The Other Side of Awesome

I didn’t spend a lot of time during my pregnancy writing about the fear that I wouldn’t be able to feel for this baby as I did with the first. Not because it wasn’t one of the foremost fears on my mind–which it was; oh my God, was it ever–but because it just sounded so cliche as far as writing goes.

Is there any more of a repeated refrain with second-time preggos than “how can I ever love this one as much as #1?” No, in case you’re wondering. There is not. Even the tried and true maternity clothes rant is a far, far distant second.

Whenever I was tempted to write about it (although indeed I alluded to it briefly here and there), I instead channeled friends and family talking me down. I imagined the anecdotes dispelling my worries, the heartfelt advice, and the bordering-on-cheesy analogies: Your heart is not a balloon with a limited capacity for love, but an universe of affections with borders that stretch to infinity. (Gag.)

And then I kept my feelings mostly to myself, trying to have faith that everyone was right, that I wouldn’t be the one and only exception to the rule–a new mom looking at this new baby and thinking eh, maybe we can trade her in in a few months for a different model.

My fears stemmed not so much from the fact that I love Thalia beyond belief, but that she is amazing. More than amazing–Spectacular. Magnificent. Of course it’s every parent’s right and obligation to believe this about his or her own child, but I say it with absolute go-ahead-and-hate-me-if-you-want-to conviction. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s intuitive. She’s kind. She makes up songs about her day and loves even the unloveable cat, and choreographs dances to her favorite cartoon theme songs. She exudes extraordinary spirit and sense of self at 22.5 months, and I feel privileged to know her, let alone to mother her.


Now couple this with the constant reminder throughout my pregnancy that “the second baby gets all the traits that the first one didn’t take” — and you can see where I might have been a wee bit nervous about the human being about to shoot down my birth canal.

All the traits the first one didn’t take? Yikes.

I mean Thalia’s not a kleptomaniac or a serial killer…

In other words, I had come to the erroneous conclusion that there were only two options for my children:

Awesome. And shitty.

Like that was it. Black or white. A or B. There was nothing in between, nothing.

It sounds so stupid now: Well, if Thalia is social, this one will hate people. If Thalia smiles all the time, the new one will be bitter and angry, eschewing lollipops and kittens and humanity at large.

I’m pleased to announce that so far as I can tell in Sage’s brief 12 days, I was totally, absolutely, completely wrong.

I’m here to reassure those who need reassuring that there’s a continuum of awesomeness in children that I hadn’t considered. You can be both awesome and a terrible sleeper as Thalia was, and you can be awesome and a spitter-upper like Sage. You can be awesomely social like Thalia, or awesomely observant like Sage.

My children are not the same. Not even. But they’re not opposites either.

And the heart? It seems to be a wide, expansive universe with borders that stretch to infinity, capable of holding all the love in existence.


Huge congrats to the beautiful Mrs. Q on her new daughter after one of the most insane birth stories ever (and so well told by Fairly Oddmother). Sage can’t wait to meet her new playmate–or at least lie around in close proximity to her as they simultaneously stare off into space.


48 thoughts on “The Other Side of Awesome”

  1. Thanks for this. Your words are comforting and reassuring, especially because my husband and I are having the exact same worries as we contemplate having #2. “Ben is such a good eater… #2 will be so picky!” “Ben loves giving hugs… #2 will probably like kicking us in the teeth!” Glad to know we’re not alone… and that we’re totally wrong.

  2. anarchy – you may be totally right. That’s the amazing part of it – you don’t know until they get here. And first impressions mean nothing, because they will morph into something new in an instant. And there’s plenty of “amazing” to go around. Amazing.Congrats Liz, well written as usual.

  3. I’m happy to receive your reassurance, because I have so many irrational fears about having a second baby. At least I can look to you, who’s done this before, and know I’ll be just fine.

  4. I was due on 5/5 and gave birth on 5/3. How is it you seem to have retrieved all of your brain cells so quickly?I’m still mushy-headed and flabby. But…my kid’s awesome, too 🙂 CONGRATULATIONS!

  5. Thanks for this. You continue to talk me down from those very thoughts (and you’re right – gag) while my #2 is slated to show up any day now.

  6. How can you put together such a cogent, beautiful piece barely two weeks postpartum? You never cease amaze me. At two weeks postpartum, I believe I was discussing constipation and nursing with my Boppy on the crapper.

  7. One thing about that saying (traits the other didn’t get) is that when you have the first one and are expecting the second you pretty much thing you’ve got it figured out. Then the second one comes along so different from the first and you start all over.

  8. First, congrats on your newest addition! I’ve seen the pictures and she is breath taking!Second, what an eloquently written post! You have done a fantastic job of summarizing what EVERY parent feels before the birth of their second child. Having two kids myself who are very different in many ways, but very similar in others, I believe that the someone upstairs planned it that way. Each of the kids go through what I call “funk” moods during which they are not always pleasant to be around. Thankfully, they are rarely in these moods at the same time!Again, congrats to you, your hubby and big sister!!!

  9. I worry about this, too. It seems logical to me that because we think of Annabel as being SO amazing, the only place for Thing 2 to go is into the “Will never measure up, but somehow always be compared” category.Frightening proposition, that.It also seems that because there has been less time to really fixate on the pregnancy (because of all the things we need to get done for the family) Thing 2 feels more like an afterthought. He won’t be the center of our universe the way she was; he’ll be more like a main event at the circus. Oy. Gag is right. Sorry.

  10. TOLD you! Ah. It gets better and better, really it does. And I say this as someone who was digging through dirty diapers for poo samples last night. My poor Sam is sick to the stomach right now, and it means mommy gets up and close and personal with his poo because of the Wide and Expansive Infinity of her Love (for sleep and nonsick child who does also sleep. OK. And LOVElovelovelove…)Love

  11. We should sit down and talk this out, because we are firmly of the same attitude before Sage. I need more reassurance.But GLAD you’re bursting with love for her…that’s wonderful!

  12. thank you for writing this.. because i have wondered this about having another kid.. i mean, blake is so fucking awesome, what if the other kid sucks. and what if i just simply DON’T LIKE THE NEW KID as much as i like blake!?!??!

  13. You said it beautifully.(Is it wrong that I’m already looking forward to your first post about the interaction between Thalia and Sage? I don’t mean to rush you or anything…)

  14. Well… if you had asked me I would have told you that every child comes into this world with their own special gifts and that you will fall in love with #2’s own special gifts, indeed.(gag)

  15. Bossy thinks most people who go around spewing platitudes like “the second baby gets all the traits that the first one didn’t take” are rote. Bossy is glad you didn’t by into that.Bossy’s two kids are seven whole years apart, and one is a boy and one is a girl and still they are as similar in looks and personality as twins.Don’t believe the hype.

  16. My two children have almost nothing in common. Sometimes I cannot believe that one person (yes, it was I) birthed both. But they are each so wonderful and unique.And daily they reenact the most violent of Greek myths and try to destroy each other. They think they’re being secretive about it, but in fact they are as transparent as window panes.And so it goes.

  17. Long-time lurker–coming out to say congratulations! and how much I enjoy your blog.I’m a mom of twins, so I can’t relate to the worry about whether it’s possible to love the 2nd child as much as the first–in fact, it’s sort of puzzling–the heart being that infinitely expandable universe and all. Depending on the day, I may like one of my daughters more than the other…but they both have an equal and unlimited share of love. And so will yours.

  18. Toyphoto: EXACTLY. The circus analogy is perfect. I think we thought Sage would be the side show attraction while Thalia ran the center ring.TB: Oy.

  19. I know it’s cloying, but it’s so true. I was worried about the same things before my second. I love Toyphoto’s analogy. I think I went from one extreme to the other, convinced that I could never love a second as much and then worried about what would happen if I loved the 2nd *more*. Gah. We really do torture ourselves, don’t we?

  20. One is tough. Two is tougher as you have to choose between A and B. Three can try the sanity but when number 4 arrives it’s easy peasy = someone may be crying but it’s not the end of the world.Cheers

  21. I’m nodding vigorously… although I’m not sure it’s because I agree with you or because I’m unsure as to if my ears are going bad or if bette midler (on AI) truly sounds like she is dying.

  22. Wow, you said it! I had the same fears for #2 and #3, but as you experienced I too was amazed to feel the same love as with #1 (double gag, how true!). Great post!

  23. Oh, just wait until they start interacting and playing together. I love hearing my kids laughing with each other in the other room. There’s no sweeter sound in the world.And this, “…lie around in close proximity…as they simultaneously stare off into space.”Sounds like a typical night for the hubbie and me. 😉

  24. Same same, Liz. My first son’s awesomeness really had me convinced that a second son could only be a blah blah blah [insert the words that I hope neither would ever read].

  25. uh-huh. And, don’t let anyone ‘stomp your bliss’ sister.If people have food and clean bums (often) and smile numerous times a day you are the Diana Ross of Mothers.Superstar.

  26. I love this post.When we think about maybe having baby 2 someday, I fret about how we hit the jackpot with Q, and how it might not happen a second time.

  27. Five months after giving birth to our first son I became pregnant (surprise!) with our second one. Not only was I afraid that I wouldn’t love this new baby as much as I loved the first one, I was also afraid that the first baby would somehow think that he wasn’t good enough and that’s why I had to go get knocked up with another one. It didn’t help that others told me that since our oldest was a good baby that this new one would be the BABY FROM HELL. So that whole “two options” thing was spoon fed to me every day. Of course…he was a dream of a baby. Don’t listen to yourself or others. The End.

  28. I am way late to the party (my apologies, dear friend), but CONGRATULATIONS on the birth of little, adorable Sage! I’ve been thinking about you and meaning to email…glad to know things are going (relatively) well! 🙂

  29. Thank goodness they aren’t exactly the same, y/k? Keeps things interesting. And thanks for the mention—my sister’s story really is unbelievable!

  30. Yeah, that’s no joke. Even with five kids I’ve found the same thing. Your heart just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

  31. Well, there are already 35 comments so who knows if anyone will read far enough to this one, LOL, but I can go a step farther into insanity.When we were first married I met a wonderful friend that lived near us. I then started to babysit her 6 week old little girl and because she was a hotel manager, the baby had a crib in our bedroom, and often stayed the night with us when the Mom had to do ‘overnights’ at the hotel.I LOVED this kid. She went everywhere with us – my grocery store thought she was my child. I took her to doctor’s appointments, I took her to have her 6 and 1 year portraits done….And then 1 1/2 years later when I got pregnant I actually uttered the same words; “How could I possibly love a child more than I do her!?”And then mine was born.And I laughed at myself.

  32. “It seems to be a wide, expansive universe with borders that stretch to infinity, capable of holding all the love in existence.”Quite possibly the most beautiful and expressive grouping of words…EVER.

  33. I have identical twin girls, and I can tell you, this black and white thing isn’t limited to singleton kids. They are now two, and if I had to count the number of times a friend or stranger had, upon hearing me say something like, “Well, Maya is really clever,” would respond with, “Is she the smart one?”As if one was smart, and the other an idiot, despite the fact that they are genetically identical.

  34. I’m so grateful you wrote this…I’ve had these haunting thoughts as well.I won’t worry so much about a second child now. Hopefully I will try to just let things…grow.

  35. Congratulations, Mom 101! I love your blog and wait for each new post!You said it. Each of my three kids is amazingly unique and wonderful (and sometimes, *sigh*, infuriating). By the way, Sage is a beautiful name!

  36. I love how you can put so many of my feelings into words– eloquent, beautiful, tear-inducing words. My heart feels like it may explode with love for these two creatures. A dear friend told me the advice he got before his second child was born: Love for your children is not like a pie you need to divide up into smaller pieces. With each child, it’s a whole new pie. And thanks for the well wishes. We are still spinning! Kisses to you all… I can’t believe our firsts are two months apart and our seconds are ten days apart. Are we done?! Can’t wait to get the kiddoes together!!!

  37. Hmmm…I thought I had left a comment…but I just wanted to say thanks for posting this. I have these fears and I’m not even pregnant yet with a second baby. After all, Baby Diva gets so much of my attention and is so incredibly awesome and adorable and perfect…how could anyone live up to that? But I know you are right and the next baby will be different, but not any lesser.

  38. Speaking of awesome — it’s a word I’d use to describe this post.You completely nailed it — kids are complex, and they exist on a continuum of good/bad across many different variables.(Gawd, could I sound any more dorky? Can you tell I’ve been at work writing policy documents today?) 😉What I meant to say: right f*ing on, Liz.

  39. I’ve got four kids and each one is different from the next. It’s amazing that they are all growing up in the same house with the same rules and discipline but yet they are each uniquely their own.

  40. Thank you for this post. I’m not even pregnant. I don’t even know if I’ll ever get pregnant. But this whole “will I love the second one as much as the first” is something that I do worry and wonder about.

  41. But how about with grandparents? Do all grandmothers love their grandchildren equally? How about it grandmas out there in internet land?

  42. ’tis all true! Each child is unique and no matter what, you love them all like they were your first because each one, in their own way, is a first 🙂The funny thing for me is that I never doubted I would be able to love another child like I did my firstborn. But when P was finally here and I was awash in those awful postpartum baby blues, I sobbed relentlessly with guilt that I had somehow betrayed TQ because I now loved another child besides her. Those silly hormones…

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