I always imagined that when I became pregnant with my second baby, that I would feel instant excitement. That I would begin thinking of names, cute gender reveal ideas, want to make a registry right away, feel excited to tell my son and teach him how to help me with his new sibling… I just naturally expected that, since I had done this once before and I was married in a stable relationship, why would I not feel nothing but excitement for this new little addition to a family that was already so happy?
But then, when I found myself pregnant with my daughter, it was very much the contrary. I did the cute gender reveal, I made a registry, we told out son and tried to get him excited… But, what I didn’t want to admit it at the time, because I thought it made me a terrible person, was that I was far from happy. In fact, I was pissed. In the beginning I wasn’t really sure why I felt that way. Especially after discovering that she was a girl! I had my boy and now I was going to have my girl… I should be thrilled! But again, nope. I felt, almost a sense of resentment for this baby. After some thinking I finally identified that I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, I wasn’t hating the idea of a second child, but what I was feeling? A sense of loss for my son. He was my little companion, my best friend, and every moment of every day for the previous two and a half years had been spent playing with him, teaching him, and generally devoting all of my time and attention to him. That was about to change and I knew it. I was afraid of how he would feel. I thought that he might feel lonely and forgotten. It was mommy guilt that had me feeling such displeasure over my little impending human.
I hoped that realizing what the problem was would help me pinpoint a solution to feeling this way, but it didn’t, because that is not how my mind works. Instead, my head said “Yeah, that makes sense… That worry is rational. Here are other reasons your kid will hate you and feel shitty.” So I spent 20 more weeks building on that.
Because of this, I triggered my own postpartum depression. It was awful. I had hoped that holding her, snuggling her, and seeing her beautiful little face would erase all of my fears. I would feel that instant mommy love and all would be right with the world.
I spent the next 3 months in sort if a daze. My son could sense my unhappiness, therefore he was unhappy as well. It made me withdrawn and irritable. I was just going through the motions every day. I did love my daughter, but, I was still convinced that I didn’t and couldn’t love her as much as I loved my son. Even after she was there in my arms, I felt like she and I would never bond quite the way that my son and I had bonded.
I was resentful of the fact that I was too tired to play with my boy. The fact that I could no longer lie with him and snuggle for long periods of time at bed time. That our usual craft time was spent feeding the baby and changing diapers. That instead of seeing every “cool new jump he can do” and every game he made up with his toys it was instead “Hold on buddy, the baby needs this or that, I’ll see in a minute.” Followed by my forgetting because I had newborn exhaustion brain. He couldn’t scream and laugh and jump around the way that he could before because he might wake the baby. He was just… Confused.
I’m not trying to scare anyone, but it is a big adjustment for everyone involved, and I wasn’t quite prepared for it. The thing is, I realize now that my son would have taken it much better had I been in a better state of mind myself. I know my P.P.D. wasn’t exactly my fault or anything, but I let it consume me to the point that it made all of my fears transpire where they may have otherwise just been an exaggerated worry.
Then something happened.
I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was. Maybe it was a much needed trip to visit family. Maybe it was her personality beginning to come through more. Maybe it was my son beginning to show pride in his new-found independence. Somewhere around four months old I started to enjoy my daughter. I started catching myself staring at her, smiling. Then I started to catch myself snuggling up to her and rubbing my face in her hair and just not wanting to ever put her down. And finally, began to recognize familiar moments of just overwhelming love where you feel like you almost can’t breathe. I began to realize that I absolutely did love this little girl just as much as my boy, and it actual was possible to do so.
Once I got through the most difficult stage, once we all became adjusted and used to this new little life in our world, everything started to fall into place. My son was still three, so he was still testing limits and pushing buttons, but along with it his silly side started to come through more again. I was less tense, he felt more at ease, and I began figuring out ways to fit both babies into all of my every day tasks. I would wear the baby while my son would help me prepare lunch. I would sing to my daughter in her jumper while my son and I would dance. I would nurse to her sleep while he snuggled up and we read a book together. It took time, but we finally made it work.
Today my son is four. My daughter is turning one in 20 days (O…m…g…) and, I can not believe that there was ever a time when I wasn’t overjoyed to have my two babies. My son is getting past his “threenager” stage and is smart, funny, and has done something that I never imagined he could do.. He has learned how to entertain himself! Of course, he still often wants us to play with him, but, he can still function those times when we have to say no. Haha. And my daughter.. Oh my daughter. She is the biggest little ball of sunshine. She is happy, and independent, and smart. She began walking at age eight months and has been on the go and exploring ever since. She loves to make people laugh, it’s what she is all about, and will dance to any music that she hears with full enthusiasm.
They are not only amazing as individuals, but as siblings as well. From day one, no matter how jealous he felt, my son never took any negative feelings out on “his baby”. He loves her, and she admires him so much. They are now at the point where they can play together, and spend all day running around like maniacs and making the other crack up. If I tell the baby “no” or have to stop her from doing something and she gets upset, you best believe big brother is right there by her side to defend her from mean old mommy. If I have to get stern with my son or put him in time out and he cries, her empathy for him kicks in and she is right there crying with him. My son is forever telling his friend that he MUST include his baby sister and be nice to her when they play. There are times when I will go to apologize to my son for his sister knocking down his blocks or breaking his crayon or something of the sort, and he will hit me with “It’s okay mom, she doesn’t know how to play like me yet, she’s just learning.” And my heart just melts.
So… Is having two children tough? Yes. Exhausting? Yes. Does it take a lot of patience and adjustment from all parties? Absolutely. But, no matter how much worry, no matter how much struggle and loss of control and overwhelming guilt, it really is actually an amazing and fulfilling feeling to know that you gave your baby a life long friend.
Have you gone through postpartum depression? How did you handle it? Share your story in the comments.