If I reflect on my experience of being a mother for the first time, it was like the roar of crashing surf as a storm surge hits the cliffs, while being an ‘again’ mother sounds more like waves lapping on a sandy beach bay as the tide swells. It is calm. Serene. Uncomplicated, and has an inevitability. The frustrations, uncertainties, fears and lack of context I felt with Anna simply don’t exist anymore.
I don’t try to control nap-time because I know now that nap-time is outside of my control. If a baby needs to sleep enough, they will communicate that to me, and otherwise I will do my best to attempt to put them to sleep within a window of time I feel is appropriate. If it doesn’t happen, life goes on.
The baby eats, often pouches of pureed nonsense, but more and more the family table foods that will eventually become his normal. He sometimes has to cry for a minute longer than his sister did, because now I have double the amount of tiny people needing me, and the same amount of hands. This is also fine, because no one can get exactly what they want all of the time.
There are many things I appreciate about being a second-time-rounder. I don’t jolt awake at night to make sure James is breathing quite as often as I did with Anna, which I did constantly. I know what to ‘expect’ in terms of milestones and phases, and I know that no matter what I expect, I am personally in control of none of it. Biology, genetics, the agency of that tiny person are far more powerful than the wishes of a mother.
In freeing myself from some of the more anxiety-inducing experiences of that old New Motherhood, I find myself loving Baby James in a completely different way. My love for Anna as a small baby was a sort of euphoric and exhausting mess, tinged with sleep deprivation and insecurity. I loved her profoundly and obsessively, partly because of the lack of knowledge about how and when she would change. I had to love this version of her completely, commit every ounce of experience to memory, because I didn’t know when and how she would change. I had no other baby to compare her to, no other experience of being a mother. Most significantly of all, her personality is so vivid and intense, everything I gave to her, she demanded of me a hundred fold more.
My love for James comes with security, knowledge, maturity, experience. I know that he will change, and roughly when and how, and that is perfectly ok. I know that I am competent and a good care-giver, so my love for him isn’t tinged with insecurity that I need to love him the most of all in case it isn’t enough and in case I amn’t enough. Because I know that for a small baby, their mother can’t be anything but absolutely everything. Their first landscape to climb all over, their first source of absolute and pure connection. He is also most conveniently an easy-going and contented little soul, and so he doesn’t expect more of me than a squeeze and a kiss whenever he needs it. He is happy with his lot, and that allows me to take a deep breath and to be content too.
There’s a lot in being a mother of a new baby, but in being a mother of a new baby again, that is something completely different.