“I’m not ready!!” I said (err…yelled) as my second child’s head was emerging out of my vagina and into the world. I didn’t feel ready in that moment and truly, I wasn’t ready for one of the biggest changes in my life – transitioning from one child to two.
With my first child, the birth was long awaited. I was 42 weeks and READY. When he finally arrived, it felt pretty magical. It was painful and quick, but it was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. I was in the birth pool at home with music and candles under a full moon. Shepherd was a great baby. He slept well, was peaceful and I just couldn’t get enough of him.
Three years later, we celebrated his third birthday at our local bookstore with friends. It was also the due date of my second child, a daughter. I hadn’t finished preparing for her arrival as I assumed she would be late like her brother. Surely, she wouldn’t arrive on his birthday. As I walked up the stairs, however, I felt a ‘squish, squish, squish’ with every step I took. Weird, I thought, my water didn’t break with Shepherd, I couldn’t imagine it would break with this baby. Sure enough, water and meconium covered my pants (and also the floor of the bookstore – bless the soul who mopped it up). I waddled out and went home to await the arrival of another March 8th baby.
My husband and midwife arrived and prepped the pool and I expected to birth my baby in similarly spiritual way. But labor stalled and I moved to the bed to rest. I really had to poop and as I tried to get up to go to the bathroom, baby girl had other plans and is ready to be born – poop or not. There’s no music since Shepherd is taking a nap. There’s only the sound of me yelling a last “I’m not ready!” as she emerged in the midday sun, purple and wide eyed.
I knew all births and babies were different, but I still assumed my daughter would be like my first baby – peaceful, sleepy, chubby. In my daughter’s first few weeks, she could never fully relax under the weight of my expectations. She hardly slept and we couldn’t get the hang of nursing. I felt so anxious about her. I was in a dark place most days and was binge watching Mad Men all night long as I stayed up with her (that probably didn’t help). When my husband went back to work, I was taking this sleepless, skinny baby girl to weight checks every other day and had no space left for my firstborn – ‘happy birthday, Shepherd, here is your baby sister and now Daniel Tiger is your new mom.’ I wish I had asked for more help and support for him. I wish I hadn’t tried to juggle the two kids alone full time.
But deep down, I wish I had better prepared myself to be a mother to a new, totally different baby. Even before she was born, I had unconsciously placed expectations on her. I hadn’t adequately made the space for her to be her own person, to be born in her own way, to grow in her own way and to be the radiant, wild girl she is today. If I could do it again, I would accept her fully from the beginning. I would welcome her surprising birth and her wiggly ways. I wouldn’t try to do everything the same way I did with my son. There is so much beauty in the mysterious ways of babies – how they are already filled with personality and spirit from their first moments. Today I want to fully embody this acceptance of both of my children as they emerge more fully into their own beings. I remind myself of those first dark days as a mother of two and it gives me real perspective on how far we’ve all come. I’m trying to make more space to accept all facets of my children, the good and the not so good, and also to accept these parts of myself.