Taking Longer to Fall in Love with My Second Baby

August 28th, 2012 by Dionna | 20 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth

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The Taboo Carnival

Welcome to the Taboo Carnival. Our topic this summer is PLAYING FAVORITES! This post was written for inclusion in the quarterly Taboo Carnival hosted by Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This month our participants reflect on favoritism in relationships with children, parents, siblings, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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After the birth of my first child, the intensity of motherhood gripped me with its full force. My chest felt like it would burst with the all-encompassing love that was born along with my first baby. I spent hours upon uninterrupted hours gazing on his sweet little newborn perfection, singing and talking and dreaming and nursing. Our bond has been so tightly woven that I’m convinced we share a psychic link.

When I was pregnant with Ailia, I had a hard time getting excited about baby #2, even though we had tried for her for so long. Mainly, I was sad that pregnancy had killed my milk supply. I was scared that Kieran would be forced to wean and that our relationship would suffer. As it turns out, my two fears were for naught – Kieran went on to tandem nurse, and our relationship has only changed insomuch as he is maturing normally (and, therefore, often prefers the company of his friends to me).

And yet, I still wasn’t losing myself in our newborn like I did with Kieran.

Where were those mama bear moments when I wanted to snatch her back from the arms of an admiring friend or family member? I can only remember three such occasions: once when the person holding her was one I do not get along with, the other two times were when the admirer insisted on tickling her.

Where were the tears? There were few tears of joy after Ailia’s birth. Yes, I was ecstatic. Yes, I reveled in having a sweet, snuggly baby. But after Kieran’s birth, my hormones (and probably a pretty good case of PPD) had me crying at everything – his sweet milky smiles and oya oya oyas, sappy songs on the radio, the thought of him growing up. I cried because I was over the moon happy, I cried because I was terrified at messing up, I cried because I was anticipating going back to work; you name it, I cried about it.

With Ailia, my hormones and emotions have felt . . . off. It’s strange, because in the weeks immediately following her birth, I felt amazing. I had my placenta encapsulated and drank placenta smoothies, and I believe that helped me avoid a severe case of the baby blues. But the lack of tears felt odd to me, like I could not even muster the emotional depth necessary to have a good cry. Perhaps an absence of tears is as much a sign of PPD as the overabundance is.

Where was the time to fall in love? Let’s face it, it’s harder to engage in uninterrupted eye gazing with subsequent children, because we have at least one more major responsibility than we did as a fledgling parent; namely, child #1. In my case, I also have two blogs to maintain that were nonexistent when Kieran was a baby, I work from home part time doing legal research and writing, I co-coordinate a learning cooperative, and I actually have friendships to maintain for both me and Kieran (something I’ve been yearning for for so long1).

In addition, I was struggling with having a girl. I’d been terrified of raising a little girl for a variety of reasons, the biggest of which is fear of her falling victim to sexual abuse. Throughout my pregnancy, I expressed on several occasions that I hoped for a boy. Now I feel guilty for somehow making her feel unwanted, even if she has no way of recognizing that feeling right now.2 And so I’ve been reconciling my previous fears with my true joy in having my sweet little girl. It is a healthy process for me.

And of course there are the complete differences in the personalities of my first and second born children. Kieran was the epitome of a mama’s boy. From the moment we took him home from the NICU, he was always most content snuggled into my arms. He had an early and fierce case of separation anxiety. He literally slept on my chest for about the first year of his life. Both his sleep and his playtime were often sources of frustration for me, because he could not seem to do anything without me constantly at his side. There was never a moment of any day where I did not feel needed.

Ailia is so much more independent. Not only does she sleep next to (instead of on top of) me, she is also much more tolerant about being passed to other arms. She loves Tom and Kieran, and I definitely get less time alone with her, because she is just as happy to hang out with the boys. Her milestones have all happened earlier than Kieran’s, so I’ve had fewer months to have her in-arms, observing the world while snuggled up to me. Speaking of which, whereas Kieran would still be happy in a carrier, Ailia is much less content in any carrier we’ve tried (including the Moby, Ergo, ring sling, and mei tai).

So what does this all mean – is my first-born my “favorite”? No. I do feel that our relationship has been easier from the start than the one I share with Ailia. But that does not mean I favor Kieran.

I love my baby. Not only do I love her, I also genuinely like her. She blows my mind in so many ways. With Kieran, love swallowed me whole, whether I wanted it to or not. It was a helpless, tumbling fall.

This time, it is more thoughtful, more intentional. I feel like I am working a complex puzzle – as soon as I fit this piece here and that piece there, I will discover a perfect pattern of love.

Some mornings I wake up, watch her chest rising and falling next to me, and I get a shiver of that feeling of being possessed by love for her. Other times, I am overcome with a joy that comes from the simple connections I took for granted with Kieran. A special grin we share. Her chubby little hand reaching for me. Hearing “mamamamama” from the next room as she crawls to find me. Seeing the twinkle in her eye as she latches on and cuddles in.

My love for Ailia is planted as firmly and deeply as my love for Kieran; it’s just taken a little more time for me to learn how to nurture those roots.

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Visit Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Taboo Carnival! Enjoy the posts from this month’s Carnival participants!

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon August 28 with all the carnival links.)

  • What makes a favorite? — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders what caused her grandparents and parents to choose favorites. She also considers possible causes for her own favoritism.
  • Taking Longer to Fall in Love with My Second Baby — Dionna at Code Name: Mama fell helplessly, powerlessly in love with her first-born. Love with her second-born has not been as easy, but does that mean #1 is her favorite?
  • Mommy Dearest or Darling Daddy? — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro guest hosts about every parent having faults. Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders why she would prefer one parent over the other and whether this applies to every situation or can it vary?
  • Money and Equality: Should All Your Kids Get the Same? — At Authentic Parenting, Laura investigates whether or not we should provide exactly the same for our children financially.
  • More Than the Kid Sister — Amy of Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work always felt that she lived in the shadow of her older brother’s accomplishments, until her parents made her aware that her personality and passion have always brought them joy and pride.
  • Playing Favourites — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school looks at how her intense parenting style has created what ‘looks’ like favourites but is more causal than reality.
  • There Are No Favorites (I Hate You All The Same) — Amy at Anktangle guest hosts about it being easy to see how a cycle of conditional love can make a mother keep her children at arms reach.
  • Yes, Parents Have A Favorite Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her thoughts on parents having a favorite child and how this may have long term effects on both the favored and unfavored child.
  • On having two kids & not playing fair — Lauren at Hobo Mama learned from her mother that you don’t raise children based on what’s fair but on what’s right for each child.
  • My Kids Totally Play Favourites — Amber at Strocel.com tries hard not to play favourites with her kids – but they make no secret of which parent they prefer.

  • The Ugly Side of Favoritism — Shannon of Pineapples and Artichokes shares a guest post warning: Don’t favor one child over the other.

  1. By the way, I’ve talked to my friends about how troubled I am that it’s taken me longer to feel “in love” with Ailia than it did with Kieran. All of them, without exception, have told me that this is normal. Our children are all different people, we have different pregnancies and births with each one – of course we will not feel the same about them. But they also reassured me not to worry, that love will come in its own time. And it has.
  2. Marcy Axness touches on this a little in Parenting for Peace, I wish I’d read it prior to my pregnancy.

20 Responses to:
"Taking Longer to Fall in Love with My Second Baby"

  1. Kelli

    It’s so wild to read this because I could have written it myself with a few exceptions. One, my first was a girl and my second a boy. But I really wanted another girl and it took me a while to fall in love with the “male” part of my boy (if that makes sense). And my milk drying up truly brought a sadness to my pregnancy that breaks my heart even to remember it. My daughter still nurses occasionally, but the agitation I feel at her nursing makes it a completely different experience than it was before I got pregnant. Tandem nursing is much too intense for me, personally. But I love what you said about fitting the love together in pieces–because that is what I’m doing with him. And I’m finding that seeing the two of them together is where I “fall” in love everyday. It’s just different than it was with her, but truly no less.

  2. laura   mamapoekie

    I wrote about this exact issue a while back: http://www.authenticparenting.info/2012/08/newborn-baby-when-love-isnt-instant.html
    It’s funny how similar our journeys are… We had been trying for what seems like ages to have our second child, to the point of despair. But once I fell pregnant, I had so many doubts. Would we be able to deal with another child? Could I possibly love him as much as my daughter, had we made a mistake? I even wondered *not my proudest moment* if we’d be better of not having the baby, since we had so many issues, as a couple and as a family

  3. Oh yes! Yes and yes, do I relate. When my oldest was born, the connection was instant and complete. When I first laid eyes on him, I felt the world stop. It was only a fraction of a moment, but everything in my world aligned and I actually exclaimed, “Oh!” over and over again. This was “IT” – this was why I was here, what they talk about a mother and get love and I got it. I did not sleep for three days.

    I looked forward to that cataclysmic spiral when my second was born and it didn’t come. I loved him, but it felt muted. Eventually the feelings came, but they weren’t as intense and they were quite gradual.

    No, I don’t have the same bond. The psychic link is not there either. With my oldest, I flat out knew when he was in danger, from clear across the house.

    My second born and I have often been at odds with each other, I feel because we aren’t on the same plane, often. But there are such benefits to having this kind of relationship. Because we work at it, I appreciate it so much more. I wasn’t given to us, we’ve had to earn it and that makes it so valuable. We talk more and in many ways, I know him more intimately than the older, who I can still read like a book.

    I’m going into my own post here, lol.

    Beautiful post Dionna, thank you!

  4. I appreciate your honesty and openness about this, Dionna. I had some guilt early on for not experiencing that immediate, overwhelming love for and connection with my baby following his birth. I loved him tons–don’t get me wrong–but I think in some ways I felt like I just didn’t know him yet. It took a little while to start feeling the all-consuming love that you describe, and for me, it has continued to grow over time.

  5. Amber

    I had a really similar experience, although it is reversed between my first and second born. I had a really complicated pregnancy with my older one and was so drugged I barely remember her birth. She was high needs from the beginning, and very difficult to soothe. Love was there from the start, but I needed some time to access it.

    I was more present for my next birth and fell head over heels with my second-born. She was a serene baby and the love I felt for her was immediate and all-encompassing.

    Even now, I feel guilty typing this, although I feel strongly that I don’t have a favorite. They’re different people I’m deeply attached to them both (as they are to me). I feel very protective of my older daughter because it’s not easy for her to charm others, and they don’t see the amazing soul she has. My little one can make ANYONE smile and has more empathy than anyone I’ve ever met.

  6. Thank you so much sharing. You’ve expressed many of the concerns I have about having our next maybe in the spring. My connection with Burkley is just so *perfect* that I’m nervous about not getting to replicate for no other reason than that this child will simply *not* be him, but will be his or her own person. I know a mother always loves all of her children and there is always room in the heart for more love, but I appreciate the honesty that maybe it will take more time.

  7. I tell people about how I can’t imagine loving another child as much as I do my first daughter. I am due in late November and I *know* I will love her, I just can’t feel it yet. Not only am I more disconnected from this pregnancy because Charlie keeps me so busy and entertained but it’s a much easier pregnancy. No all day sickness, a hearty appetite, and let’s face it. You worry a little less than with the first one. I very much so wanted another girl so I am VERY happy and as of right now, at almost 7 months along, she is SO much more active than Charlie was! She flips and tumbles and kicks and pokes me all the time. I can’t wait to see her little face but it’s the simple fact that Charlie has all of my heart and soul and it’s hard to imagine being able to share it with another person! But I will, and your story is so nice to read, knowing how different of a journey your following children can be!

  8. Violetsouffle

    Woderdully written as always, Dionna. While I can’t comment on mothering a second or third baby&its differences from your first, I can say that it took me a long time to feel like I was in love with Teylor. it was hard in many ways. 7days after she was born I started my final semester of my senior year at Chapel Hill. I was gone from her a pod deal, she was bottle feeding a lot during the day, I hated pumping& resented having to do it. I also hated being pregnant and had very little emotional support as a new mama, plus tons of unresolved personal issues and past abuse that surfaced with childbirth&midwifes violating me. I think it all contributed, but eventually I stopped fighting the things that felt like they needed changing (stopped pumping& nursed her in my class breaks, I stopped trying to make her sleep in a crib&embraced co sleeping, etc). And then I finally felt like I’d found my flow, things gradually felt easier, safer, happier, and I’ve been blissfully in love with her ever since :)

  9. Amber   AmberStrocel

    I think it’s normal that your relationships with your children will be different – they’re different people, after all. I also think it’s normal that one of those relationships will be easier. In my experience, the easier relationship changes from child to child as they go through different ages and stages. It’s a constantly evolving experience, parenting.

  10. Momma Jorje   MommaJorje

    I was so glad I had read that bonding doesn’t *always* happen right away. As obsessed with birth and my new baby as I had been, I would have been SO upset and worried when Tyler was born if I hadn’t been prepared for that possibility!

  11. Fine and Fair   fineandfair

    This is very timely for me. As you know, I’m expecting my second child, and one of my greatest sources of anxiety is wondering how I could possibly love another child like I love my first. <3

  12. Beautifully said. I felt with my second that I just never had a quiet moment to appreciate her because my son was always getting in the way – with the result that my relationship with him was on the outs for a while, and at that point my newborn was definitely my “favourite”. I tried not to let it stress me because I was confident that balance would return after a little while. And it did.

  13. I had the reverse, and now retroactive guilt. I don’t remember being as enamored with Baz right off the bat as I was with Walter. I chalk it up to New Parent Panic, but still, I find myself trying to make it up to Baz. This child-rearing thing is mind-boggling.

  14. Jennifer @ Hybrid Rasta Mama   hybridrastamama

    I just love this post because I think it says what a lot of mothers feel but cannot wrap their brain around. I know that the excitement of my first pregnancy along with being a new mama brought about such a swell of constant, growing emotion. The bond was instant, the love so deep. While I do not have a second child, I can imagine that much like you said, you are simply not able to form the same bond with the same intensity when you have another child or children to love and care for. You have to grow that bond in a different way.

    I have seen my friends beat themselves up with guilt over not loving their subsequent children in the same way as their first. While that loves grows, it grows at a different pace and that is ok!

    Thank you for sharing so honestly. I hope a lot of mamas read this!

  15. Sibylle

    I’m not a mother, so I don’t have much to share on the subject. I have a sister, and we have a totally different relationship with our mother than the other does, but it’s simply because we have very different personnalities (just like Kieran and Ailia I guess !). I think I must have been much alike Ailia, being a toddler. By 10 months, I was walking around, and talking very soon afterwards (by 2, my mum says I could talk entire sentences with no problem). My sister, on the other side, was a very quiet child (she got over that during teen years), and it must have been so much different to take care of the both of us.

    I have to say I enjoyed reading this article. Much more than education / parenting articles (which I can’t really use because I have no children, being 20), I love articles about your children, they sound great. I can’t wait to hear more about little Ailia !

  16. Kerri   giggly_kerri

    We have similar stories, my 1st was born in 2007 and he had a 10 day stay in special care. I was an emotional wreck. My 2nd (another boy when I was hoping for a girl) was born in 2011. He too is meeting milestones a bit faster, but he is such a clingy mama’s boy. It took us longer to conceive (7 months vs 2 months) and I spent much of the pregnancy afraid I wouldn’t love this new baby as much. I had the VBAC I desired and Liam roomed in with us. I would have loved a home birth,but I was afraid of all the cat hair floating around..
    My oldest is a handful, but I often find easier to handle his behavior over the baby’s stubborn independence.

  17. Sofia Green

    I really really love this post simply because it’s real and very heartwarming. All of us have this unexplainable feeling when we gave birth to our 1st child all the love and care is there to the point that we only pay attention to this little kid. Oftentimes, 1st child is more behave and easy to handle that is what I experienced with my child for the 1st 6 months. I don’t know the feeling of having a 2nd baby but based on what I read here seems like it is not the same as the 1st born.

  18. Hannah   mamaOjoy

    It is so funny I had the opposite I struggled to bond with my first baby. It was bewildering and took so much intention. She wasnt what i thought it would be, motherhood wasnt what i expected. She was high needs/fussy and it felt like i couldnt do anything “right”. My second baby (an HBAC that left me feeling like I was hit by a train) was easier-she too was fussy and high needs..but a snuggle bug (still at 3!) and a Mama’s girl. My third baby (HWABC2- now 7mos) I am a puddle, head over heels, “so this is love?” -undone. I am so thankful for this experience, especially as she started creeping/army crawling at 3.5mos and has not liked to be worn- it has been so interesting to see her little personality unfold. for me, having a third baby too has taken the comparison tendency out of the equation. I have really gotten to see how different babies can truly be. It has helped me bond even more deeply with my older two…appreciate the unique journey we have been on…bonding in infancy isn’t “it” it continues.

  19. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    This is such a beautifully honest post, Dionna. Motherhood is definitely different the second time around. I was just talking to a friend with a 1 week old second child yesterday who was mourning the lack of euphoria. I promised her that it will come; it just shows up in such different ways.

  20. Thats a lovely story. I remember how the experience with our second boy was so different and I am delighted you figured it out so well in the end. One thing I always say to friends who are becoming parents is that once you have kids your life never stays the same for long.

    I remember how my wife worried like you that things were different but in the end as long as you make good choices everything turns out well.

    I think its facinating how the first benefits in some ways and the second, third, etc, gets an advantage in other ways. Example – The first gets constant one to one attention, the second has a big brother/sister to learn from.

    We saw our second boy as more confident from the first as he knew what was comming – montessori, school, swim lessons. But you know what. Our first has learned from our second and some of that confidence crosses over. They all copy each other. Just as two adults who live together sort of become each other, so do siblings.

    Parenting is the best experiment in life and when you watch you watch your children grow and developed you know you are withnessing a miracle.

    I think the miracle of children would cause any atheist to doubt themselves!

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