Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Guilt of the Second

I was an only child for nearly nine years of my life and I hated it. I lived next door to and spent a lot of time with a family who had three children in rapid succession and I was so jealous. They seemed so happy and so full of life. My own house was so adult-centric and so lonely.

Everyday I begged my parents for a sister or a brother. I cried when my aunts and uncles announced their second pregnancies and asked why my parents kept refusing to give me a sibling. And then they did. The day they told me my sister was coming was one of the best days of my life. I screamed and cried with happiness and ran around the neighborhood shouting the news.

Even now, 23 years later, I can say that I have no regrets about getting a sibling. I cannot imagine the loneliness I would have felt had I remained an only child, particularly after losing my mother.

For my own family, I have always envisioned something more like my neighbors' home than my own. In the months following Sam's birth, I did have some moments where I wondered if we should stick with one. But for the most part, I have always had the idea of a semi-large family with the kids close together. I think siblings are the best gift a parent can give their child, schmaltzy as that sounds. They teach sharing and cooperation. They make homes less lonely and they add drama and new elements to a family that I think are necessary and beautiful. So why am I struggling so much with guilt?

Almost from the moment I found out I was pregnant again, I have worried about Sam. She is so small and still so needy. How will this new baby affect her? I love that she thinks the world revolves around her right now. I love that she gets all of my attention as well as all of R's and both of our families'. She is the queen bee and she is about to be dethroned.

I realized today that the reason I am struggling so much with our two days a week of daycare is this guilt. I want to spend every waking moment with Sam. It is the same guilt that compels me to want to wake her at midnight so that I can get in another hour before I go to sleep. It just feels like there is not enough time to appreciate this phase.

In two months there will be another baby who I know I will love just as much as her. She will have to share and learn to wait to get some of her needs met. Even though I know rationally that this makes for a healthy human being, I worry about what she will feel in those initial weeks and months. And while I have many preparation plans, there is really nothing that can help an 18-month-old understand that their little life will never be the same.

As parents, we can't really escape guilt. Had I chosen to keep her an only, I know I would have felt enormous guilt over that and probably had major regrets at the point where it became too late. Had we waited longer, I would have felt guilty because I hated being so far apart from my own sibling. It seems that there are always more paths that we could choose and benefits to them all.

I am told the guilt is normal and that every second-time mother has these feelings. I just hope it goes away at some point. To a much smaller degree, I felt this with Rocky before Sam came along and somewhere in the back of my mind, there is the nagging fear that the way I now feel about Rocky is the way I will soon feel about Sam. I realize he is a dog and she is a human and the two are not comparable, but it still scares me that my love for Rocky has diminished so dramatically since her birth. Don't get me wrong, I am still a dog lover, but his little quirks drive me crazier and I am much quicker to give him time outs and much slower to cuddle him. He used to be our baby, too.

This pregnancy is so different than my first in so many ways and I feel guilty to him for that as well. I have not had any time to really bond with him or appreciate his impending arrival. Right now, it feels more like a burden than anything else. Of course I know that I will love him and laugh at my fears one day, the same way I once did with Sam. But from where I sit now, my main feeling when I think about August is dread. Our lives right now are so beautiful. I love our little family so much and right now it is hard to see this as an beautiful addition because it is so unknown.


Lis Garrett said...

Oh, my heart goes out to you! If it eases your guilt, even just a fraction, Sam will never know a time without her brother. My oldest two are 27 months apart, and Hannah can't remember there ever being a time when Jacob wasn't around. And even with Bridget coming so far after the other two, I can barely remember what our family was like without her. I really don't know what to say other than life will be good (hard, but good) with two. Yes, Sam will need you, but I think you will be surprised at how easily she adapts to the new situation. She has a baby doll, right? Perhaps you could start carrying it around and talk to it as if it were a real baby. See how she reacts and practice with her. Sure she will get jealous; it's par for the course. Heck Bridget, at almost 3, freaks out and says, "My Mommy!" whenever Jacob wants to sit next to me. I have no doubt you'll handle it well and everything will fall into place. The first three months are always the hardest, I think. But I bet you will hardly recall a time without two kids to love.

Best wishes.

Kristi said...

As I'm sure you already know, I absolutely could have written this very post myself. Just tonight, as I was rocking Isabella before putting her in her crib for the night, I started tearing up, thinking about how it's not going to be "the two of us" for very much longer. I have no words of advice (I'm the same boat), but I know, deep down, that we're giving our daughters a gift by giving them siblings. It just doesn't seem that way right now.