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.