I am writing this on my phone with one hand. My other hand is cradling my one week old son close to me. He has just finished feeding and his breath is slowing from a pulsing pace to longer, deeper sighs which emit small grunts of what I hope are satisfaction. I stop writing to watch him fall asleep and I take in his closed pink eyelids, his little pout of a mouth, those balled up fists and his ears, which have slightly peculiarly shaped lobes. They are one of the very few things that are the same as those his older brother had as a baby. Because despite my thinking that there's no way he could look like anyone but his older brother, here he is, lying in my arms a completely different baby in appearance, apart from those distinctive ears.
And yet when he appeared, when I first looked at him just minutes old, I felt something I didn't expect. As I held close to me in my arms and studied him intently because I have been so desperate to see this human my body grew and housed and nurtured, I sighed with an odd but still vaguely reassuring feeling; I felt the strangest sense of recognition. It was like, oh yes, I know you. You're the one we've been waiting for.
To say this moment, and the many long hours of labour that led up to it were different from my first son's birth is a wild understatement. Back then, I didn't even look into my son's eyes for ten maybe twenty minutes. For that first time mother who had just experienced 44 hours of long, hard, frightening and eventually heavily medicated labour, the first waves of joy were more about it being over, the ordeal and pain of childbirth. This time, despite it lasting nearly as long and the pain being greater because it was unmedicated, and it all having quite a dramatic ending, my focus, my attention, my heart landed on my boy immediately. And later once I was in bed wrapped in blankets with my 3.8kg baby lying on my chest, then I looked at my partner and said "Thank fuck that's over!" because of course I was delighted it was over.
Maybe this sounds unfair to my first son. Perhaps it sounds like I wasn't in the right frame of mind at the time he was born. It could seem like I was already feeling a denial and resistance to motherhood that later nearly consumed me. My poor firstborn boy who is now three years old. How long did you have to wait for my love to flow the same way it now flows for your little brother? I don't know for certain but I do know that of all the overwhelming feelings that have swamped me in the last seven days the hardest, most aching and bruising of these feelings have hit me as I watch my eldest reel a little at the reality of another life joining our family.
Shock was what I registered first on Baby Bird's face when he met his brother for the first time. Shock and then uncertainty. Then, a need to escape, so he did, leaving me with the baby in my bedroom as he and his father went downstairs to play with the new toy his brother had "brought" him. Since then I have seen so many other emotions wash over him: fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, hurt, rejection or loneliness perhaps. I have found myself desperate to guide him through these feelings but not always able to because of my limited physical means right now, my focus on his newborn brother, and simply not knowing what the right thing to do is other than hug and kiss him and tell him I love him oh so very much. I cling to the fact that among these hard feelings that have left him wide eyed and quiet, we've also seen the gradual appearance of love, pride and excitement.
A few days after that first meeting I put Baby Bird to bed and asked him if he felt sad about the arrival of.his little brother. "I feel scared." He said in response. And that shocked me but I answered honestly, "I'm scared too. And I'm sad that it's no longer just us, but I think we'll be okay if we all welcome Jackson with lots of love and help each other through this strange time, right?". Baby Bird didn't say much in reply, but he giggled when I blew raspberries into his neck.
Because I am all these things. I am filled with love for my second son. I am overjoyed that he is here with us safe and well. I feel so full now our family is complete. But I also feel so overwhelmingly sad that a chapter in our life - my first son's and mine- is so definitely over.
The Saturday after his brother was born, I was resting in bed with the baby curled up on my chest and his brother came to join us. He was watching cartoons on his iPad and then without warning a few minutes later he fell asleep. I put the baby down in his cot and then scooped up my first born and I gathered him on my front, his.weight crushing me and his limbs flopping down either side of my frame. I held him there for a very long time as he slept and as I sobbed and sobbed. My tears wet one side of his head and face, and my chest shook underneath his body but he didn't wake. At some point I gave up trying to stop myself crying. I let it all happen and in doing so this allowed other feelings to find space too. I felt hope for the future; that it wouldn't always be so raw and hormonal and overwhelming. I felt joy at being able to hold my son so close again after being so heavily pregnant. I felt gratitude for two beautiful boys. I felt fear of what a huge responsibility it is to raise these young men. And eventually these big emotions made way for the more mundane as I realised I would need to wake this sleeping three-year-old up if we wanted to get him to bed on time later that evening. And when my attempts failed I smiled to myself that he - a boy who has always resisted sleep so vehemently, even from birth - refused to wake up and that he was royally grumpy when his father had to come up and help me get him up.
In those minutes of holding my firstborn, crying and mourning the end of an era, something else happened. I acknowledged somewhat perversely as I was only four days postpartum, that had we only had one child our lives would have been full. He was always enough, our Baby Bird. In many ways, he was and is more than enough. And I hope he knows this. I hope he knows that he made us a family. I hope he knows that he is the one who made me a mother. It may not have been felt or welcomed the moment he was born, but he is the one that made me a mother in that moment. And he is the one that gave me the ability to love his brother wholeheartedly from the outset. He is the one, my number one. I will never have the same bond with his brother, or anyone else.
Now perhaps this sounds unfair to the sleeping baby who is wheezing next to me as I type one handed. There should be no number ones or priorities now, right? I should love my sons equally, shouldn't I? To be honest, at just seven days into this second chapter of motherhood - being a mum of two- I am clueless about what it feels like to love two children equally. My feelings and emotions are so big and unpredictable and consuming, I can't really make sense of them, and nor do I think it's wise to until the hormones have died down and we have something of a handle on this new reality of ours. I am also broken - physically and on occasion as the story above suggests, emotionally - and I need time to heal. Furthermore, just as I did quite violently with my child-free life, I must now mourn my life as a mother of one. And later, when I have made some progress with all these important things, I will start to figure out how or what it means to mother two children. For now I will just hold both my boys close to me as much as I can, and I will keep telling Baby Bird how much I love him, how much he taught me and how I'm scared too. Because while it's not very nice to be scared, it's a normal feeling and one I hope we'll help each other with as we take each day as it comes as together we care for and welcome this week old miracle who his big brother's strange and beautiful ear lobes.
This is the second chapter of my weekly Motherhood Diary, documenting a year in the life of becoming a mother for the second time. You can read the first edition of this diary sharing my first year of motherhood here. And you can keep up to date with more honest motherhood stories on my Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/asthebirdfliesblog/.
Frances M. Thompson
Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before putting down some roots with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her son around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.