When my firstborn Bradley was 18 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. It wasn't exactly a surprise as we had decided to try for another baby a little earlier than planned, since it did take us almost a year to conceive Bradley.
Except, we weren't expecting it to happen this early. From the moment I peed on the stick and saw the two lines, it was a whirlwind of emotions. I remembered grinning from ear to ear while still sitting on the toilet, staring at the test kit in my shaking hands.
The excitement came, then joy, then fear and finally, guilt.
Oh, the guilt of the second-time (or more) mum ― it stings so badly, yet there isn’t much you can do to lessen the guilt. I am still learning every single day and grappling with the fact I now have two rugrats in my care.
Just the thought of him having to deal with all these raw emotions made me a train wreck.
Guilt towards my firstborn
Immediately, I began to feel sorry for Bradley. Like really, really sorry. Sorry that he would have to learn to share his mummy with another being and sorry that I would not be able to give him my fullest attention in time to come.
Sorry that he would have to go through this at such a young age ― when he probably doesn’t understand why his mummy is putting him in the back seat.
Sorry that he will have to deal with jealousy, an emotion he had never experienced before.
Sorry that he will feel that he has to fight for attention with the new sibling.
I left my job to be a stay-at-home mum after he was born, so we had never left each other’s side. Just the thought of him having to deal with all these raw emotions made me a train wreck.
Each time I thought about it or discussed the issue with my husband, I cried. Every time I played with him, read with him, sang with him, fed him or simply just stared at him while he played triggered the water works. It could have been a combination of the pregnancy hormones, but this guilt game was strong.
Guilt towards the new baby
As if the guilt towards my firstborn was not enough, I began feeling guilty towards my unborn baby, whose gender I didn’t even know yet.
With my first pregnancy, I was diligently taking my folic acids and prenatal vitamins, while busy Googling “foods to avoid when pregnant”. I went cold turkey on coffee and referred to What To Expect When You Are Expecting like it was the Bible. After every gynae checkup, I would spend some time updating my pregnancy journal with messages to my unborn baby.
I did everything you could imagine, just to make sure I was bonding with my baby and enjoying the pregnancy. They say the child usually knows when his mother is expecting another baby, and starts acting up. This, indeed, seemed to be true.
Bradley started becoming extra clingy and whiny ― and this was on top of his usual clinginess! With a toddler in tow, coupled with morning sickness, the second pregnancy wasn't off to a very good start.
I was still diligent with the supplements but I had no time to Google “is instant coffee lesser the evil than ground black coffee”.
I was still diligent with the supplements but I had no time to Google “is instant coffee less of an evil than ground black coffee?” and “what happens if you crave coffee?”. I just had to have coffee. Not because I was sleep deprived (well that, too), but mostly because I craved instant coffee so badly. I was never an instant coffee person, but my second pregnancy made me crave it so much I had to have a cup every day.
My What to Expect when You’re Expecting book was collecting dust on my bedside table. Mind you, I did take it off the book shelf and place it on my bedside table, I just never got round to reading it because I fell asleep the moment my head touched the pillow.
The various apps that tell you what sized fruit your baby is at week X? I barely touched those. I clipped together all the ultrasound scans for my pregnancy journal but I’m so sorry to say, Clara is now 16 months old and the journal is still incomplete. Talk about feeling guilty!
Multiplying the love? Dividing the love?
Before Bradley came along, I didn't know I could love someone or something so much. Of course, I love my husband but mothers will agree with me that the love for your husband is different from the love you have for your child.
I love Bradley so much that I began to wonder if I would be able to love my second baby as much. It was hard for me to imagine loving another person the way I love my son. As my due date drew closer, I frequently doubted my ability to love my second child. It hurts to say it out loud and I was embarrassed that I even thought of it, so I made sure I kept it to myself. I was, however, worried that my baby could sense these feelings in utero.
So, I asked around ― asking experienced mothers with more than one child, how do they divide their love among their children. One wise mum told me, “your love doesn't get divided among your kids, it just multiplies!”
Back then, I didn’t believe it. But when Clara was born in July last year, everything changed. Yes, you can love both your children equally. Your love is not something that runs out.
“Your love doesn't get divided among your kids, it just multiplies!”
I asked another mum if favouritism was inevitable. She was said “yeah, whoever is the better behaved one that day is my favourite. It changes every day”.
My point is, there are days where one or both kids drive you up the wall and push your buttons. You WILL feel like you are going to explode. But at the end of the day, you will still love them dearly and wholeheartedly.
Bradley is now 3½, while Clara is 1½. My life is still topsy-turvy and I still feel the guilt every single day. I feel guilty when I finally get my one-on-one time with Clara when Bradley is in school, and guilty when Bradley waits for his sister to fall asleep before mummy tuck him in.
But when I see the two of them playing happily with each other, I know that in time to come, they will learn to appreciate each other and be thankful that they have each other to lean on for support.
Meanwhile, I will just have accept that my guilt is here to stay and I’ll have to learn to express my love for them in many different ways.
Pauline Choo is a stay-at-home-mum to Clara, 1, and Bradley, 3.
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