A good friend recently asked me how you can split your love between 2 children. Can you love a second child as much as you love your first? My immediate reaction to this is yes, yes and yes. You can love more than one child, equally because love is not finite. The well never seems to empty and the more you drink from the well the more it fills.
Love grows; it doesn’t wilt and fade away.
But it’s a question that all of us have asked ourselves and that simply because our love for our child is so overwhelming and so encompassing that sometimes it borders on scary. How much more of this love can you have before you burst?
I remember that wave of emotion when I had my first baby 9 years ago. Your chest swells and your stomach tightens and you sometimes think you could squeeze your little bundle to death with the amount of love that you have.
Love for a child is different than any other love. It sounds corny but it’s true.
But does this differ from the love of a second child? Or more? The answer is no but the journey is different.
Expecting your first baby is all about you becoming a parent. We obsess over the pregnancy, the new body shape and the elevated love and respect that you have for your husband and wife. It’s not that a baby gives your relationship meaning, or more meaning, but it does give it a whole new direction.
At the end of my first pregnancy and seeing a baby emerge was quite the experience. I don’t think I have the words but my rambling thoughts went something like this.
“It’s a baby, It’s a girl. She’s perfect. How did we do that? From that thing we did 9 months ago, there is a baby with a brain, a heart, a whole complex human being.”
All first time parents watch and coo over their first born. It’s natural. We’re curious and we’re learning.
But even though by the time our second baby is born, we know what to expect, it is no less amazing.
The only difference, having come full circle with my first, was it easier to imagine those little feet and those little hands poking through my stomach during the pregnancy.
For me, I didn’t obsess over my pregnant stomach for my second and subsequent children because I already had a child or 3 that needed to be looked after. It wasn’t that I was neglecting my unborn baby, but because I had been through pregnancy before it felt comfortable and familiar that I didn’t need to focus on it so much. I stole my moments in the shower to hold my swollen belly and talk to my baby but the pregnancy wasn’t the centre of my world as much as my first pregnancy was.
Having said that, I had my 4th baby 7 months ago and when he was placed on my stomach after birth, we looked at each other and that swell of love was there again. Instinctively, I took him and fed him and talked to him like we had known each other for years.
And every little milestone he reaches brings me joy and a massive smile to my face. It’s the same milestones his other siblings reached, but it never gets dull. The first babble or roll or smile or the feeling you get when they fall asleep with their head resting on your neck.
No, love never runs out.
The next question to ask is will you be able to give each child the attention they deserve?
Those first couple of years are tricky, no doubt about it. Having a toddler who is still trying to make sense of the world and a newborn is very time consuming. But I found that while the toddler slept, the baby was awake and vice versa so there was still plenty of one-on-one time.
And let’s not forget, first born children are always developing a new skill which keeps the focus on them. That’s what makes first born children special. Their firsts are our firsts too.
And babies are so damn cute they naturally have this gravitational pull.
But asking yourself if you will end up neglecting one child over the other is a valid concern. I believe that if you are intuitive enough to ask this question then you probably won’t neglect any of your children.
Is this true all of the time? Sadly no, there probably will be a time when one or the other will feel neglected; whether you have 1 or 6 children. Is that neglected feeling a constant? That is the question.
Am I shortchanging them by having to spread myself across 4 children? I don’t know if shortchanging is the right term but I certainly have taken down a path they might never have experienced had I only had 1 or 2 children.
It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realize that obviously my individual attention to each of them is less. But I have discovered something in all of this. My children don’t always seek out my attention because they have each other to play with.
When they seek my attention, I give it to them; I at least try to. And if I can’t right at that moment, I make sure I follow through later.
Now this post is not meant to be a “parents of only children are doing their children a disservice” lecture. It is not my place to judge. Let’s face it I could be accused of leading with my chin because I have 4 children.
How many children you decide to have is your decision and yours alone. There will be enough love and if there is love, attention will follow.