From the moment I found out I was pregnant with my second child I knew that she was going to be completely different from her older brother. Strike that. From days before I could even get a positive pregnancy test I knew things were going to be different this time. You see, from day one – as in the day after conception – I was sick, sick again, and then sick some more. Every single day until she was born. My pregnancy with my son was the complete opposite – I can count on one hand the times I was sick with him. I breezed through that first pregnancy, feeling like I was having the time of my life. I loved nothing more than being pregnant with my son, and even went camping the day before his due date. Pregnancy with my daughter, I barely survived. Hers was a scary and high-risk pregnancy, I was faced with restricted movements and sickness beyond what I knew possible; the whole time stricken with the fear that comes with pregnancy after loss. I was lucky to waddle to the restroom two thousand times a day. The whole time I was pregnant with her I just knew, “this one is going to be different”. And oh goodness is she. Even their birth stories are just about as different as can be. My son was born after 21 grueling hours of labor followed by an emergency c-section. My daughter, born 3 hours after calling her Dad home from work because I “thought I could be in labor”. My son – born 6:34 a.m. My daughter – 6:45 p.m. He 10 days late, she 10 days early.
The differences surely don’t stop there. While I thought I would not survive my pregnancy with my daughter, her first year has been a relative breeze. Let’s just say the complete opposite was true of my son. The day after he was born we sent him to the nursery to try to get some rest, a mere 30 minutes later the nurses brought him back because he was crying too loudly! When my daughter came around, I had to ask the nurses if something was wrong with her, because she wasn’t crying, and just slept (I
previously believed sleeping babies to be a myth). Right away my feeling that she would be much different than he was coming true.
Everyday their differences become more and more apparent to my husband and I. My son, now almost four will not leave my side for a second throughout the day – and I’ve already found myself looking through the house to find my recently crawling daughter. My daughter craves to be put down in her crib so that she can fall asleep – my son was held to sleep for a solid year (ok honestly more like two) , and still woke nearly every time he was put down.
I could really go on and on about their differences, but what does it all mean. As a parent what do I do with this knowledge? Here are a few things that I have already learned, and know I will have to continually remind myself as they grow into the wonderful individuals God has created them to be.
– They are different children, with different needs, and it is OK to love them differently. It is easy to get caught up in the notion of loving your children equally, giving them the same amount of attention, and trying to make everything “fair”. The thing is, what is “fair” for my son may not be “fair” for my daughter. And I have to be OK with that, and teach them to be OK with it as well. While I certainly love them both fiercely, I have to show them that fierce love in different ways. If I tried to hold and cuddle my daughter all day it would drive her insane. Reversely, if I tried to told my son to roam free through the house and play alone he would feel isolated and frustrated. All in all – different people need to be loved differently, the same is true for our children.
– I as a parent need to be intentional about getting to know my children’s hearts so that I can meet their specific and individualized needs. Unless I take the time to listen to my children, to hear who they really are and what their hearts really desire, I won’t be able to love them how they need to be loved. I need to be constantly aware that their hearts desires can change in an instant, and provide a safe place for them to share their hearts with me. Love is vulnerable, precious, and an intricate work of art – my desire is to treat it with all the thoughtfulness and tenderness I can muster.
– I need to foster the differences while finding a way to bring us all together. One thing I constantly worry about is one child falling in the shadow of the other, feeling jealous or left behind. I want to acknowledge the differences in my children without isolating them through those differences. While I want to take time to foster their independent spirits, goals, and desires – I also need to teach them how to respect, support and love each other’s uniqueness as well.
I truly cannot believe how blessed I am to have these two human beings that I get to call my own. They are each so uniquely wonderful and valuable to our family – my heart literally aches with the thought of loving them the way they deserve to be loved. My prayer for each of them is that they always know and feel my love. That they know and feel their value as a member of our family. And that they will continue to know how to love each other and to feel like our family is a safe space to speak truth and love.
This is motherhood…