I looked at my toddler, pottering about our apartment and I wondered.
How could I ever love another one this much? How could there be room in my heart for another one?
Then my second baby was born and there was a new question.
How could it be that I loved this one not more..but more easily?
The first labour. A trial. A test. A thing to be achieved. A doubting of my strength. Assisted by midwives and doctors and syntocin and (finally) an epidural. An hour of pushing.
The moment of your birth and unfathomably, you are unexpected.
“Look down and see what you have,” the midwife says.
My first thought-shock.
“It’s a BABY”.
Then “Where did you come from?”
I love you, and I worry. I worry about your weight, how to increase my milk supply and whether you should be falling asleep at the breast. I worry about the little pimples on your face, the strange sound you make when you fall asleep (I record it on my phone to play for the midwife- “just mucus” she assures me)
I worry about whether you’re too hot or cold. I wonder whether your naps are long enough and hope that your clothes are washed in the right washing powder. I wonder when you will sleep through the night (oh please let it be soon).
You fall asleep and I attempt to gently move you into the co-sleeper like the advice says. You wake every time. I eventually leave you in the bed beside me, but my position is uncomfortable. I yearn for a sleep that allows me to stretch out on the bed, unafraid of waking you or heaven forbid, squishing you.
Everything a question, a doubt. Am I doing this right? Am I playing the part as I’m expected to?
I watch your every move. You roll over and I’m waiting for the next thing, the next first, the sitting, the walking, the talking. I am in awe of you. Each first a celebration.
Who are you? Who am I now?
An annihilation of my life before. No gradual slide into the role of mother but a sudden shock of being responsible for another human. The umbilical cord may be no more but I am permanently connected to you. My tummy slowly loses its swell, but my body, my life is no longer mine. Every decision now involves someone else. I am servant, slave to your needs.
I am constantly trying to reset, escaping from you to search for find my old self amid the nappies and the naps. I find that she is not there. I mourn her loss.
The agent of this destruction: the smiling baby. Your birth. First tooth, first step, first word rising out of the ashes of my old life.
My rebirth. Each first a building block of our new life.
You are my teacher; I, your star pupil.
My second baby. I love you and I don’t worry. Your birth, fast, you rush into the world, into my arms, but I’m calm, faith in my body, faith in you. You are there and I recognize you. There he is. It’s my baby.
I am already your mother, already knowing how. Taking you into my arms the first time, with the confidence and calm of experience.
I hold you to me and we both know how this goes. You suckle to sleep and I leave well enough alone. I have long since learned to sleep without moving position. Expectations of a good nights sleep have changed dramatically. I will take sleep any way I can get it.
A remembering, comfortable familiarity. Your brother taught me well.
I watch you when I can, knowing from experience that this all goes so fast. You roll over and I hope you don’t learn to crawl too soon. Each new thing you do a confirmation of life proceeding as normal.
I look into your eyes and I know you.
I know who I am.
You enter into the new world, constructed from the detritus of the old. Second time around, now fluent in the language of mother, we can begin our conversation immediately, no misunderstandings. Nothing to get in the way of my love, nothing to trip me up. But what was in the way anyway?
Me. I was sometimes in the way. Or my attachment to the old me was.
The old me now so far gone, transformed. I couldn’t even reach her if I wanted to, so I let her go.
A friend asks me: “When did you really begin to feel like a mother?”. Her second baby born a month before mine.
I consider, realise, that only with this baby, this second, do I fully inhabit the role of mother. Only now have I surrendered to the mother-me.
Another friend. We walk along, babies strapped to our chests. Babies born a month apart. Again the second baby for each of us. She asks me the question I’m dying to answer, to share a feeling I’m not sure I’m allowed articulate.
“How do you feel about him?”
“I ADORE him” My heart bursting.
“I think it’s like you have more space to love them” she says.
More space. The space that was crammed with worries and baby books and advice and mourning for the old life, emptied out and available for love. Space to connect.
Space to see the new self clearly.
I don’t love you deeper.
The person I love more deeply is myself, the mother-me
Both of you, first born, second born, will reap the benefits of that.