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I'm afraid I won't love my second baby as much as my first

Diane Ashoff has a background in mathematics and a keen eye for baby name trends. She lives with her husband and three children in Florida.

Will my firstborn always be my favorite?

When I was pregnant with my second baby, my greatest fear was one I was too ashamed to speak aloud: Could I possibly love the baby in my belly as much as the one in my lap? I was certain it wasn't possible.

I spent a great deal of time reassuring my toddler that of course we would love her just as much after the new baby came. "New babies bring more love," I dutifully chanted whenever she fretted. I trusted that declaration that nothing could section off a piece of my love for her. But I kept swallowing a separate, uncomfortable fear. Continuing to love my older girl was a no-brainer, but could that new baby really make my heart grow three sizes?

It's not as though I thought my first girl so perfect that no other could measure up or that I feared sibling rivalry. It centered on the fact that I'd never felt maternal love before she came screaming into the world. Loving someone else as tirelessly and fiercely as I had loved only one other human being ever felt impossible.

And it felt like a betrayal.

I had loved my big girl for more than two years. I knew all her quirks and habits and spent nearly every waking moment at her side, and now I was supposed to love another baby — a stranger, to my hormone-addled mind — just as much? Instantly? How in the world?

Rationally, of course, I knew it all would work out, but still. What if it didn't? What if all the parents who insist they love all their children equally were big fat liars? I became fretful I was about to be let in on the world's darkest secret. Then she was born, and, cliffhanger...

I loved her. Instantly and wholly, from the moment they told me it was a girl and she peed all over me. Her big sister came into the room and met her and our hearts all grew at once. Possibly even four sizes.

Thankfully I had that experience to comfort me a few years later when pregnant with my son. I knew for certain he would be every bit as lo— just kidding. I spent all three trimesters once again terrified that surely I couldn't love a third child as much as my first two. Brilliant.

The benefit of hindsight now allows me to see these fears for what they were: The manifestation of my own fears of maternal inadequacy. Every mother has her own.

I'm throwing this out there into the internet ether because even though I knew all the common pregnancy fears and knew some anxiety was part of the package, everyone else's fears seemed more practical and logical. Will I have the time to care for both? What if something goes wrong in delivery? But I felt like no one else was afraid like I was, and what kind of mother questions her capacity to love her children?

Well. A human one, it turns out. Even if I cannot convince other mamas with my words or experiences that they will love — and like — their second babies as much as their first, at the very least I hope they feel a little less alone in anxiety town.

More on anxiety and parenting

I'm terrified my child will die
How moms are climbing out of the darkness of mental illness
Things that terrify me about being a mom

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