When I was pregnant with my second child, I spent a lot of time
wondering how the arrival of a new baby would affect my 2-year-old son. Would
he feel abandoned? Resentful? Would he feel left behind when he stayed with my
parents while we were in the hospital with his little sister?
I worried, too, about my relationship with my son. How would
I maintain the tight bond we'd established?
Would I love our new daughter, then unknown to us, as much as I loved the little
boy I already knew so well? How would I manage to make space for one-on-one
time with my son?
But when our daughter arrived, all sleepy and snuggly, I was
surprised by the emotion I often felt around my son.
Every time I sat down to nurse my daughter, he acted out. He
jumped on the couch like it was a trampoline, and he crawled up on the dining room
table. He knew I couldn't just leap up and whisk him off while I was
nipple-locked to my daughter, and he took full advantage of my temporary
I also didn't expect to feel so protective of my new baby. During
my pregnancy, I'd thought so much about how to protect my son. But each time I
put my girl down on the floor for a few minutes, my son circled her like a wild
dingo. He also had an intense fascination with her pale, near-bald head.
the button?" he once asked, reaching his index finger toward her soft spot.
"No! Don't push the button!" I hollered, sweeping my
daughter into my arms. The only buttons being pushed were mine.
My son was my first baby. How could I feel like he was an intruder?
Though I still worried about my son, I was unprepared for
being constantly on guard to protect my daughter from his toddler boy energy. I
felt like I had to pick sides, a domestic version of "Sophie's Choice," and my
helpless daughter's safety came first.
And nothing could have prepared me for how much I ached for
alone time with my new baby. My daughter arrived with a sweet, mellow
personality. She slept well and smiled often. Contrasting with my son's colicky
infancy, which had felt interminably long, I knew that this time around the
days would fly by. I wanted to be present for her brief babyhood, but with a
toddler to take care of, it was much more complicated. My attention was
constantly divided, trying to meet both of their immediate needs. I wasn't
parenting; I was triaging.
My son was my first baby—he'd made me into a mother. How
could I feel like he was an intruder?
Fortunately, this painful stage was short-lived. One of the
best and most painful parts of parenting (and life) is that everything changes.
The sweet parts melt away, as do the difficult times. We slowly acclimated to
being a family of four. My daughter's infancy flowed into toddlerhood, while my
son morphed from a preschooler into a boy.
The mysteries I pondered during my pregnancy with my
daughter have been solved. If my son ever felt abandoned or resentful by his
sister's arrival, those feelings have long been absorbed (perhaps to come up in
future therapy). They are, like many siblings, each other's best friends and
fiercest tormentors. Almost four years later, we have to squint to remember what
life was like before our daughter's birth.