I love my kids more than my daily lattes (that's a hell of a lot). I clearly remember how it felt to be pregnant the first time, however awful the side effects, because that beautiful baby was going to make me a mother for the very first time. When I discovered I was pregnant with our youngest five years later, I battled a lot of feelings I wasn't prepared for. Things I didn't realize would happen to my first kid when I got pregnant with my second because, guys, the guilt. Oh, the guilt.
My daughter, the one who gave me the title of "Mommy," is a bright-eyed, energetic little powerhouse. We got off to a rocky start when my postpartum depression (PPD) hit hard. Due to breastfeeding issues that exasperated my depression and anxiety, we didn't bond right away. In fact, it took a few months before she actually felt like "mine." It's a time I look back on with deep regret, because my girl so obviously deserved much better than I was capable at the time. Once I got help, I devoted my time to mending the split in our relationship, hoping she wouldn't remember the moments when I wasn't all she needed me to be.
The first four years of her life (aside from my PPD), we were inseparable. Being a stay-at-home-mom meant I was her person. My partner, her father, worked long hours, leaving just the two of us. I was still learning how to navigate my own life while simultaneously learning so much about caring for her. I took all our time together for granted, but only realized it once I became pregnant again. Suddenly, it wasn't just about the two of us anymore and I hope, in the time since, I've managed to make up for that. Here are some things my daughter struggled with when I got pregnant that I totally understand.
She Became Clingy
My daughter came out of the womb saying "baby do it." She's fiercely independent, to a fault, and rarely wants my help doing any damn thing. However, once I was pregnant, all of that went out the window. She wanted me to do everything, often following me from room-to-room to be sure I saw her and heard her. It wasn't normal behavior for her and, honestly, I hadn't expected it (though, arguably, I should have). I did my best to show her Mommy wasn't going anywhere but let me tell ya, it was rough.
Sleep Disruptions Were The Norm
After initial sleep training went in effect, she suddenly regressed enough for us to notice. She began getting up through the night, even sleepwalking at times, and had a few accidents even though she was fully potty-trained. At the time, it was frustrating. My body was growing a new baby and I was tired.
However, once I realized the two things were related, we took steps to ensure she got back on the right track. This period of time was also rough, you guys.
Now let me be clear: my independent girl has always had a bit of an, err, attitude. However, I wrote it off as part of her feisty personality; a trait she probably got from me, if I feel like being totally honest.
While pregnant again, I noticed her tantrums grew in strength and duration, mostly over really stupid things. Of course she wanted my attention and of course she didn't know how to deal with not being the only child anymore. It's a lot for a little one. I guess she was helping prepare me for another round of "terrible twos" for when her brother came along. Thank you?
She Was Jealous Over Baby Things
As an only child, my daughter was used to having things her way. She didn't know any different and it wasn't her fault. She was the first of ours and the first grandchild on both sides so she was, and is, pretty special. I thought she had plenty of things and never realized what an issue it would be to receive baby gifts. Once they started showing up at the house, she wondered where her presents were. Thus, another tantrum was often triggered because she couldn't understand where she fit in all of this. Honestly, if it were me (and it was many years ago), I'd feel the same.
She Needed Me In Different Ways
While I managed my way through this high-risk pregnancy on a daily basis, my "baby" started needing different things from me. Instead of having a diaper to change, or even potty training, she'd dress herself (underwear and all). Instead of warming a bottle, she wanted me to cook her a hotdog. Instead of snuggling the way we always had at night, she started tearing herself away as a means to find her independence again.
I see now she was merely trying to figure out her role as we waited for her baby brother but back then, I was sad she wasn't my "baby" anymore. I know she was, too.
She Seemed To Grow Up Before My Eyes
Along with that independence, my little sweetheart changed throughout those nine grueling months. I don't know if I stopped paying the kind of attention I had before or if she really changed that much, but it was clear — she was growing up. I think at some point she knew there'd be another little one for me to care for soon, so she took it upon herself to move long. Now that my youngest is a year older than my daughter was then, I see how incredibly young she was (even though it didn't feel like it at the time). If I could go back, I'd hug her and never stop.
She Was Scared Of Losing Me
All of these things equated to one important realization: she was just afraid of losing me, as her mother and hers alone. She never shared me before so how could she know what it'd feel like? Honestly, I was scared, too. I was scared of losing the bond we worked so hard to achieve, of not being the two of us, and of caring for a new baby when this bigger baby still needed me. I was afraid I wasn't enough, and couldn't be. This fear would never, and still has never, dissipated but, hey, we're learning.
If I could go back and give my pregnant self some advice, I'd tell her one thing: no matter how much pregnancy steals from you, no matter how excited you are about the baby, no matter what seems to change, always make sure that little girl knows you love her no less. In fact, make sure she knows that, possibly, you love her more. Because she's the one who gave you the gift of motherhood in the first place, and that can never be replaced by another.