and think, “HOW can I tear myself, even ONE tiny piece of myself, away from HER? How can I do that when she still needs me so much? What have I done, oh what have I done?”
Heavy, right? And when I wasn’t worrying that I’d destroy my young daughter’s psyche by removing my undivided attention from her, I crumpled at wondering how I’d get anything done – anything around the house, anything for friends, anything just for me.
Then, J was born, and the instant we locked eyes before I actually knew for sure his gender, I loved him. I was his and he was mine, just as it had happened with his older sister. But even so, falling in that instant mother-love of hormones and primal protection, even that wasn’t the end of my doubts. There were many moments in those first few weeks as a family of four when I thought, “What have I done? I can’t do this. I. CAN’T.” The first time I was home alone with both my infant and my toddler, and they were both crying at the same time – mind you, this happened within the first 3 weeks of J’s life – I stood paralyzed for a loooooong three-count. Who do I choose? Who do I help first? Why can’t I have eight arms? And then I chose, and I chose to tend to my newborn’s needs first, and trying to reassure my still-crying daughter, stretching my right arm out for her as I clumsily maneuvered J into a nursing position on the left, I remember feeling so overwhelmed, so incapable. There were times when I was crying, too. I scolded my 2-year-old for waking her brother even though she was . . . well . . . two.
But little by little it was better, in the same way, it often is for new moms and new moms-of-two-or-more. I slept some. I showered. I bathed two children at once. I began to see, in more than just fleeting, shy glimpses, the relationship that would form between E and J. I saw it in the way he smiled at her and in the way she was so gently protective of him and watchful of his little fuzzy head. Later, he would crawl after her everywhere; J’s first word was her name, but he said just that first syllable, drawn-out plaintively – “EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Only when he reached for her, opening and closing his little hand, did I realize he was calling for his sister.
As each month and then the years passed, their bond has grown deeper – oh and their capacity to torture each other has grown as well, to be sure. But just a couple of weeks ago E told me after I’d picked her up from school and we were on the way to get J, “Mama, sometimes when J’s not here, I picture an imaginary J. Because I love him so much.”
For all that I worried I was taking something of me away from my daughter when I had a second child, what I gave her was worth so much more – the love of her brother.
So to all the moms fretting through the last weeks of their second pregnancies, to all the “new to two” mamas reading this while nursing at the keyboard or trying to caffeinate for the day in lieu of sleep, know that no matter when you’ve had your doubts, you’re not alone, and you are normal. In fact, it probably would be less normal if you had zero doubt. And no matter how hard those first few weeks are — you’ve got this. One day, perhaps a few weeks in (or maybe more like a few months), you’ll see yourself deftly wiping one runny nose while feeding the second kid, or getting everyone to and from the pediatrician – or Target! – with nary a tear and then you’ll know. You’ll see your baby’s first smiles – at his or her older sibling – and hear the laughs they share only with each other, and there’s no question.
You’ve got this. It will be OK. It will be great.