Dear Baby Number Two,
I have to confess to you, Darling Little One, that I am much less of a mother to you than I was to your big brother when he was your age. It’s true. When he was a tiny baby like you, he had my and your father’s full, undivided attention. And now here you are, having to share every waking moment with your brother — your cries growing louder over his increasingly articulate demands for help going potty, for a story, for us to watch him do a new trick, for me to get more cereal, for your dad to build a tower, for so. many. things. His needs are so much more complex now than yours, and so I talk and sing with him while carting you around the house, I help him eat while nursing you, I read bedtime stories to him while trying to bounce you to sleep.
But let me tell you about the other ways in which I’m less of a mother to you.
I’m less terrified of caring for you. I know that I won’t break you. I started out with so much confidence when you came into the world — confidence that took me a long, long time to develop with your brother. I know how to keep you safe and fed and comfortable without having to think about it. I have developed the instinct that I worried would never come with your brother.
I’m less anxious about your fevers, your rashes, your fussiness. I have the experience to know what is normal and what is trouble. I won’t drag you to the doctor over and over unnecessarily. I won’t jump to the worst case possible scenario, and I definitely won’t keep myself up at night Googling every horrible disease you might have. I know when to medicate and how much and how often, and when to just snuggle and rock you, and when you need ointment, and when you need a little time alone.
I’m less frustrated when you don’t nurse well or when I don’t pump as much as you eat during the day. My milk-producing-and-delivering skills and strategies were honed on your brother who was terrible at nursing. I know the tricks now. I have the patience. I realize that you won’t starve, and that it’s not the end of the world if I give you a little formula now and then to make both our lives easier.
I’m less obsessed with your developmental milestones and growth chart. I know that you’ll move and grow on your own schedule and that you’ll be bright and strong and healthy and happy even if you can’t roll over by 4 months (which, it’s not looking like you will).
I’m less sad over the loss of my “old” life. I know now that it’s okay for priorities and friendships and social obligations and schedules to change, and that the fun things I’m losing out on are replaced by immeasurable joy and fulfillment. I also know that eventually I’ll get back to doing more of the things that are put on hold right now. I know my identity is shifting and broadening, rather than being lost.
I’m less distraught over the state of my body. I mean, you really did a number on my body, kid, coming in at a whopping 10 pounds and making me have another C-section because you wouldn’t turn your head the right way to come out. I have scars and stretch marks and a big old poochy belly — much worse than the damage done by your shrimpy little 6-pound brother. But I am able to look at myself and feel pride in growing you so big and strong and healthy. And I also know that I’ll eventually have time to work out again and to plan healthier meals and to lose some of the extra weight. It may take a couple years, but I’ve done it before, so I can do it again.
I’m also less anxious to have you grow up. Instead of wishing and wishing that you’d get bigger, learn to sit independently, start communicating with us, and cooperate with the whole process of getting dressed and having your diaper changed, I find myself saddened when you seem bigger when I pick you up from daycare than when I kissed you goodbye in the morning. I want to keep you tiny forever.
It’s true that you’ll always have to share my attention with your brother. And who knows, maybe someday you’ll even be the proverbially ignored middle child. But right now, I cherish every moment I do have with you in a way I never could with your brother. I love every smile and giggle, every grip of my finger with your tiny hand, every time you fall asleep on me, every bath, every nursing session, every new little thing you do, without fear, without anxiety, without dread, without worry. So you see, it’s because I’m so much less of a mother that I’m actually so much more.
P.S. Let’s just keep this between you and me and not tell your brother, okay?