baby and toddler, first child and second child

Everyone said, “Having two is hard, but when your second is born you’ll love them both more than you ever imagined you could.”

For me, it just wasn’t true.

When my second daughter was born, I was smitten. It was the love they had always talked about. With my first child, I had third-degree tears, constipation, and the crazy emotional detachment that clings to me when I’m confronted with a situation I’m not familiar with. I just didn’t feel it at first. For those first few weeks, I worked to keep my reactionless newborn alive, all the while trying to coax validation out of her. “I change you, I feed you, I tore myself open to get you here, and I still just don’t feel it.”

Slowly, but surely, it changed. When my firstborn started smiling, a little seed of attachment was planted. Over time, it grew stronger out of the service I gave her. It wasn’t about getting, it was about giving. I was a mom now, life was a little more normal, I started to feel it. It was me and her. We were buddies. She knew how to make me laugh, and we would cuddle and share snacks on the couch, read books, play outside. Life was good.

When the second was born, all I wanted to do was snuggle my new human. “I’m in mom-mode — look at me! I feel the immediate attachment! This is what they were talking about!” Then the firstborn came to visit us in the hospital. She was more interested in the buttons on the bed than this baby girl, and I was more interested in the baby girl than I was in her.

It was the same when we got back home. Looking back on it now, I chalk it up to a medium dosage of postpartum depression. But it still breaks my heart to admit, with every time my first child hit her little defenseless sister, every time she tantrummed, every time tears streamed down her face, making it all red and blotchy, with her snot-faucet nose, I loved her a little bit less.

Until one day I just lost it. After bottling up so much negative energy toward my toddler mini-me, I declared to my husband through tears and a blotchy red face of my own, “I just don’t love her! I don’t feel love for her, what is WRONG with me what the HECK IS WRONG WITH ME?!”

Heaven forbid my firstborn ever reads this. Heaven forbid she thinks that is how the story ends.

Through the help of an understanding mom and husband, I groped my way back toward the love I once had for her. Each day was a battle to see through the fog of disappointment and self-loathing — and to act on the love I wanted to have. It might have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I realized that, unlike your spouse, you don’t get to choose your children. But you can CHOOSE them — choose to put them first, choose to love, choose to act as if eternity is your goal, so that the days and the months can be small even when they seem so gut-wrenchingly immense.

I learned to love her once, and then I did it again. And I am so proud of that. It gives me strength.

So though the days are hard and the nights are long, I can say that I do love both my children more than I ever imagined. It wasn’t easy, and maybe there will be more mountains to climb. But it’s where I am, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.


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  1. Very brave post indeed! I didn’t feel immediate attachment with my first either… It took til he smiled til I could say, “Ahh, there we go.” Well done you for choosing love. 🙂

  2. You’ve won more than half the battle admitting this to yourself. My dear mama still can’t (though she has made efforts that demonstrate that she finally realized her lack of love–she finally told me when I was 33 that she loved me–but, she still needs to blame me). I don’t have anger, I do have compassion. I do not have understanding, but I don’t really need to understand, but accept her limitations at the time–and enjoy her being able to make efforts today to move forward. The sad part is she taught two of my sibs to have contempt. I see those sibs trying to break away from it, but it almost became their “role” to help her reject me. Again, I do have flashes of “oh, the injustice,” and the subsequent hurt feelings, but mainly, I realize they were taught and time is a medicine. I pray about it, and believe in healing and hope. Your daughter is fortunate to have your early recognition and openness. Don’t beat yourself up–you are already blessing her.

    • Vianna, is it possible your mom’s a narcissist? They can’t really feel love for their kids and frequently try to turn them against each other. Worth looking into! Signed, child of a narcissistic father.

  3. Narcissism was my first thought too. It’s different for a parent to feel less love for her first born. But teaching other kids to hate firstborn is not normal. It’s narcissism.
    For the original article, your firstborn acted how she was supposed to behave. We grown ups can’t share our loved ones. How about a little girl whose very existence is dependent on your caring! For her another sibling means, threat to her thriving. There are good books for reading. “Siblings without rivalry” for example.

  4. Wow… thank you for being so brave to post what you feel.. and I do too!!! I love my 1st born, of course I do, but it was the same way when he was born. I felt like it took forever for me to feel that bond with him. When he was the only child, I adored him. But then his little brother was born and he became my favorite. Even my husband knows it.. that’s ok, the 1st born is his favorite, so at least we are even!!! I instantly felt that bond with my 2nd and he and I are two peas in a pod. I feel guilty about that all the time 🙁 my husband says it’s because my 1st born and I are so much alike that we clash. Thank you again for sharing your secret!!!

  5. Thanks all, and especially Amy B for your kind comment! I’ve received some comments on facebook about how my post is “disturbing.” I guess it’s one of those things that you have to go through to understand. Glad I’m not alone!

  6. I agree that this was a brave thing to write, to express a secret feeling that is more common than people care to admit. And I’m so glad you were able to overcome it. But I will say that I think your title, while attention getting, is painful to read. Perhaps because it comes across as so cold, perhaps because I am that less loved first born child so it’s a trigger, I don’t know. It might be helpful if you considered changing the title to something a little more compassionate…especially considering once something is on the internet, you can never fully take control of it again. And in this day and age, it is highly probable that your daughter WILL find and read this someday. And even though there is a good ending to the article, the title coupled with the article, no matter how good your relationship is, will absolutely devastate her. No matter how well-intentioned the article is meant to be, she will only read the deeply painful and humiliating things and all else will be lost in a sea of painful emotions. I’m not trying to be negative or critical, but for some reason I feel compelled to encourage you to put your daughter and your relationship with her above a blog being read by others and honor her by removing it. Maybe you can think of me as your daughter 36 years down the road speaking to you and asking you to honor me and protect me and our relationship. Blessings.

  7. I had the opposite experience. I was smitten completely with my first and it took me some time to become smitten with my second. My first was and is very easy. She hardly cried, was happy all the time and never jealous. My second, well he was a different story. He cries all the time (still at 15 months), can’t be without me, gets jealous of his older sister and smacks her. It did take some time for me to adjust, but now watching him play and smile melts my heart. He is much like my husband, reserved and studies everything. My daughter is exactly like me in every possible way. Loud, smiles all day, nothing gets her down and isn’t embarrassed to break out in song and dance in the middle of the store. Since my son doesn’t offer up smiles and laughs as easily as my daughter it makes those rare giggles even more heart melting worthy. I have now realized that I always loved him just as much I just had to figure out his personality at the same time he had to figure it out. When my daughter goes to school and I have him to myself I love to snuggle him and do anything possible to get that rare giggle out of him. Motherhood is a challenge, but I wouldn’t want to attempt anything else. I do get some help from my drinks that I pop at night though. 😉

  8. My first born is beyond difficult and there are days that I truly dislike him no matter how much love in my heart I have for him. This is such a brave article to post – most everyone will pass judgement but speaking as a mommy that totally connected to it. I admire you. There is no rule book on love or being a mom- and some days we just don’t get it right…. None of us are perfect, and we are still learning everyday to be a mother- and we will continue doing so for the rest of our lives. And some days we will get it right, and in those “right” moments I hope we all learn to celebrate ourselves and our children a little more, and criticize ourselves a little less. Light and love XOXO

  9. Humans are innately selfish, of their time, energy etc. Motherhood forces you to face this head on. And it can be a huge internal struggle for some people to live for someone else and devote so much of themselves to another person. While honest, it is sad that this world and society says we get it, it’s OK to be overwhelmingly self centered, it’s tough to be disciplined enough to overcome yourself.

  10. Thanks for sharing! I felt that intense emotional bond with my oldest right away- but over time and two more siblings it has been hard to keep. He fights me on everything and he has anxiety and he’s always always pushing me to the limit. And I struggle to maintain our bond and feel terrible about it. I hope I can get it back. I love him so much but I have a hard time liking him?

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