“My sons firsts are my firsts. My daughters firsts are my lasts”
Becoming pregnant with my first child was life changing. We had waited 18 long months for a positive on the pregnancy test and when it finally happened (at 5am when I couldn’t wait a moment longer to test) it felt like a miracle. It was a miracle. Although the birth was difficult and recovery slow, I formed the most amazing bond with my son. I faced the challenges of night feeds, not being able to breastfeed, possessiveness over him like I’d never known before and an inexplicable change in me. My world shifted. No longer was I centred on my husband, my career and what I wanted to do. My life became dedicated to this tiny little boy. He overshadowed everything. His wants & needs came first, my thoughts evolved around all his little movements and smiles, pride like I’d never known possible over all his achievements both big and small from his first smile to his first step. I know and I feel that these words that I type can’t do justice to how I felt and how I feel every day.
When he was 9 months old my husband and I felt ready to start the journey for baby number 2. Our son had brought us so much joy and love, we wanted him to have a sibling, a friend for life and felt we were lucky enough to be able to provide for them both. We didn’t know how long it would take us to conceive and so we chose the possibility of a smaller age gap in the unlikely event that it would happen quickly and we didn’t want them years apart.
I laugh at that now because I actually fell pregnant ridiculously quickly. My son was 11 months old when I found out I was pregnant. I’d been having a very grumpy week and I only took the test out of curiosity. I didn’t really think I was pregnant so it was quite the surprise it had happened so quickly.
My second pregnancy sped past. In that time, my son had learned to crawl, learned to walk, learned to talk, stopped milk feeds in the day – he had become a toddler. He had become his own little person, with his own feelings and emotions and mummy was (and still is) his favourite person to be with.
It didn’t really hit me how I really would feel about baby number two and how it would impact the family until two weeks before the baby was due. I was rushed into hospital and barely had time to say goodbye to my son. I spent two nights away from him and it nearly killed me. I cannot explain how much I missed him. I literally laid in the hospital bed crying at night as I desperately wanted to see him. My mum was looking after him while my husband looked after me so I knew he was in safe hands. But he was also missing me. He was mopping about and I was told how sad he always looked. I felt so guilty. All I wanted to do was go and get him and go home to be with him. He let me know he wasn’t impressed. Not only did he have an epic tantrum not knowing what to do with himself when he saw me, he then spent the next two weeks glued to me. I could not move without him there. He wouldn’t play on his own. I could not be more than half a metre from him or he would cry hysterically.
I felt guilty he felt abandoned, I began to worry he would feel rejected because of the baby. What if I didn’t love the baby as much as I love him? All natural anxieties but that didn’t make me feel better.
The night I went into labour I woke him up before my parents came to collect him. We woke him early so we could explain to him that the baby was coming and that he would get to meet his baby brother or sister in the morning and that he would have a sleep over at nanny and grandads house. In that moment, I held him on my lap and we cuddled together. It was such an intimate cuddle. United in grief (probably just mine) that it would no longer just be the two of us together every day. Our final cuddle just the two of us with no-one else to share with. This is such a precious memory because I was so sad at the change to our relationship. But at the same time a moment filled with love and excitement because he would be getting the amazing gift of a sibling and I would have another beautiful child to love.
Meeting my daughter was an incredible moment. I held her and I loved her instantly. A new connection was formed. Irrevocable, unexplainable, addictive. Just like with my son. I was desperate to take her home to meet him. All my fears that we wouldn’t bond were removed straight away.
Meeting his sister. My son was asleep when we came home from the hospital so in the morning we got out the video camera and filmed this special moment. It was around 5am. He isn’t usually an early riser but the disruption meant he wasn’t his usual self. It was so cute. He was so gentle, yet curious straight away. In that moment we knew, I knew, we had our perfect little family.
That first month was tough. Really tough. Establishing breastfeeding with a baby who fed for hours at a time meant I was permanently stuck to the sofa or of to midwife appointments and breastfeeding clinics. Turned out a quick labour left her with a stiff jaw and meant latching was hard for her. My 19 month old was left with his dad more and more and my goodness he felt it. Every time I left the room with the baby, my toddler would cry hysterically, when I was feeding her he would start head-butting the floor, doors, anything whilst crying. It was hard. I felt dreadful. I felt like ‘what have I done to my son?’ and ‘how awful and selfish of me to ruin his world’. Not to mention ‘he hates me’. All of these thoughts and feelings whizzed round my brain all the time.
In terms of looking after another baby, that was the easy bit. Many a time it made me wonder why I’d found it so hard with a baby first time round. OK so sleep deprivation is hard second time round because you have no down time with a toddler. BUT it makes you just get on with it which is a really good thing.
From day one, bath and bedtime was the time I had with my son just the two of us (well until he was used to her – a good 6-8 weeks, if not more) and if my baby was crying then it was tough. Sounds means when I read it like that but I needed, I mean I really needed my son to know he had that bit of me. We could have special mummy and son time.
Something changed at the end of the 4 weeks. My husband went back to work so I had no time just with my daughter and no one else to look after my son. Now that was SCARY! Scary but brilliant. It was the best thing that could of happened because it meant back to our routine. My son loved it. Don’t get me wrong, it was great my son and husband bonded more by having lots more one to one time than normal. But my son loved the normality.
Sibling rivalry. At first my son got upset and deliberately played up when I was feeding the baby. But this lasted only a few months. By 12 weeks there was a huge shift. My daughter could play on her play mat and get left alone. Or my son would go and sit with her and show her toys. He would kiss her, cuddle her and generally love her. Don’t get me wrong – we didn’t totally escape random toddler explosions. She has been bitten once, hit a few times and sat on. But he has only ever been mean to her when he is very tired or ill.
It’s bliss. Absolute bliss watching them play together. My daughter is 8 months old now. She is sitting and commando crawling around. My son jumps up and down to her laughter. Their giggles ring through the air like the most beautiful melody I could ever imagine. My son (now 27 months) asks for her when she isn’t there. He tells me she is sad when she cries and he asks for her to sit on his lap or next to him while he plays. He gives her toys and if he accidently bumps her, he apologises and gives her a kiss.
Just the three of us. My son doesn’t remember a time when my daughter wasn’t here. My daughter has only ever known it to be the three of us. We are a team. We have good days & bad days, nightmare days and fabulous days.
The hard days consist of my son deciding he wants to be really noisy when I am trying to get my daughter to nap, or when my daughter had chicken pox and cried all day (very unusual as she is a happy baby). Hard days are when my son decides to follow the code of the terrible two’s. But he would do that anyway because he is a toddler. The rainy days, the days when you have no plans to entertain them and you are exhausted because your baby has been up half the night and all you want to do is go back to bed.
The good days are most days, seeing your children grow. Watching them both discover new things, listing to my son tell the baby about something, or want to kiss and cuddle her. My favourite moment is always the first half hour of the day when we snuggle in bed. I feed my daughter, whilst my son snuggles close in and they both play with my hair. In that moment I know that my family is complete. That both my children have the gift of each other and that I have done that for them and I think that makes me pretty damn awesome!
I guess what I am saying is that becoming a second time mum is a mixed bag of emotions and it might feel as though things change with your first born. But they don’t, not really. You adjust, you learn, you realise you’ve muddled through to this time of utter joy at the family you’ve created. What I am saying is… you made the right choice. You are pretty damn awesome. Even on the bad days.