Ode to My Second Child
In parenting, sometimes irrational fears can get the best of us. Here's a story about one of my fears, and the 7 pounder that taught me a lesson worth learning!
I can only image what it must feel like to stand on the moon and look down (up, over?) at the Earth. You’ve always know the Earth existed, you’ve walked upon it every day of your life, but seeing it from this fresh perspective must give you a new and glorious understanding of the scope, complexities and beauty of the planet that we call home. I felt much the same way when I laid eyes upon my first born. Before holding my babe, I thought I knew what love was. I had loved many, been loved by many, and thought I understood the intricacies of love. But much like the Grinch that infamous Christmas morning, when I held her in my arms, my heart increased in size. Seriously, I believe that, because there is no way possible its previous size could accommodate the sheer girth and weight of the love that now consumed me.
Fast forward one year. For the past 365 days my love affair with my daughter evolved, changing from “love at first site” to a complex relationship that enlightened and challenged my sensibilities, intellect, and yes, at times my patience. This love somehow filled a void in me that I never even known existed. She completed me. This love, above all others, was a love worth dying for. Yes, I would literally throw my body on the live grenade to protect her. Love for my child, and her wellbeing, became my new working definition of love. I had now, figuratively, stood on the moon, and got a complete panoramic view of love.
And, the story could stop here… the story of a young woman that learns about a “mother’s love” and lives happily ever after, but when Michelle was one year old, I conceived my second child. I was filled with joy. Soon, well in nine months, there would be a new being, precious and diminutive, to love. But something insidious happened during the early days of my pregnancy, as I went through the delightful sensation of morning sickness. Despite my desire to nurture, I often had to keep Michelle at arms’ length as I tried to contain the contents of my stomach. Now, I couldn’t pick her up or frolic until the nausea subsided. A thought entered my head, fleeting at first, but growing in size and stature as irrational thoughts of hormonally charged preggoes are prone to do… this second child, the one growing inside of me right now, was somehow going to come between me and my daughter!
I was filled with fear and shame. What if I didn’t love my second child as much as my first? And how could I? At times, my love for Michelle seemed almost all consuming. Of course, I still loved all those other people; my husband, my family, my friends, but this was a different kind of love; a possessive love, a protective love, a consuming love. I couldn’t possibly love another human being as completely.
I discretely broached the subject with experienced moms with multiple children, only to be waved off with, “I love all my children equally.” LIES, I thought… LIES… like telling someone that needs to have a root canal that it isn’t so bad. Of course it’s bad! But since the procedure is imminent, why add to their fears up front? Or, worse yet, maybe they weren’t lying, and there was something innately wrong with me. How was it possible that all these other women had this seemingly endless supply of love, and I had managed to use up all of mine on my first born?
The morning I went into labor, I remember dropping off my sleeping 21 month old at my mother’s. I rocked her in my arms, with tears running down my face. “Oh, I’m so sorry, sweetheart”, I sobbed, “Our lives will never be the same again. You are going to need to share Mommy’s love with someone else.” Secretly, tenderly, and so softly that the words didn’t even reach my ears, I whispered, “But don’t worry. I will always love you best.”
My labor and delivery was an oxymoron of emotions. On one hand, I wanted to deliver my child… to meet him, to know that he was healthy. On the other hand, I was panicking. I wondered if he would sense, from the very start, that I was a terrible mother, unable to love him as completely as he deserved. Eventually, a final push brought my son into the world, and he was placed on my chest… on my heart. My hands gently, protectively cradled his head and bottom. He was so tiny, so perfect, so totally and completely mine. As his mouth rooted for a nipple, and he began to suckle, the unbelievable happened… I felt my heart expanding again! In that instant, I KNEW, totally and irrevocably, that I was capable of loving this babe, this second child, every bit as much as I did my first. I did not need to share the love I felt for my daughter with my son, he brought his own supply.
Looking back, I feel rather foolish for all of my fears and concerns. If my first born taught me how to love completely, then, in a blink of an eye, my second born taught me that a mother’s love knows no bounds. NEVER would I need to share my love for my daughter with my son (and eventually my second son). Each child comes equipped with their own supply, and, like all those wise mothers before me, I learned that I did, in fact, love them all equally. Adam, like Michelle, would provide his own joys and challenges, but my love for him, my second born, was as strong and consuming as the first.
Of course, my daughter did need to learn to share me with her brother, and there were times I needed to split my time between them, but I was right about one thing… our lives were never the same again… they were better :)
(So as not to leave out my third born, Drew, not to worry, he taught me about love, too, especially about gracious love, but I’ll leave THAT for another post :)
At one time or another, all parents experience irrational fears about their ability to parent well. Fortunately, our children are very good teachers, and as long as we are attentive students, they have much to teach us :)
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