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.