What about the other one?Jane Roper
Yesterday I drove out to Amherst, Mass. to visit my dear friend Heather, who just had a beautiful baby girl. She (the baby, that is) is just two weeks old, and is so small and sweet and sleepy and adorably newborn. I got to hold her for a while while she slept, which was absolutely lovely. (But induced no ovary pangs, I’m glad to say.)
But as Heather and I were chit-chatting and she was telling me about her daughter’s various sleeping and eating habits and tendencies, I found myself slipping into the strangest mental pattern — one I’ve found myself in before, when meeting friends’ first babies for the first time: I kept thinking, “what about the other one?”
The experience of having two babies is just so deeply ingrained in my consciousness, apparently, that some part of my brain is conditioned to think of babies as a paired item. So when my friend was telling me that her baby spit up a lot, I nearly asked: more than the other one?
It was a poignant reminder of how different my new motherhood experience was from those of people who have their kids one at a time.
And it wasn’t just logistically different; it was emotionally different, too. When Elsa and Clio were babies, the “bonding” experience for me was equal parts getting to know them as individuals and observing and understanding the ways in which they were different (or alike). And no matter how hard I tried to focus on one or other of the girls, the other one was always present in my mind. And I’d miss her. And then feel bad for not focusing more completely and intently on the one in my arms. And then worry that I was spending more time with and bonding more quickly with that one.
Truth be told, I actually didn’t feel like I bonded (whatever that means) quickly with either of my girls. It took a few months for me to feel like they were really mine, and to feel the sort of powerful love so many mothers claim to feel within their babies’ first days and weeks. I often wondered (and still do) whether it was because there were two of them. But maybe it would have been the case regardless. Maybe it’s just the way I am.
But I’m not necessarily complaining about all this; it was what it was and is what it is. And there was something just overflowingly rich and beautiful about having two babies. To quote my memoir-in-progress (which I’m not sure I’m legally supposed to do, but what the heck….)
You have not just one smiling face to get all googly-eyed at, but two. Two pairs of feet to nibble on. Two tiny butts to lower into the tub. Two different-feeling but equally satisfying bundles of baby to hold in your arms. Two gloriously unique beings that you love equally but in completely different ways.
My friend who had twins a couple of years before I did, who patiently reassured me throughout my pregnancy whenever I started to panic, described it to me as “a funny sort of abundance.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
(Speaking of books…the launch of my novel, EDEN LAKE, draws nigh! The official on-sale date is May 12, but if you’d like a signed copy, you can now order one, via PayPal, at the Eden Lake Website, and I’ll send it to you as soon as it’s available — probably about a week shy of the actual on-sale date.)