Can I Love My Second Child As Much? Perhaps I Don’t Need To.
I know the facts. Hugely loved, perfectly happy second children are everywhere; born and welcomed every second. But that crazy thing about parenting continues to be true — just because it’s the world’s most commonplace thing doesn’t make it any less momentous when it happens to you. Now my poor second daughter is, almost literally, banging on the door and ready to come into this world, and the billions of worldwide examples just can’t stem my growing anxiety that I simply don’t have enough love. I’m all drained out with excess adoration of my first! Even the fact I was worried I wouldn’t bond with her either, doesn’t seem to help.
I dote shamelessly on my gorgeous 4 year old girl: she gives me butterflies, I get excited when she wants to hang out. She is, frankly, perfect: hilarious, fun, bright as a button…you get the idea. The only kind of functioning objectivity I have in relation to her is over is how little objectivity I have. I realise I’m just possibly not alone in this, and that one or two other parents quite like their kids too, so I’m guessing it’s not just me who can only think of their second in terms of their first.
Our number two is due in just over 3 weeks and she has long been wished for, but always with her big sister in mind. First the guilt we’d left it too long for the sibling age gap to mean playmates, then when a few false starts on pregnancy meant over a year of alternating vomiting and disappointment the guilt shifted. I couldn’t play enough, be active enough or focused enough for my perfect girl, and there was still nothing to show for it!
Now a little excitement has set in, but the poor baby — it’s still more focused on the soon-to-be-big-sister. I imagine her gorgeous face the first moment she contemplates tiny fingers, tiny toes. Even when my paranoid brain slips down it’s customary path to disaster, it’s the impact on my daughter, if anything goes wrong, that’s the main stomach-churner and hair-prickler.
I should be able to take advice on this. Comments on forums reassure me that my love will easily double and not half, and I’ve taken comfort from similarly sage advice in the past. I was worried a c-section for our breech firstborn would mean trouble bonding, and indeed I really didn’t feel that maternal glow of love. No beatific halo of Madonna-and-child contentment for me, having a baby lifted out of me can only be described as surreal. I think no labour meant I was denied that place of utter exhaustion that leaves you emotionally raw and vulnerable to it. When floods of desperate gratitude the pain is over, and blind relief that everyone survived, pour haphazardly into that scraped-out, exhausted well that is your soul and you get washed in an intensity that comes out as love. Or at least that’s how I imagine it, anyway.
But the forums told me the bonding would come, and clearly it did. The advice was all true, so logically I should adopt the collective wisdom once more and believe that I’ll love the littlest one just as much. Can I? Will I? My daughter can only imagine that her little sister will be a mini-her:- blue eyes, curly hair, a love of lego. Secretly i’m hoping she’ll be brown-eyed and dark like my husband, maybe a rule-breaker who hates princesses; generally as different to my gorgeous girl as possible so I won’t be so tempted to compare.
Maybe there is a little hope. Our doctor had thought she was breech like her sister, in exactly the same adorable legs-in-the-air position our daughter kept for weeks after birth. But a scan this week showed she wasn’t. The news that she just has an extra large, extra round, head-shaped bottom filled me with a very specific surge of love and affection that is just for this little one alone. And a fleeting sense of possibility: maybe I do have enough love after all.
6 WEEKS LATER….
So there was a slight publishing delay on this because when I wrote that my daughter was “banging on the door” to get out I didn’t quite realise that yes, actually, she was. I was in labour. And so much for natural labour! I have still not had my Madonna-and-child moment: it turns out the baby-exiting-body thing will always strike me mainly as surreal, however it happens.
I’m in awe of this gorgeous little stranger more than in love, but the odd thing is that that feels like enough. No guilt. My feelings for her are perhaps closer to respect: I’m so overwhelmed and impressed by how very real and self-contained and wonderful she is, but I don’t know her yet. I can only imagine that, as with adored child number 1, my love for her will grow and grow as I find out who she is and get to know her better.
For now, it’s still my older girl who makes me weak at the knees when I tuck her in at night, and that is fine. She is every bit the perfect big sister I’d imagined, and as my love for her swells, she, in turn, is drowning the poor baby in enough total adoration to last a lifetime. Oh, and the little one does have brown eyes.