Falling in love again

I have blogged before about my anxieties and concerns about having a second child, while I was pregnant and even before. I have ummed and ahhed about whether or not to blog on this subject for many reasons, but want to get some of it out, so have decided to go ahead. It may be a little self-indulgent and overly long – you have been warned. I am not looking for comfort, for support or advice. Just an opportunity to get some of it down in black and white – it’s all a bit easier to cope with in that beloved format.

Nearly seven weeks ago now, on 20th February, my daughter leapt into my life for real, and the whole experience has been nothing like I imagined. From labour to every day life, everything has been different to the first time, and it’s taken me completely by surprise.

First time round, labour started at night, late, suddenly, intensely and frighteningly. It lasted 23 hours, was excruciating, and ended in an emergency c-section, complete with general anaesthetic and all. This time around, comforted by the prosaic light of day on a grey Sunday morning, I didn’t even realise I was in labour until about 2 hours in, managed to cook American pancakes with bacon and maple syrup for breakfast and even played with J a bit too, before finally conceding that yes, something was definitely happening and perhaps I should phone the hospital.

The pain was still there of course, but it was so much easier to cope with this time. Perhaps just having been through it before was enough – though J was back to back, so perhaps it really was just slightly less painful this time. Who knows. Got to the hospital delivery room at 1pm, expecting to be sent straight home, only to find I was at 4cm and well on the way. 3 1/4 hours later, Lara was born. I shall spare you the specifics, as this post isn’t meant to be about the birth, but it does have some relevance to what comes next, so I do want to say this. The “head” part was the most profoundly painful experience of my life, and one that induced a strange sort of horrified, bottomless panic in me that I haven’t yet managed to shake off. I came out of it all feeling rather as though I had survived a Saw-style ordeal, rather than the most natural, beautiful thing a woman can experience. I still feel slightly like that – I’m sure the feelings will fade in time, but I honestly felt quite traumatised by it, despite having had a rather textbook labour and birth, all in super-quick time.

Afterwards, several people made comments that I must be really proud of myself, doing it naturally. For some reason this rankled slightly. A) I was just as proud of myself the first time around – I never saw having a c-section as a failure. That was just how J needed to come into the world, and I was just grateful that modern medicine allowed both of us to survive it. B) I didn’t feel proud. I felt awful. I felt sore and tired and, in all honesty, slightly humiliated (nothing like an hour of stitching with your legs in stirrups to make you lose a little self-respect) I just couldn’t muster any feelings of pride – I suppose maybe I feel differently about it a few weeks on, but not really. Maybe that will change in time.

Above all though, I felt a bit detached from everything. And it is that feeling of detachment that has really marked these first few weeks for me. I worried enormously before that I would struggle to love two children equally, and my fears were not immediately put to rest, as so many of my friends’ had been. Now, things are evening up, and more importantly I have accepted that I will feel differently about each one of them, and that that is OK. It doesn’t mean one is loved more than the other – although for a while there I thought it might – but there are differences. For one thing, the relationship I have with J is 2 1/2 years in the making, so has had so much longer to mature and intensify. Lara is brand spanking new, and it will take time for us to get to know each other in the same way. After all, just as no two people are exactly alike, no two emotions are either, and all our relationships change over time.

When J was tiny, the sound of his cry would make me want to do the same. I find that second time around, the crying is much easier to endure, and doesn’t provoke nearly the same level of reaction in me. At first I mistook this for lack of bond, but suspect it’s something a little more practical than that – nature seems to know how tough it is juggling children, and perhaps just makes a little adjustment once you’ve been through the initiation of first time parenting.

Overall, I haven’t found it as hard as I thought it would be – or at least, not for the reasons I thought. I was worried about the practicalities, things like bath and bedtime for two, leaving the house, feeding one while trying to placate the other. But that side is really OK – not saying it’s always easy, and I certainly won’t be hitting the high street for some time. Internet shopping is my saviour in that respect. Even the lack of sleep doesn’t seem so bad this time. Maybe our new arrival is a better sleeper than her big brother, or maybe having done it before, and spent the last 2 1/2 years waking for J when needed, it’s just not such a shock to the system. In simple, practical, day to day terms, I am coping; I’m calm and capable and managing fine – though the ironing does build up a bit and I really must hoover the stairs more.

The hardest parts are the ones I didn’t expect so much. I worried about how J would react – in truth he seems to love his sister, despite occasional moments of understandable jealousy. But I didn’t expect the shock of him feeling and looking different, almost immediately. When I returned from my 24 hours stint in hospital, he felt bigger, his features larger; he was heavier, more grown-up, his hands holding mine felt alien. I wasn’t at all prepared for that and it hurt like hell. I cried over that more than almost anything else. My baby, my boy who I had spent the last 2 1/2 years with, the centre of my world – suddenly he had changed, and I wasn’t ready. Even now I notice things that seem different, but now I find it easier to accept. It was a horrible shock at first though.

The guilt factor was one I expected, but still wasn’t quite ready for. Never feeling that I can devote enough time to either one, always feeling guilty for spending time with one and not the other. Looking forward to J going to bed so I can spend time with L, and looking forward to her napping so I can spend time with him. It was like I knew how to love each one individually, but hadn’t got the hang of how to love both at the same time. It was like they couldn’t co-exist, that I only had enough of me for one of them at once. That feeling still remains at times, and will take time to work out completely, but it’s better now – quite simply, I don’t have the time or the energy to worry about it as much.

J starting at pre-school has been a big transition too – and one I could probably fill another rather long blog post about. I may do so as well, so apologies if I repeat myself. Having never really been away from him, never trusting anyone else to care for him, it has been tough for me to see him go. His first session was great, but then illness made him clingy and upset, so the next three were pretty terrible, and I was worried it was more than just illness, that he was going to hate it and miss me too much. Perhaps secretly I wanted him to miss me wildly. But our children never quite love us the way we love them – how could they? Now free of his cold, he had a lovely time on Thursday and seems much happier. Pleasingly though, he does still seem to miss me, and for two 3 hour sessions a week, I think I can let him go. Of course, I then feel guilty that I am enjoying my time without him – I really should have been Catholic, the amount of guilt I seem to accrue on a daily basis.

There are strains elsewhere too, which I shan’t go into in detail – the physical recovery from a natural birth took me by surprise slightly, as I’d always thought it would be quicker and less painful than the c-section. In some ways it was, in that I was more mobile and able to pick J up for a cuddle as soon as I got home. But that was about it really – personally I found it slower and more painful, and with less support as everyone assumed it would be the opposite so there wasn’t the same level of help – or maybe that was just me, stubbornly insisting I could just get on with it from day one. Obviously the lack of sleep and preoccupation with a new baby, couple with OH starting a new job recently have combined to create strains there too, which we are working through steadily – like everything to do with children, there are phases, and they too will pass.

I know everything I am saying is perfectly normal, perfectly par for the proverbial course, but as with anything to do with pregnancy or child-raising, it’s hard to believe anyone else has ever felt the same way or been through the same things. I know plenty of people have it far worse too, though that doesn’t stop me occasionally feeling sorry for myself. Most people I know who have two children didn’t have the detachment or bonding issue with the second. Not that it was an “issue” as such – I just didn’t feel what I had hoped to feel. And then, the other day, I was out with a friend and looked down at my sleeping girl, and suddenly realised that it had happened – I was in love again.

Perhaps I spend too much time thinking about and searching for feelings. By definition the two are discrete – perhaps by thinking about it all a little too self-indulgently, I forgot to actually feel anything. Feeling tends to happen in the moment, it takes you by surprise. Thought is so much colder, more detached – and is not always quite accurate. How you think you feel about someone or something is not always the case – but when faced with something dramatic or threatening, thought doesn’t stand a chance. So for once I am trying to stop thinking so much, (ignoring the rather long blog entry to the contrary) and just get on with it. I have always been guilty of overthinking, of being too conscious of everything I am thinking or doing. Perhaps if I could just shut my head up for a while, it would give my heart a chance to catch its breath.


~ by DelightingintheDetail on April 9, 2011.

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