It was my own face I saw staring back at me from the folds of a pink and blue striped hospital blanket, as if the grainy photographs of me as an infant had somehow come to life. This striking resemblance made my new baby feel even more like mine than the fact that moments before I had birthed him from my body.
Later, alone in the dimly lit hospital room, I searched his face for traces of my husband’s dark features. Strawberry blond hair peeked from beneath a blue cap. His full lips, slightly parted by the heavy breaths of sleep, the shape of his nose, the curve of his cheeks — all mine.
It became a joke among family and friends that his creation was a solitary effort and as he grew, so did our resemblance. Strangers told him so in the aisles of the grocery store.
“My, oh my! You look just like mommy!”
Other parents stopped me as I passed them in the halls of daycare.
“You must be Anders’ mother! He looks just like you!”
As time went on, it became apparent that our similarities didn’t stop at our reflection. We also shared a personality and it is because of this that I came to know him not only as a mother knows her child, but as a person knows themselves. Though I struggled as all new mothers do to learn the ins and outs of diaper changing and breastfeeding, once he entered the toddler years, responding to his emotional needs was much more intuitive. (Not to be confused with effortless.)
I wasn’t sure what to expect when Anders’ sister was born a couple of years later. Would we have another me in miniature or would my husband’s plea for proof of his genetics be granted? As it turns out, she was the universe’s equal and opposite reaction to her sibling, bearing a strong resemblance to her father and possessing characteristics that command the attention of a room. Danica practically emerged from the womb declaring her independence, quite unlike her quiet and reserved big brother.
As my children grew, I began to experience the unexpected guilt that comes with mothering one child that is constantly tugging at the hem of my shirt and one that is most content when they are out of arms reach. I began to worry that my daughter noticed the time my son and I spent playing on the floor together or cuddled on the couch reading a book. There was always room for her, of course, but it was a space she rarely claimed. I began to question myself. Was I playing favorites? I love them both equally, but is that fact obvious from my parenting?
The truth I’ve come to accept is that parenthood is not about placing each child on opposite ends of a scale and trying to create balance by equally distributing the hugs and kisses and ‘I love yous.’ Every child comes into this world with their own weight. Some are frail, unsure of themselves and hungry for validation. Others are filled to the brim with self-confidence. They want to run before they walk and this may lead to playing the role of disciplinarian more often than you’d like.
I am a loving mother to both of my children, but I am a different mother to each of them. This is the reality of giving birth to a little boy who, for now, would like to hold my hand on our afternoon walks and a little girl who skips a few steps ahead, never looking back.
This is my balance.
Read more from Amber on her blog The Daily Doty.