As much as you may anticipate an immediate surge of all-encompassing love when your second baby is born, those feelings are not always instantaneous. Many times, it is the day in and day out process of you and your baby getting to know each other that forms the unique bond between the two of you.
When this topic comes up in my classes, I always think back to when my best friend first got home from the hospital with her second child. She called me up crying and very worried because she did not feel the same bond with her newborn that she felt with her first, and she was afraid she never would. She had an 18-month-old at home that she was completely in love with. Through her tears she managed to bravely say, “I’m scared. I think I ruined everything.”
It is actually pretty common for feelings of attachment to come later or more slowly with your second child than with your first. Your love has already been allocated to your firstborn who is the center of your universe. Like my friend, many women may fear that devoting yourself to a second child means somehow being disloyal to your first. Many parents worry that the first child will not adjust. They worry about hurting their child’s feelings when they pay attention to the baby. They worry the older child will feel less loved. They worry that their relationship with their first will be irrevocably changed. The worry and the guilt can feel pretty overwhelming!
If this is your experience, please know that you are not alone and that these feelings will pass. Bonding may not happen instantaneously, but it will happen. As with my best friend, you are not an inadequate parent if you do not fall madly in love with your second-born the minute they are placed in your arms. Just as you are not a bad mom if your firstborn needs to wait a few minutes for your help when you are in the middle of feeding or changing the baby. You may even find your own patience level dwindling as you snap at your firstborn for not listening or acting out.
Ultimately, the fact that you feel guilt shows how much you love your family. Being a really great parent is extremely important to you and you don’t want to let anyone down. But you need to trust that the way you are parenting is enough. Your love for your family is enough. Who you are is enough.
By Jill Campbell, Psy.D.