True confession time. I have one secret fear that’s overshadowed every other aspect of my pregnancy. I never thought I’d say this out loud, let alone admit it on the internet, but here goes: I’m afraid I’ll always love E more than #2.
I’m afraid my heart won’t stretch, that the little girl who’s been the center of my world for more than two years will always come first. My head tells me that of course I’ll love #2 every bit as much—don’t all good parents love their children equally? But deep down, I can’t imagine loving anything as much as I love E. I tell myself it’s just because #2’s not here yet, that I haven’t seen his face or learned about his personality. That once I hold him in my arms, my maternal instincts will kick in and everything will be just as it’s supposed to be. But at night, when I can’t sleep, I try to imagine feeling the same crushing, overwhelming upside-down love I have for E for another little person. And I can’t. Not even a little bit.
It was a long time before I could admit this fact to myself, let alone discuss it with anybody. I feel like a traitor, a bad mother, a fool. What if some women aren’t capable of being good moms to more than one child—and what if, despite my lifelong dream to have multiple children, I turn out to be one of them? I should be knitting a blanket and decorating a nursery and cooing over blue baby socks, not wondering if I’ll ever have enough love to go around.
In my moms-of-two class, I finally learned that I wasn’t the first pregnant woman to feel this way. And better yet (or worse?), there were moms who admitted that even after their #2s arrived, they still questioned whether they’d ever be able to love their kids equally. These were great moms, strong women, and individuals I deeply respected. Not a bad mom in the bunch, and yet here were mothers admitting they still didn’t love their seconds as much as their firsts. Or the firsts, formerly the light of their moms’ lives, were suddenly and harshly displaced by a disproportionate love for the second.
I’m not afraid I won’t love #2—of course I will. I already do. And he’ll be welcomed into our family with the same amount of joy and emotion as his big sister (though likely with a little less pomp and circumstance, now that we know better.) But I can’t shake the fear that I’ll never be able to carve out a separate space for him when I’ve lived, breathed, and loved E with every inch of my being for so long. If that fear doesn’t disappear when I first hold him in my arms…what will I do?
Will all of this go away in time? Or is one of the dark dirty secrets of parenting that we always will love one child a little bit more? Different personalities, different ways of looking at the world—if my children end up being different from each other (and of course they will) would it be so far out of the realm of possibility that I might actually like one of them more than the other even if I find a way to love them the same? And does this make me a bad mom…or just a real human being?
For all the moms out there who have had to stretch their hearts (and their arms) to love another child, I’d love to hear your stories—your fears, your victories, your dark moments. Is it normal to feel this way? Can I expect to laugh these fears off in a few months when I’m cradling a new baby in my arms, or will these doubts chase me through a lifetime of parenting? And will drinking a lot of wine make it all a little easier? (Ha ha. Kidding. Sort of…)