I often wonder if people think I favor my second son over my first. If they can tell the difference between my laughter — genuine and full of delight — when I’m with my younger son, compared to the way I was the first time around.
I don’t have a favorite child, but I understand why someone could think that I do.
I had severe postpartum depression for a long time after my older son was born. Noah didn’t sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time for the first year and a half of his life, and was up for the whole day, every day, by 4 AM. He was adorable — his blue eyes wide, his blonde ringlets framing his face. People would stop me on the street to tell me how cute he was. I would force a smile, silently wishing I could give him to an admirer.
I cried every day — on the phone with my mom, on walks, in doctors’ offices, begging for help. Rationally, I loved my son. I would have done anything for him. But I didn’t feel the way I was supposed to feel. I ricocheted between anger, sadness, and detachment.
Some days I cried hysterically; some days I felt nothing, numb to the world.
Eventually, I realized I needed help. Anti-depressants and anxiety medication allowed me to start functioning like a person again; start feeling like a person again. Like a mother.
Once my son began “sleeping in” until 5 AM, with great apprehension, we started trying for a second child. I was worried I would never sleep again. I was worried that I would have the same problems when my second child was born — that I wouldn’t feel the way I should. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
As soon as Ryan was born, I felt comfortable with him. I felt close to him. I felt like his mother. We bonded, the way I always thought I was supposed to with my child. I loved cuddling with him and watching him breathe, his small body moving up and down on my chest.
At 2, he’s a happy, friendly, loving kid. When he wakes up from a nap, I actually think about how lucky I am to be with him. His smiles and excitement make me laugh — a real laugh. I don’t feel like a fake or a fraud. I don’t feel wrong. I just feel love.
My older son, Noah, is 6 now. He’s silly and inquisitive and smart and interesting. I don’t just love him, but I like him, too. I like spending time with him. I like seeing how he interprets the world, watching him dance and listening to him read. But it’s hard not to think of his early years without having them be tainted by awful, heartbreaking memories. I try not to let them form the way I feel about him now.
Every day I tell Noah that I love him. Every day I tell him how lucky I am to have him. I mean it; I do. I just wish I had been able to appreciate him more when he was younger.
When Noah was a baby and a toddler, I just needed to get through an hour, the day, the week. I needed us to survive. With Ryan, I don’t wish away my time, I relish it. I feel like I get to spend time with him, not that I have to. I feel guilty admitting that. I don’t ever want Noah to think that he did something wrong or that he was in some way deficient. It was me — it was my hormones that robbed us of precious time together.
It’s not that I love my second son more than my first son; it’s just that I was able to enjoy being his mother more. And that has made all the difference.