Polly, local Tongonto hula dancer, weight lifter and poet, is at that point in her life where she’s zeroing in on having another baby. Having a second baby is so much different than having the first, don’t you think? Let’s have this conversation.
I went at making my second baby with gusto. I looked at the calendar and asked, “What’s the earliest we could do this?” I was afraid, you see, that it would take me as long to conceive my second as it had my first. That was over two years and I was worried that too large a gap in age would make my children into strangers more than siblings. I need not have worried. I got pregnant right away and my girls are exactly 18 months, 1 day apart. They’re siblings, certainly, and having two under two has been a helluva thing.
And yet it hasn’t because I don’t know any different. I had my second baby convinced I knew how to do it all. I knew how to have a newborn! Yet I had no idea how to have a newborn and a toddler. And you can’t know. You can’t know how the transmutable, beautiful alchemy of your own family with twist and turn with the addition of a new person. All you can do is read stories and dream and plot and maybe scheme.
I was lucky enough to have my mom around. And one afternoon, about two days after we came home, as I was struggling to get my milk in, she noticed something in me. I didn’t even realize what was happening, but she saw it.
“It’s okay,” she said.
“It’s okay to be angry. With both of them.”
“I’m not angry, I’m…my milk. It’s….”
“You’re angry, honey.”
And normally I might have really bristled at someone telling me how I feel but she just went on.
“You’re angry at the new baby taking time away from Tabitha. You’re angry at Tabitha taking time away from Daphne. You’re angry at Christopher for having all the time in the world and not caring. It’s okay. I got so angry with you when your sister came long. I was so angry with your sister because I didn’t have as much time for you.”
And then she wandered off to do I don’t know what, something profoundly helpful. And in the five seconds of peace I got then, I accepted it. I accepted what she said because I knew she was right and it applied to me. And I accepted that just because I was angry and uncomfortable and fumbling, that didn’t mean I didn’t love either of my girls.
When we talk about hearts growing, most people go to a Grinch place. I don’t anymore. I go to a mom place where the pangs of afterbirth are not just in our bellies, but in our hearts. Our hearts grow as our wombs shrink, proportionally, making room for twice, thrice, quadruple the love. Our babies won’t understand our feelings until they’re there, experiencing them. And hopefully we can be there too, as grandmas or aunts or best friends, recalling and explaining, midwifing new love into the world.