Did you know in Japan people feel sorry for you if you had a younger sibling under two years of age? We conceived again barely two months after my first born’s first birthday. With a second child after a toddler, my body wasn’t ready I guess because I showed earlier than usual. People in the society noticed, but instead of being happy for me, like everyone had for my first pregnancy, they felt worried for me. That was so funny because they lavished on the smiles and praises the first time. I often wondered why these aunties thought the close age difference between siblings wasn’t a good idea.
Our children were planned. We wanted it this way. We wanted them close together so they can grow together and be close too. Honestly, we had such a great pregnancy, attachment and experience with baby#1 we could hardly wait for our next.
Turns out, those sympathetic aunties were right.
My daughter Ezra was born around 10 in the morning after a planned second c-section. She was a tiny little thing. We breastfed the moment she was handed and waited in the recovery room.
Going through pregnancy and giving birth is a big deal and sometimes dangerous enough, but it is nothing compared to what follows. There are many bigger deals to deal with.
After a few hours, we wheeled into our room where my family was waiting to greet us. My husband brought my 20-month-old daughter to see us and meet her little sister for the first time.
We had planned and prepared for this moment to the T. We watched cartoons that were all about siblings. Read picture books on becoming a big sister. We even brought her a big box of mega-legos and a new dolly as a present for becoming a big sister!
And yet, we never thought about planning and preparing ourselves about this big new change in our lives.
Aria was nervous. As my mother-in-law took Ezra for a diaper change, Aria came crawling up on the bed to give me a loving huggie and wanted to breastfeed as usual. We were breastfeeding during pregnancy also.
But she wasn’t the same Loopy I knew before I came in for the surgery.
Somehow, she grew up in a day and she was now this a big girl I didn’t even recognize.
I was discharged in 2 days and we went home to start this new life as a mama with two kids! Two kids! Two kids in two years .. that’s a big deal but I don’t think at the time.
My in-laws helped me out a few days, and it was so good to be cared for during all that time. But after that, I was wholly unprepared for what came next.
Praise God! For giving Ezra good sleep, she slept for 5-6 hours after every feed and was not a demanding baby at all. Even then, the next few months were a nightmare for me. I had postpartum depression and was barely eating. I was working from home within 10 days of delivery. It exhausted me more than normal.
I spoke in a sweet voice to my baby in one minute and snapped at my toddler in the next. I had become a monster mother.
Before baby Ezzy came, I didn’t give a second thought about loving her. The honest truth was that in those first few months, it wasn’t the caring for the baby that worried me, it was loving my firstborn that worried me.
Those first few months, I found my toddler repulsive, so I never cared about naturally weaning her and that bothered me so much.
Of course, I loved her, I cared for her basic needs, but I somehow couldn’t find that same attachment we shared before. We were barely breastfeeding. We didn’t share a bed anymore and I didn’t carry her in the 6 months after delivery to avoid body ache.
It was hard to admit that I didn’t have equal feelings for my two children, at first. Not like how they show in the movies or write in great novels “parents love their children equally”.
I couldn’t believe this before but this explains a lot about how my mother was feeling when she gave me siblings.
My firstborn tried her best to come close to me. She would ask for “moambo” (that’s the nickname she gave for breastmilk), hug me or climb on my shoulders every time I sat down to change baby Ezzy’s diaper… all her efforts to get my attention backfired because I was more irritated and angry with her for bothering me like that.
Gosh… Where was all the love and attachment I felt for her these last two years!?
This was not what I wanted at all.
I wonder what she felt about me every time I lost it with her, yelled at her or didn’t treat her with the same tenderness like before.
Maybe it was nature telling me to focus on the vulnerable baby instead of the grown and almost independent toddler. Or was it the postpartum depression? Maybe it was my own mothering capacity or all of the above. With hardly any sleep, doing the house chores and writing, and frequent church meetings, I couldn’t deal with this issue.
The truth is, a mother’s love can falter.
Loving children is not easy.
Thankfully, God has a great design in mind when he created children. Children forgive so easily. No matter how cruel I was to Aria yesterday, she’d call my name as soon as she woke up in the morning. Smile at me and love me like nothing ever happened.
Young kids don’t hold grudges and their love is unconditional. Praise God for such design!
It’s no wonder Jesus says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
There’s so much to learn from children and become better people. But I can’t do it in my own capacity, of course. Only God answers honest prayers and gives me the grace to undo my wrongs.
It’s been 8 months since the arrival of my second baby. I now get enough sleep, I’ve been eating well and work on a normal pace with writing and house chores.
I want to mend my relationship with my first born.
You can say it’s something like working for a better marriage. Spending more time together, being kind and being there for her with my full attention. Here are some of the things we are doing to keep our love alive, restore our bond and mend our relationship.
- Looking at old photos and videos to reminisce those lovable days.
- Spending exclusive time together like reading with her in my lap while the baby plays at a distance.
- Answering my toddler first. Both nap together and wake up together so I go to my toddler first.
- Making more eye contact by kneeling down and coming down to her level to talk with her.
- Making breakfast together.
- Random snuggle times during the day.
- Early morning cuddles.
- Play and laugh together at least once, every day.
This was my experience shortly after my second baby was born. Did you have a similar experience? What did you do to restore the relationship with your first child? Open your heart here, share in comments.