Welcoming a baby into your life is one of the most profound emotional experiences you can have. Welcoming a second baby is equally powerful, but completely unique. Because whereas having your first child will change your life, it's just your life (and you partner's, of course, if you're parenting as a pair). But when you have your second child, your first child's life will change, too. So there are a lot of emotions you experience when your child meets their sibling for the first time that will be new, even though this is far from your first rodeo.
Before my second child was born, my oldest didn't want to her a word about his future sibling. He was like a severe matriarch in a Tennessee Williams play who lives in denial and hisses commands but always maintains her composure. "Are you excited to meet your brother or sister?" I would ask. He would scowl back at me. "No. No sister. No brother." "But darling," I'd press. "Soon the baby is going to come live with us!" Stone-faced, my toddler would reply, "I do not want to talk about the baby." That would end any and all conversation and I would fret about what he was going to do when, indeed, his little sister made her big entrance.
Turns out all his surly brooding was nothing more than bluster. As soon as he saw her he declared, "Oh! She's so cute." Then he dissociated for about an hour and pretended to be a cat, but after that? Yeah, everything was cool. My emotions were, at least on the surface, far more complex, and I have a feeling yours will be, too.
Because obviously. This little baby you've been waiting for for (seemingly) forever is finally going to meet your favorite person in the whole world! You already love your first baby tremendously and now they're going to meet someone you may also already love tremendously. It's a big moment — one you've been imagining since you found out you were going to have another.
What if your older child doesn't like their new sibling? What if they feel passed over or insignificant? What if, in misguided child emotion, they try to hit or hurt the new baby? How is this all going to go down? What is the next step if things don't go nicely? OMG, do they even have to meet at all? Can't we just keep them on separate sides of the house until they're old enough to understand so as to avoid any potential conflict?!
Love is hitting you like a meteorite. You can barely see straight. It's overpowering and fierce and wonderful. You didn't understand how your heart could get any bigger after the birth of your first, but it did. It's like waking up one morning and finding someone has added an entire wing to your house.
"Oh my poor first child! You are used to having me all to yourself and now you have to share me. Why have I done this to you? I am the worst mother in the entire world! And you, beloved second child! OMG I will never, ever be able to give you the undivided attention I gave your older sibling. How will this affect you? Will your full potential be squandered because I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing for you at crucial points in your development? What have I done?!"
Seeing them together like this reminds you of why you decided to have another kid in the first place. There's so much to look forward to with these guys! Playing at the park, reading together, and can we just talk about coordinated holiday outfits? This is going to be fantastic. I'm so jazzed for you!
Just look at them! Look at them next to one another! Have you ever seen two more perfect creatures in the entire wold? (And, yes, I'm including all the best animals, like hedgehogs and kittens and even unicorns.) You guys, I can't. I am just filled with so much love right now. This whole building could crumble around me and as long as I have these little ones I won't be bothered at all. They are amazing. Everything is perfect.
"I cannot do this. I'm barely keeping my head above water with one kid to care for, so there is nothing within me or available to me that would enable me to rise to the challenge of two. We're f*cked. We're all f*cked."
OK, but how exactly is this going to go? How will they get along? How will they adapt to one another? How will you adapt to them? How is this going to change your parenting style as it's existed up to this point? From a logistical and scientific standpoint, this is all going to be fascinating.
Maybe you're realizing how much more work you're going to have to carry now. Maybe this sadness is born of guilt for feeling inadequate or like you're short-changing your kids. Sometimes there's no explanation for these feelings because hormones gonna hormone.
Because all of the aforementioned emotions are happening all at once. It's a lot. It's a whole hell of a lot and it's a massive amount to take in and process.
This is going to be challenging, joyous, infuriating, beautiful roller coaster ride. Recognize that, accept it, sit back, and enjoy.
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