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The Last Thing I Expected About Becoming a Mom of Two

Photograph by Twenty20

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.

Annoyance.

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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 immobility.

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.

"Push 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.

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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.

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