Before I open myself up to a huge can of whip-ass, I want to make something very, very clear: I adore my children, and my love for them is limitless, boundless and unconditional. Don’t for a moment think there’s anything in the post that follows that contradicts that, because there isn’t.
Will I love my second child as much as my first?
How can I feel what I feel for my oldest for another child?
How is it possible that my heart can stretch to fill with the same love for my new baby?
I know I’m not the only mother that has wrestled with these questions while feeling new life grow in my womb, and I know that I’m not the only one who, with the benefit of hindsight and an overwhelming love for my new addition, can now say, “It just does.”
I am obviously only almost five months into loving two children, so perhaps I’m not an expert, but I have come to realise many things about a mother’s heart, and motherly love in the last 20-something weeks.
I lay in the birthpool with Ameli swimming about, and between contractions cuddled her. I gave her a hug and began to cry as I said good bye to my only child. I knew that there was something special there that was about to end – I just didn’t know how. In the weeks that followed, a number of things changed.
For a start, my baby girl suddenly seemed huge. The fact that at two and a half she wasn’t potty trained yet irritated me, and her nappies were gross. She continued to nurse around sleep times and suddenly her face and body in my lap felt morosely big.
Of course, she didn’t change at all, overnight, but the addition of a newer, smaller baby suddenly changed my gorgeous oldest girl in my eyes. I tried to keep to our routines as much as possible so that she wouldn’t feel the difference in my perception of her, and I think that worked well.
As the weeks have gone on, I’ve readjusted and grown ‘used’ to her again, and now I no longer see her as a huge, oversized baby – she’s just my little girl again.
But my love for her has changed.
For months now, I’ve felt guilty about the fact that my feelings towards her have changed, and I’ve felt like I didn’t want to love Aviya too much, because I didn’t want to take away from my love for Ameli. But, the love for Aviya has come in overwhelming, breath catching waves, and I cannot imagine my life without or before her.
It’s taken me some time, but I finally realise that everything is as it’s meant to be.
Loving Aviya with my whole being has somehow not taken love away from Ameli, all it’s done is balance out the love for Ameli.
What do I mean?
Well, I realise now that my overwhelming, all consuming, life-changing, passionate, almost obsessive love for Ameli, which burned like a fire within me, and physically hurt at the thought of anything happening to her, or of her going to nursery without me, or would cause my heart to palpitate when she was getting into the car with her daddy was probably not good for her long term.
Naomi Stadlen writes in “How Mothers Love” that this kind of love is a huge burden for a child to bare. When a mother’s life is completely wrapped up in her child, it places a lot of responsibility on the child to be something, or do something or turn out a specific way in order to almost validate the mother’s existence. This made a lot of sense to me.
The 29 months I had with just Ameli were passionate, in the way only a mother who has brought life into the world and been swept up by the unconditionality of that love, the all-consuming wholeness of it, can understand passion. But with the arrival of a second love, it is as if the passion is balanced out, so that the love can thrive, and the children can grow. Sometimes I look at Ameli and I miss that burning in my heart, and other times it comes over me – for both girls – and I can smile and thank God for my beautiful children, and realise that when it’s all working well, nature is so very smart, because such a gripping love cannot be sustained long term, and in fact, the balanced love is so much better, so much less exhausting and so much more fulfilling.
A mother’s love does stretch. It does grow for each child – as Naomi Stadlen says, the empty womb fills with love. I am grateful that I no longer feel guilt for loving one child, or loving the other too much. My girls take my breath away, and my hope is that rather than drowning them in expectation or a need to give some back, my love for them will make them soar out into the world confident in what, and in who, they are.
The Changing Face Of A Mother’s Love
What a beautiful and well written post.
Thank you Liska!
This is exactly how I feel, four months after my second son was born. My LOVE hasn’t changed. It’s still there. I’d still do anything for either of them. But my feelings have changed, and I think it’s mostly positive. Sometimes I do find my toddler more annoying than I used to. Sometimes, like today, I have to leave him while he screams so I can go get the baby and nurse him. I know it’s hard for him to have to share me. But sooner or later, he had to make this discovery — that Mama can’t be everywhere or solve every problem.
I used to joke that I HAD to have a second child or my first would be totally spoiled. And in a sense that’s true. Not spoiled with too much love — but maybe harmed by too constant attention. He’s recently developed a new ability to play alone much better, and I think that’s partly due to my having to give him space. He’s also gotten much closer to his dad, which can’t be anything but good news. Sure, I do miss heading out with just him, my little buddy. The week the baby was born, I was near tears one night because I couldn’t be the one to put the toddler to bed. That was OUR TIME! But now it is father-son time and he’s so happy with it. Maybe the “our time” thing was more about me anyway.
And the bright side of it is the huge feeling of love and pride I see when I look at both of them together. I’m impressed with how capable my toddler is and how snuggly my baby is. I take picture after picture of them together, or all three of us together. I love my family. I wouldn’t trade in the baby to get the good old times back, even though I miss them sometimes. But things DO change. It’s okay for them to change. It doesn’t mean we’re not loving mamas.
Sorry, my comment was almost as long as your post!
Oh! Thank you for your wonderful comment – it goes to show both that I’m not alone, and that the feelings changing isn’t a negative thing. Actually, as we’ve both said, now, in retrospect, I think it’s actually a good thing!
I love this post. I wondered some of the same things myself before number 2 arrived. Eldest was 5 years old shortly after the second birth, I was so worried I would lose something of that. I didn’t in the end, I gained more from it all that I could have ever imagined. This post captures so much of what I felt it made my heart ache at remembering it all. xx
Thank you! Some days I’m still waiting to see how it’s all going to settle, but I realise that my love for Ameli keeps growing so I assume the love for Aviya will too. What a magical thing, this act of motherhood.
You have expressed these truths to very beautifully and I am so proud to read of how your love has fallen perfectly into place for both of your Little Girls. Anybody who would read this and not feel the perfect love you have for them both, doesn’t know you – as all I could find in this write was your immense, total and complete love for them both.
Thank you my beautiful friend. 🙂