I know I wasn’t the only mama-to-be who, while pregnant with their second child, worried and wondered… how in the world could I ever love another child as much as I love my first? Is there really enough room in my heart? People assured me that, yes, my heart would increase to accommodate another baby, so I clung to that faith, but I still felt a bit uneasy.
And then like every other mother out there, those doubts vanished as soon as my newborn baby boy was put on my chest before I could even process what had happened. Sure enough, my heart did expand, and it expanded beyond what I knew was even possible. It expanded to make room for this amazing creation, my second son, Otis.
But as the days and weeks went on, as we adjusted to life with two children, I began to notice something that no one had warned me about before. While my heart had expanded in the same way it had when I gave birth to my first child, Bode, something was different this time around. The love I had for my second child was not the same love I had for my first. Not in terms of quantity, my love for them both is an amount that can’t be measured; and not in terms of quality, as there was never a feeling of loving one son deeper, or better, by any means.
The love I had for Otis was just different. Simply stated, I didn’t love each of my children in the same way as the other – and I still don’t. At first, I felt embarrassed to admit this, worried it made me a bad mother. But I no longer view it in that lens, and I’ve come to embrace the fact that my love for each child is unique.
Being pregnant with my first son was quite blissful the full nine months, despite a cross-country move and crazy hormones. We set up a little nursery, and we brainstormed boy and girl names since we didn’t know the sex. I took carefully planned-out bump pictures every single week. I put my feet up at the end of each day and eagerly anticipated this little person’s arrival.
When it was time for delivery, I was induced, and it took a day and a half. The process was slow, giving my mind and heart ample time to catch up to what was happening physically. And so when Bode entered the world, I was ready. He barely cried as he was put on my chest, my heart exploded, and life was never the same.
The love was immediate, and it was grand. It was pure fireworks. And it’s been that way ever since. It burns big, and it burns bright. Bode is a spirited, energetic, creative toddler who made me a mother, and I’ll forever cherish that connection, that gift he gave me.
I found out I was pregnant again when Bode was 10 months old. It’s safe to say that second time around, pregnancy was quite different. Goodbye to restful afternoons and lazy weekends binge-watching Netflix. Hello to chasing an incredibly active toddler all day long before collapsing at the end of the day. Being pregnant while caring for a young toddler all day every day was the hardest physical feat of my life.
We decided to find out the sex with our second to give the experience more depth, to give me something tangible to grab ahold of. I was so distracted by caring for Bode, with another major family move, with job changes, and more, that finding out a bit about this blessing growing inside of me was a really positive decision. I was thrilled to be having another boy and got ready to embrace really being a boy mom.
Baby boy #2 was due on Thanksgiving Day, and as we packed up the turkey leftovers, I started feeling him knocking on the door. An hour later, I was on my hands and knees in pain, and an hour after that, I was admitted to the hospital. Things progressed much quicker than with Bode’s birth day, and everything felt rushed: rushed getting me into a room, rushed with the IVs, rushed with the epidural. I was told to rest up a bit once the epidural was in action, but only a few minutes later, I felt the need to push. Otis was born shortly after, in a dark room with just a spotlight on his arrival destination. I kept asking if they needed more lights, and they assured me there was no need, that just that spotlight was fine, which made for a very surreal experience. They placed him on my chest and dimmed the lights once more.
It was as if I had gone to sleep, dreamed a sweet dream, woke up, and he was here.
The love was immediate, just like Bode’s, but it was different, subtler, calmer, more ingrained within me. I was already a mother, but now I was a mother to this new soul. A soul that wasn’t like his brother.
You have your first child, and you feel like experts. Maybe you got your first-born to sleep by swaddling every single night, so of course, you’ll do the same for your second child and plan on it working out just perfectly. We all tell ourselves this. We tell ourselves that we know exactly what to do.
But that’s not how it goes.
Life quickly teaches us that each and every baby is unique, and it takes time and patience to get to know each one. When I gave birth to my first baby, I had all the free time in the world to get to know Bode quickly. This time though, there was a lot more going on that had to shift to make room for this new addition. I may have had a newborn to care for, but I also still had a toddler that needed tending to, almost just as much.
So while Bode jumped headfirst into the world, eyes wide open from day one, Otis snuggled into our lives, cozy and sleepy for the first several days; we didn’t see his eye color until he was almost one week old. Otis was a bit of a mystery those first few weeks and still tends to surprise us from time to time as if reminding us that he has tricks up his sleeve. He feels more complex than Bode, who wears his emotions and thoughts on his sleeve; I’m still trying to figure Otis out.
The transition from one to two children proved to be harder than we expected.
If having our first baby flipped our world upside down, then having our second baby shook it up and continues to shake it up day after day. The past year has been the hardest year of my life, as we found our footing as a family of four. But all along the way, despite challenge after challenge, my love for the little human responsible for this major shift grew steadily, stronger by the day. Bode’s love may have been big and bright, but Otis’s love was building. The more I got to know him, and the more I got to know myself.
The person I was when I gave birth to my second baby was not the same person as I was when I gave birth to my first, so it only makes sense that my relationship with the child is different. I may be more confident in myself as a mother now, but I still need reminders to not get too cocky, and Otis takes care of those frequently. Bode may have opened up my world, making so many things clear (priorities, passions), but my second baby, my Otis, he’s been my teacher. Over the last year, he’s taught me that love can be layered, love can be complex. He’s taught me what real patience is, what real humility is.
He’s taught me grace.
As I recognized that my love for my second child differed from my first, I found myself feeling guilty, feeling as if it meant I loved Otis less or that I wasn’t a good mother. But I’ve come to realize that that’s not the case, that if anything, it makes me a better mother for my children; it allows me to see them as individuals, and see each of our relationships as unique and special in their own ways. I look forward to seeing how our relationships continue to evolve as my boys grow up.
I have trust and faith that the love I would have for any future children would be a similar experience. The love for the new child would be different than the love I have with each of my two boys already. It’d be fantastic in its own fabulous way. Otis taught me this, and in doing so, he added a richness to my life that I could never have imagined. I never knew how badly I needed this special soul in my life until he was here. That fact alone makes me feel like the luckiest lady in the world.
If Bode’s love was fireworks, Otis’s love was a slow glorious burn, like the coziest, most wonderful burning fireplace you’ve ever had the joy of sitting by. His love was there, it just took time to build up, to surround me and fill me. There is room in my heart for both fireworks and fireplaces, I love and crave them both — each in their own special way.