These were the words Roz threw at me a few weeks ago on the bus.
We were on our way home from one of out trips, sitting snuggled up in the bus. I’d like to say we were doing something educational but, I was on Facebook and she was playing a game on my tablet.
Apropos of nothing, she looked up at me,
‘Mummy, when the baby comes, you won’t have any time to play with me.’
I felt completely blindsided.
‘And you will love her more than me’.
I just…..I was…..
What does one say?
How was I supposed to tell her that I was afraid I’d love the baby less? How could I say that what I worried most about was that after growing to adore her over five years, I was afraid my heart wouldn’t be able to expand and envelop this other child whom I hadn’t met yet? I couldn’t. So I said the only thing that would comfort her, and hoped would be true for me.
‘I won’t have a lot of time to play with you, but your dad will. And when the baby gets bigger, you’ll both have my time and you’ll play together. Will I love her more than you? Roz, do you know how much I love you? A billion squill ion gajillion times.’
I spread my hands out as far as I could and, pretending to strain, said, ‘see, I love you so much it can’t even fit into my arms’.
And that seemed to be okay. She smiled and went back to her game and I….well, it wouldn’t go away for me.
So many people say as each subsequent child arrives, your heart expands and you’re capable of more love than you were aware of. You don’t love the first less in order to divide the love you already have, your heart grows more love to encompass the new child.
I wanted to believe it, but somewhere there was a tiny sliver of doubt. Because, when Roz was born, I didn’t have the rush of love everyone talks about. You see it everywhere, people talking about the first time they saw their baby and fell utterly in love with this tiny little human.
I was overwhelmed with wonder at this perfect little person who had lived inside me, and then felt completely overwhelmed at the thought that I was responsible for feeding, washing, caring and keeping this person alive for the next eighteen -EIGHTEEN!- years. I was nearly panicked by the thought each time. I remember sending off texts and emails letting people know she was here and feeling like a complete fraud. How couldn’t I love this little being? How? Something had to be wrong with me.
And then I got a call from a friend, that pulled me back from this strange place I was pushing myself, unconsciously, into.
She had just had her first baby six months earlier and, as though reading my mind, said if I didn’t feel this gush of love everyone talked about, that was okay. She hadn’t felt it. It had taken her a while to grow to love this new person that entered her life, that she knew nothing about. Something that had been holding my heart in a vice-like grip loosened up that night and I felt I could breath a bit better, and over the weeks, I got to know Roz, her little quirks, her smile, the way her face twisted when she needed burping, or needed to poo, the smell of her head, the touch of her tiny hand…all of these things made me grow to love her.
And now looking back, with this new little person, it’s so easy to judge yourself as not ‘maternal’ enough. And yet, who decides what a ‘real’ mother should be? There is no one way to be a mother, no way to be perfect. Never was D.W. Winnicott more right than when he said all we have to be, is good enough.
So this time around I took the first look at my new daughter and let the marvel of someone so tiny and perfect wash over me. There was no gushing love, and I didn’t worry about that. I studied her face, her hands, her little ears, the big brown eyes so like my own. And I looked at Roz, so excited to meet her new sibling, touching her hands, her head, smiling at her smallness and just loved my big girl more than I can express.
And over the last two weeks, I’ve spent so little time with Roz that I’ve gone to bed some nights feeling guilty. Gone is climbing over me, rugby tackling me for hugs, being carried when she’s tired. Most because the c-section healing makes this impossible. Krzys has been there for her, doing everything I can’t while I stay home and breastfeed, and that’s made it easier. We’ve explained to her that yes, I will spend less time with her, but daddy will spend a whole lot more, and if she needs me, I’m right here.
And over the last two weeks, how do I describe getting to know another little human? The way she stares at me, so alert; the way her little hand curls around my finger in her sleep, the different way she breathes, the way she sticks out her tongue when she’s full…it’s easier, this time, falling in love.
Do I love her more than you, I’d like to say, no. I love you so differently it’s impossible to describe.