I wrote this essay shortly after having my second daughter. I am so thankful I put those raw emotions into words because it’s easy to forget the challenges motherhood brings us once we are past them. Facing life with two kids instead of one surprised me with a feeling of loss for what life had been before and I grew from that. I think sharing this with other mothers is important for them to know it’s normal to face strong emotions and things you didn’t expect but you will grow from it all. Mothers I knew had always calmed my fears of not loving my second as much as my first with the words “you’ll be amazed at how much your heart can love.” It seemed impossible to believe when I was pregnant but that’s the thing about a mother’s heart…it can love BIG.
I dug my peeling fingernails into my palms in an effort to halt the impending tears threatening to spill out. How was I not prepared for this? I had read all the right books, made a trillion and one lists. In fact even my lists had lists. And yet I was not. I was not prepared.
I stared at her asleep in her bed. So much the same as she had looked a week ago and yet bigger, older, different. Her dark hair was twisted around her face and brushing her oatmeal skin. I sighed and realized I had been holding my breath, for how long I’m not sure. That was all it took, the tears began to fall and the raw emotion seized me.
I stood over her, sobbing silently for a long time. Why, why had I done this? Why had I changed our life? My heart cried out “there weren’t enough picnics, park trips, and adventures just her and I, there weren’t enough, there weren’t enough.” A feeling of resentment washed through me. Resentment. Resentment for the helpless baby in the next room who had changed things, who had changed us. I was supposed to be able to handle this, to rock this thing called motherhood and yet it was different than I imagined, thicker, stickier.
And then came the guilt. Oh the heavy, heavy guilt. How could I possibly feel like this? Only a few short years ago I had helplessly longed to be a mother, longed for a family and here I was beyond blessed and reduced to tears, reduced to this. How could I feel like this when all of this was because of my choices? All of this was because of what I wanted.
I felt the sting of loss. The loss of what we were. The loss of who we were… mother and daughter, daughter and mother, just us. She remained undisturbed by my blubbering and I slowly made my way back to my room where the baby was peacefully sleeping. I stood over her, gently touched her hair and felt a stab in my heart. It was the kind of stab that comes from admitting the truth to yourself, despite your best efforts to ignore it. She sucked her little lips in and pushed them out in perfect, heart melting, newborn form. I let another sigh escape, reminding me once again to breathe. The love I felt for this baby was no less. No less than any love I’d felt, ever.
Right then, I grew. I let go of the loss of what had been and I grew. I looked ahead to what could and would be and I grew. I had admitted the unthinkable to myself, and I grew.
Time passed and I forgave myself. I forgave those thoughts and feelings of resentment. I accepted my weaknesses and humanity. And I learned even more about this love called motherhood.
This love is constant. This love is growing. This love is ever expanding and pushing the constraints of my heart. Changing it, stretching it. This love is exponential.