While pregnant with my second child, I was relatively patient waiting for my baby’s birth day. My first child arrived at 40 weeks 3 days gestation, so I mentally marked this milestone as ‘labor day’. When this day came and went, and I was still pregnant, I got impatient fast. Knowing I needed some support and encouragement, I reached out to one of my oldest friends, who is a birth doula and mother of three, asking for a phone date that evening.
I had processed my anxieties, doubts, and fears about my labor throughout my pregnancy with my midwives, my therapist, journaling, meditation, mantras, walks, yoga, and baby positioning circuits. What I had not processed, or even heard mentioned, were the feelings surrounding the shifting relationship with my three year old daughter. My friend dove right into this subject on our call. She asked how I was feeling about my daughter as I prepared to meet my new baby. She shared that when she welcomed her second child home, she felt a shift with her first born. That amongst the joy and excitement in welcoming a new baby, there is also the truth that your oldest will be sharing you as their Mom with a needy newborn for the first time, that they will be getting a little less attention from you especially in the early postpartum.
I had never heard anyone talk about this bittersweet reality before. The grief that comes with this transition even amidst such deep joy and gratitude. The birth of our first child transforms us from individuals to parents, while a subsequent child remodels our family and inherently changes our relationship with our first, transforming them into an older sibling.
My friend and I talked about how tough this transition can be, that there will be a little heartache along with the happiness. Her honesty and candor gave me space to acknowledge the approaching change and my own whirlwind of contradicting feelings. It felt so good that she validated the grief I was feeling, knowing I didn’t have to pretend to only be happy about the change. We cried, we laughed, we shared stories. I hung up, walked inside my living room, and about five minutes later my water broke. I was holding my baby less than seven hours later.
Having spaces to talk about uncomfortable feelings with people we trust is vital to our mental and physical health. Bottling our emotions up inside is destructive, and can also hold back the flow of labor. I know that when I let these feelings out in the open, and they were validated, my body could physically relax and surrender to the process of labor. I acknowledged the complicated emotional work ahead of me and accepted that while I might have more confidence as a second time Mom, parenting will continue to be full of challenges, contradictions, and evolution. I made the space emotionally to welcome my baby into the world, along with all the change that she would bring.
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