I recently read a poignant article that had gone viral about what it feels like to welcome another child into the family when you have one or two already and it got me thinking about my own experience.
“Having kids is a constant reminder of how fleeting every stage of your life is. When that stage of being a mother to only one child comes to an end, that last hug signifies so much: you are saying goodbye to a time in your life that you will never have again — the time that you and your first child had alone together.”Source: (http://www.scarymommy.com/photo-mom-clutching-firstborn-goes-viral/?utm_medium=partner&utm_source=positiveparents)
I had a slightly difference experience in that my first born were twins. The emotions felt as a mother of one going to two was immediate.
I had to split myself down the centre, and my boys had to share me from the beginning.
While I was pregnant I oscillated between feeling immense pride in being a part of an unique exclusive club of parents of multiples and that of worry. How I would birth, breastfeed, comfort, and emotionally, physically and financially care for two vulnerable infants at once?
When my first twin was born and laid on my stomach it was only long enough to cut the cord and then he was whisked away so that I could birth my second son. He too was whisked away immediately for medical reasons. They were both wheeled down the the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). I had barely laid a hand on either of them.
Later when I went to the NICU to see them. I stood frozen in the doorway looking from baby to baby to baby to baby in their isolettes.
The following days in the NICU were a blur. Both babies needed to be fed and changed at the same time and I felt divided. Back and forth from baby to baby I went, and back and forth I felt drawn to one or the other.
Bonding with two babies was more challenging than I had expected.
If one was struggling medically, then I felt like I loved him more and I felt guilty that I wasn’t spending as much time and energy on his brother.
When my boys graduated from the NICU, I was certain that it would get easier. But without the nurses for support, the real work began at home. There was never time to just cuddle, it was feed, change, switch, feed, change, switch. I was so touched out that I never hesitated to hand one or both off to be held by a visitor or a kind stranger.
As much as I tried to stagger their feeding schedules, newborns are little people with their own schedules, and there were many times when I couldn’t tend to one crying or hungry because I was busy tending to the other.
There were countless times when I just hung my head and cried with them.
I remember grieving over the fact that I didn’t enjoy my experience as a new mother. But I know now that sharing me made no difference to my kids, they never knew what it was like to have me all to themselves. Instead they have something unique and special – they have each other- a wonderful bond.
Wombmates to roommates – they are 6 years old now and are the best of friends.
It wasn’t until I had my third son that I felt that mix of emotions that many mothers of singletons feel when they have their second child. As my estimated due date drew near I wondered and worried about my twins. How would they cope with a younger sibling?
I also worried that my baby coming would be lonely without a twin of his own. Turns out that I had very little to worry about. Finally I got the “single baby” experience and I was able to get the cuddle time in that I missed out on with my twins. My heart grew a thousand times bigger to welcome my new son and in turn I felt an even deeper love for my twins. Our family felt complete and whole. Yes, there were times of jealousy between my boys, and yes, for the first year I missed putting my twins to bed because I was tending to my youngest.
But for me, making the leap to add another child to our family was the best decision of all.
Sarah Baker is a the co-owner of Lifetime of Love Doula Services. She has been supporting families for almost a decade as a birth doula, postpartum & infant care doula and childbirth educator. She is mom to three boys, twins and a singleton.