It seems like just yesterday I was joyfully celebrating the birth of my first grandchild. If I'm being brutally honest, it seems like just yesterday I was joyfully celebrating the birth of my OWN children. Tonight, as our family anxiously awaits the arrival of granddaughter number two, I am experiencing a bittersweet sadness that has completely taken me by surprise.
Since my son and his family live fourteen hours away, the only contact I have had with them since the summer has been through a phone screen. I look forward to these "visits" every day. JoJo is talking more and more, even though only about 10% of it is understood by the rest of us. She sits in her booster seat, eating her dinner and holding her "baby". Just a two-year-old kid living her best life, getting kisses from Papa and basking in the attention of everyone around her. Suddenly, it hit me. This precious child has no idea that tomorrow her life is going to be completely turned upside down......and I was triggered.
Just a little over 25 years ago, I was experiencing these same feelings. My son had just turned two, and was the first grandchild on both sides, so he was practically smothered with affection and love, both emotionally and materially. The crown prince. He was such a happy little boy, outgoing, introduced himself to everyone, and like his father he never met a stranger. I was so excited to bring another baby into the world and complete our family, but as my due date got closer, I began to feel oddly ambivalent about the upcoming birth of my daughter, and a sensation of guilt seemed to take over. My precious baby boy had no clue that his life was about to change forever, and what's more, he didn't ask for it.
He was too young to really know what was really going on, but he knew there was a baby in Mommy's tummy. He had to have understood on a subconscious level, because in the middle of the night he sat straight up in bed and said, "Katie's coming." He had no way of knowing that I had been having contractions for several hours, and she was born that afternoon.
The first couple of days were a blissful blur, but as discharge approached, I felt the familiar sense of impending doom that comes with the onset of post-partum depression. Since my daughter decided to play things her way and arrive several days before she was supposed to (a trait she continues to display 25 years later), my then husband had to work, so it was my mother and aunt who drove us home from the hospital. My aunt sat in the back of my Ford Explorer with my son and newborn daughter. I asked her if the baby was okay, and as she replied that the baby was fine, my son piped up in his little voice, "I'm okay too!" As you can imagine, I was done for. Sobbed the rest of the way home, and probably continued to long after I walked in the front door.
Let me just say that having C-sections doesn't make things any easier, since you are not only recovering from childbirth and all of the insane hormonal shifts that come with it, but you're recovering from major surgery. Double whammy. While I was completely smitten with my beautiful, red-headed baby girl, it was my son I longed for....to snuggle him, shower him with affection, and to make sure he knew that he was loved and could never be replaced. While he giggled and wriggled and tried to maneuver himself out of my forced affection, I sat there wondering how I was supposed to make room in my heart for both children.
But here's the thing. You just do. You may love them each differently, because they are unique individuals and your relationship with each one is different, but your heart miraculously expands to make room for each new life you bring into the world, As if God knew what he was doing when He created us (which of course He did).
So tonight, on the eve of the birth of our precious Ellie, here is my advice to my beloved son and beautiful daughter in law, whether they want it or not. Shower your first born with attention and affection, let her know there is no one else like her, and save your gushing over your newborn for when big sister is asleep. Let her know she is still your big girl, and before long you will suddenly realize that your heart has made room for one more.