I'm sitting with my toddler, D, one day at his little dining room table, having a smoothie and crackers--quietly, peacefully (although with much talking). He is looking out the window, commenting on the cars, asking me questions about animals, why smoothies have to be cold. "What does an owl eat?...And why does he sleep during the day and be awake at night and is called nocturnal?"
This is one part of our day. He is usually happy and calm, we eat together, or perhaps I am cleaning while he eats, but we are still close, talking. I'm a stay-at-home mom, so we have a lot of one-on-one time together, but something strikes me about this scene. This scene of Mom and son, our private little time throughout the day. I suddenly realize in my heart what I obviously know in my head--this scene is quickly going to change. My heart gasps.
A friend of mine recently had her second son. She told me that while she was in the hospital--"And you'll notice this too," she warned--holding her little baby, she realized just how big her 3-year-old really was. She was used to still cuddling with him, and when you cuddle with your 1-year-old, 2-year-old, 3-year-old, and you have no other child to compare it to, it still feels like you're cuddling your little one. Maybe he's a little boy now, but he's still little; he's still your baby.
But soon enough, he's not your baby anymore.
Part of me feels guilty writing about this, expressing this on a blog about my second pregnancy, my second baby to come. I want to have only excitement, only joy in thinking of having my second baby. And I do have an extreme amount of excitement and joy. But however you slice and dice it, the second pregnancy, and your second baby (especially if you are having the same sex baby as your first) is not going to get the same kind of attention as your first. Starting from conception, a second pregnancy cannot get the same kind of devotion as a first. I struggle to find time to write in this blog; I had 7 baby showers (yes, a lot!) for my first pregnancy, none for my second; my husband came to all my OB appointments for the first, and only 2 or 3 for this second. I can't sit and rest and relax, breathing in the joys of my pregnancy in the same way I could with the first. But in a lot of ways, this seems to work out. People say their second babies tend to be more relaxed, less needy than their first. Indeed, if they can't have 100% of their parents' attention from the beginning, maybe some of them do learn to cope, adjust, go with the flow more.
Your second child may not get as much attention as your first did at the same age, but then, your first is not going to get as much attention as he has been used to his entire life. We all know this. Of course this is the case. Your time is divided now. Parents are creative though--they are excellent at multi-tasking--playing a game with your 1st while rocking your 2nd, reading a book to your first while nursing your 2nd, kicking a ball around with your 1st while your 2nd relaxes in a sling around your body. We figure things out. But still. We know this is a challenge parents and children face.
Karp mentions in Happiest Toddler on a Block two things that have always stood out to me:
1) Don't feel guilty about not giving your 2nd child as much attention as you did your first. This 2nd child doesn't know any different. Instead, try to keep things up with your 1st child, who does know the difference. And know that whatever attention you can't give your 2nd baby, be confident that the baby will receive four times that amount of attention from his older sibling. :)
2) Karp points out that a first born child is a child in an adult's world. A second born child, however, is a child in a child's world. There is something about that idea that actually brings a tear to my eyes, makes me smile. As adults, we like to think we get on our 1st born child's level, going to "dinosaur land" with him, making up silly songs and rhymes, telling weird stories, going on adventures in the backyard, painting pictures and doing crafts. But we are adults. We bend down to our child's level, and this is special in its own right, but we're still bending. Inviting a younger sibling into the magical world of an older sibling is exciting. It's special, unique, and a bond that is made for sibling to sibling.
And how amazing that we are giving these two children this gift. That we are going to be able to witness this awesome awesome gift unfold right before us.
Still, there will be an adjustment. An adjustment I have talked about to numerous friends, family members, even acquaintances or strangers in a doctor's waiting room. I want advice, I want stories, I want ideas to make things easier for this huge life changing transition for our amazing toddler.
What people don't seem to talk about is the transition a parent might feel as she loses her only child, and becomes a mother of two. Yes, we talk about practical things--"When will I sleep? How will I shower? How can I get dinner and bath done for my 1st born when my baby is going through the 'witching hour' of constant crying? What about my 1st born child's classes? Will my baby get to nap properly?" etc etc etc. And yes, we talk about the emotional changes of having a baby, any baby. Your body goes through a lot, and your mind and your heart go through a lot too. One of my friends, a mother of 4, said every car ride back from the hospital, after each birth, she would break down in tears. We are emotional, hormonal, our lives have changed, and we've given a new life to the world. It is huge.
But these are things we expect somewhat--things that are mentioned at least in books, with some friends. What my friends have not seemed to talk about, is how having a second child will make you feel about no longer having that first child all to yourself. We think so much about how our first born child will feel, losing the spotlight, losing the devoted attention of his stay-at-home-mom. But how will the mom feel losing the devoted relationship of that first born--her the only child, and herself?
When I look at my toddler, sitting a this table, looking out as the sun beams down on his face, I think of this. I smile and I savor this moment. This is tranquility. We don't get this through a lot of the day, when he is riding cars around the house, singing at the top of his lungs, whining about putting clothes on, or announcing his actions as he shoots a ball through the basketball hoop. Through the noise, the playgrounds, the classes, the play dates, I don't think of the change our relationship is going to have. It is active; it moves me along and I don't always have time to think. We have other peaceful moments too though--cuddling on the glider before bed, snuggling in with a book, painting a picture...but there is something...I don't know, just something about lunch at this table...What is it about lunch at this table that makes this feeling wash over me?
As I type this, I lean my head back for a moment, look at the ceiling, rest. Can I answer my own question? "What is it about lunch at this table..." I don't know what it is. What makes this lunch time throw me into the realm of nostalgia. But...I know I will miss it. A doula I meet with tells me, "Enjoy these last few weeks with your son," and it hits home. Yes, enjoy these weeks (weeks!), because through all the chores and projects and clothing to be washed, mattress to be ordered, these are my last precious times alone, in this way, with my only child. And I will miss them.
I will miss it...yes...but it still makes me smile. Perhaps a little wistful, but mostly a smile filled with peace. I guess that's the thing about this sort of change. You know why it's going to change. My little boy is going to be a big brother. He is going to teach our baby, show him the world, care for him, give him kisses on his booboos. He is incredibly sweet with babies and shows more interest than any child his age that I've seen. He is a little child in an adult's world. But he will have the chance to give his world to his baby brother.
And that is why I think my smile is still peaceful. I'm treasuring this moment, storing it in my heart. My only child and me. This is our time. Our special time which is going to very soon change...But the change is going to be...so incredible. We have been blessed--all of us--my husband, myself, my son. How can you imagine how amazing something so incomprehensible is going to be until you experience it? There is a loss of our relationship as mother and only child. But there are so many gains in the change of our relationship. Like seeing my husband blossom into a truly amazing father after the birth of our life-changing first-born, I will witness this special child blossom into an older brother. He will be my helper, my buddy, we will go through adjusting to this baby in our lives together. There won't be those quiet hours when I have my baby with no one else to talk to. I will have my toddler. And no doubt, he is going to be filled with things to say to me. I use the words "amazing" and "incredible" so often because I truly believe these events are those descriptions.
While I can't know what our new lives have in store for us, I can imagine the things that make you want to have a second baby in the first place. The cuddles of infancy, the little baby movements, hands above the head while lying down, all the baby firsts you witness...and the trips our boys will take with us, playing in the yard together, sharing (or not always sharing) toys, laughing and fighting together, going on adventures (as D likes to say), canoeing 1 adult and 1 child per boat, giving each other surprises on birthdays, holding family traditions around holidays...
When a special relationship changes, recognize it and feel it. But as you remember why this special relationship is changing--that it is changing because of an incredible gift God has given you, a gift you have wanted, and do want, so badly...then you have to smile, because you have been blessed. You are lucky. I mean, really really lucky.
I have snapped this picture in my mind. And now I snap another picture in my mind, of my two boys, sitting at the table, drinking their smoothies, looking outside the window, talking to one another about the cars going by, about the cat across the road, D explaining how owls eat mice, and even stinky skunks. And this makes me smile too. My boys...
2013: The Year in Pictures
9 years ago
Such sweet thoughts... and yes, life will change, in many ways not as much as having your firstborn, but is some areas it will seem like bigger changes. But God has blessed you with a marvelous family so far and #2 will be blessed joining you!
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