I’m not going to write a post about MJ’s birth because there isn’t much to say. I made it to full term without any signs of labour and at 40 weeks 2 days we arrived at the hospital for our back-up plan c-section. The operation went smoothly and at 9:41 am Matthew James was born.
I do, however, want to record some of my thoughts about the early days of MJ’s presence in my life before it all recedes into a haze.
There’s no denying that for many reasons I found this pregnancy more difficult than my first. Every pregnancy is different and with a toddler and a very demanding job life was already pretty challenging; the addition of an unexpected pregnancy really amplified those difficulties. I was physically uncomfortable, and didn’t really feel that healthy ‘pregnancy glow’ I experienced with Will.
Although the pregnancy was welcome and cherished, I wonder whether it’s unexpected nature contributed to my less positive experience. The first time around I worked for the pregnancy; I spent months planning for pregnancy and imaging how it would feel. The second time around the opposite was true – the pregnancy required me to change my view of what my life would be like. If I’m honest, I’m sure that coloured how I experienced the pregnancy.
All that aside, however, this pregnancy was physically more difficult. Surprisingly my pelvic instability, although starting earlier, was actually less problematic than last time. However I experienced 20 weeks of significant morning sickness, followed closely by significant abdominal pain and discomfort which I endured for many, many weeks. My first pregnancy felt natural – I felt like it was something I was good at. This pregnancy, despite occurring ‘naturally’ (that term makes me cringe) felt somewhat unnatural. Like many women by the end of the pregnancy I was ready for it to be over.
A tiny part of me was concerned though; I admit that I wondered if my comparatively negative experiences would continue once the baby was born.
Interestingly, during the pregnancy I never worried that I wouldn’t love this baby as much as I love Will. I was sure that I would love my second son just as I did my first. When MJ was born however, I admit it felt a little anti-climactic. Yes, I loved MJ, but it didn’t feel like the powerful, all-encompassing in love that I feel for Will. I was scared that I would never feel as much love for this new, unplanned baby. I spent a day feeling oh-so-happy but also slightly anxious; and then I realised something. I was comparing apples with oranges. I was comparing the love I felt for MJ, this new, somewhat unformed and unfocused being, with the love I feel for Will, the rambunctious, hilarious toddler of today. The toddler that I know, and that knowing is the difference. I didn’t love MJ less, the quality of love was just different. I love Will for being Will; I loved MJ solely because he was my baby. I’m sure, in retrospect, that it was the same with Will – I simply didn’t have anything to compare my love to.
I still haven’t discussed any of these initial feelings with anyone – with the exception of a couple of conversations with my mother in which we talked about the differences between first and second births, the fact that the second time around it is no less wonderous but doesn’t have the same life-changing quality. I haven’t kept quiet out of guilt, rather it just doesn’t seem important now that I understand my feelings.
Once I reached that understanding I relaxed and just allowed myself to enjoy MJ. I still compare the two boys, but now it’s done out of curiosity rather than fear. Already, at 7 weeks of age, I can feel my love for MJ changing; I can feel myself starting to love him for who he is. And I know that my love will only grow with each and every day, each new trait he reveals to me will deepen my love for him. The well from which that love springs is infinite, for both of my sons.
With all that said, it feels like the comparative difficulties of pregnancy have continued into the neonatal period. Like his older brother, MJ is a champion feeder, but in the early days his latch wasn’t as easy and I suffered with painful grazed nipples and a mild case of mastitis. Although I felt almost back to normal by two weeks following the caesarean, the recovery period (although quick compared to most) didn’t feel quite as painless. And MJ hasn’t been an easy baby. In retrospect, Will wasn’t the easiest baby either (although I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time), but caring for MJ has felt more difficult. I’m sure that balancing the needs of two children contributes to the difficulty but both my husband and I have agreed that MJ can be a challenge. He is unsettled and suffers from some reflux. It can be very difficult to settle him to sleep and during the day he tends to only catnap for periods of 10 to 20 minutes. He hates being put down and tends to fuss if I’m not holding him – something that I simply can’t do all day while also caring for Will.
I’m lucky that as far as toddlers go Will is generally easy-going. Yes, he throws some epic tantrums, and he’s a bossy, opinionated kid, but he is supremely good at entertaining himself and is pretty understanding that I can’t always play with him when he wants. He also loves MJ and has never shown the slightest resentment towards him. (I make a point to say thing like “Mum is busy” rather than using MJ as the reason Will can’t have what he wants, but I’m still quite aware that there will be periods of resentment or rivalry in the future.)
In the last week or two MJ seems to have settled down somewhat. We have made some changes to help with his reflux and either those measures or his age seem to be improving the situation. He has, on occasion, actually settled himself to sleep, something that makes me irrationally proud and was something Will was never able to do until we sleep trained him at, I think, seven months.
Although we still have some very difficult days, lately they have been fewer and further between. One thing I learnt from Will’s babyhood is that these changes often occur with no clear explanation and are unpredictable in nature. With that in mind, I want to neither court disappointment nor allow myself to worry about what may not come to be, but simply enjoy those times that MJ is easy and not allow myself to feel hopeless during the difficult times.
That would be a valuable lesson to remember throughout their childhoods.