I have seen the question posed recently ‘Do you favour your first?’ My immediate reaction to that question was ‘absolutely not, I don’t favour either of my kids, I love them both the same’.
However, it is an interesting question, whether or not you love one child more than another, and I’ve been mulling it over a lot recently, and I have come to realize that I do not love both my children the same. This looks shocking when you see it in black and white. I guess I should qualify that statement and say, that I definitely believe I love my kids equally, but differently.
I suppose this is one of the learning curves for me as a mother, one on which I will get better at understanding and accepting that each child is unique in his or her own temperaments, abilities etc. And one on which I get better at modifying my approach and expectations.
When pregnant with my first baby, I was very sick for 5 months and truly wished every day to go faster so we could get to 9 months and have this baby out! Despite this, I was very focused on the baby, I anticipated and imagined how things would be with this new person in our house, when we would go from being just a couple, to becoming a family. The room was prepared, clothes all ready, all the gear, etc etc. When she arrived, we settled into life as a little family of three very quickly, and I was thrilled at how ‘natural’ being a mother felt to me. I trusted my instincts, and never really second guessed myself. She was a vocal child from the start, letting us know clearly when she was unhappy and wanted something done about it, (she’s still like that!). Now at two and a half, she is quite the conversationalist, articulate, funny, independent (downright stubborn if you want to look at it that way) and very outgoing. She is feisty, fun, absolutely adorable, and she has both her Dad and I firmly wrapped around her little finger. She has never suffered more than the occasional cold, and has only once had an illness involving fever – in short – we have never had anything to worry about as far as she is concerned.
My pregnancy with my son started off similar to my first – that dreaded nausea, and the puking sessions – thankfully though they did not last as long. With a toddler in the house to run after – once the morning sickness passed, I barely even remembered I was pregnant. No leisurely afternoons spent choosing baby equipment or décor for my second baby, no dreamy sessions picturing what we’d get up to, what those early days would be like – who had time? I feel guilty about this, and having spoken to other moms with more than one child, I know I’m not alone.
We found out the sex of our second baby at the 20 week ultrasound (something we didn’t do first time around), and while it did help me ‘connect’ a little more – I was truthfully so caught up in life with a toddler, my pregnancy, and my son were almost like afterthoughts. Then at 33 weeks, as if in an attempt to say ‘Hey Mom, it’s me in here, did ya forget about me?’, my baby decided he wanted to come early – I went into preterm labour which thankfully was stopped by a short stay in Labour and Delivery, and a terbutaline shot. My baby boy was determined though, and the following week he tried again – lots of frequent and strong contractions, once again needing the dreaded shot, and a spell on bed rest to help him stay put. And so, with these two bouts of preterm labour began my first real experience of maternal worrying. Even before he was born I have experienced anxiety with this baby that I never had to deal with as far as Miss E was concerned. He was born at 38 weeks, and we’ve had several more bouts of worry since he was born. His arrival face up, caused massive bruising all over his forehead and scalp, which his pediatrician pegged as permanent birth marking – more worry and a tremendous amount of crying as I projected us into the future and the inevitable teasing he would get at school – I cried and held him close, wishing I could just wash it off. Thankfully two weeks later most of it was gone, it was bruising after all. We have had in J’s short 6 months, 2 trips to the ER, several sick visits to the doctor and several follow up hearing tests with an Audiologist who wants to keep an eye on a mild deficiency in his upper frequency hearing. None of these things are life threatening and for that I am eternally grateful, especially when I consider the challenges some mothers face with their babies. J’s personality is very much more subdued than that of his sister. He is a sweet, sweet boy, quiet and very laid back (my guilt complex constantly questions whether this is in fact his personality, or the fact that he has had no choice but to patiently wait for my attention, which is so often demanded more forcefully by his sister?). So while I enjoy this and revel in his differences, I find myself worrying ‘what if he’s really shy like I was as a child’ ‘what if he’s ‘too quiet’?’, ‘what if the hearing thing gets worse?’ and so it goes on. I find myself as a result feeling much more protective of him than I am of his sister. From an early age she has demonstrated that she can get out there and take care of herself if you know what I mean? She will be the ringleader, she marches and others follow – she is the bossy one and so I feel I don’t have so much to worry about with her.
I do love both my children with all my heart – what mother doesn’t? – I definitely love them in very different ways. I'm hoping this is a good thing, and that I can continue to grow as their mother, loving them the very best ways I know how!