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A Stranger Sitting in Your Safe Space

I’ve gone through a million changes in the past 3 weeks. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. But not as much as it has been for Jack. I remember in those first few days after the birth I was so worried about Jack. I was so worried that he would feel jealous or pushed to the side that I tried to hide my love for Exley from him. I know that sounds awful. When he was around I could feel my heart and soul trying to reach out of my body to touch him. I felt so far away from him even when he was right next to me. He was cautious around me right when Exley was born. He could instantly feel the shift in the family dynamic. I tried to cover it up by putting his needs above everyone else’s. If he fell or started to cry I would hand Exley to my husband and run to Jack. I would say things like “do you want me to put Exley down? Do you want to have boobie alone?” It was so hard for me to identify my feelings. What the hell was all this? How could a new baby bring all of this on for me? I knew I would miss him, but all of this other stuff, the desperation, the confusion, the anxiety, was a surprise.

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 Jack leans in to give me a kiss shortly after the birth even though I am not sure he wanted to. He never took his eyes off of Exley. His world was totally different now. 

In the last couple of weeks things have settled a bit for me. At least enough for me to get on top of the feelings and sort them out in my brain. I know that it’s the natural flow of things. It’s a bigger change than I expected even though I knew it would be major. I knew things with Jack would change. I knew it would be hard. I knew I would have strong feelings. But being in the middle of it was scary. I felt my son drifting away. It was terrifying. Everything that my life had become, everything I had worked so hard for, was gone.

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After a few days a new feeling set in. I then felt quickly irritated with Jack. I wanted him to go away so I could nurse Exley and have that newborn experience. When he did go away, either because he felt my annoyance or his dad took him outside, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt. I’m still in this new phase. I feel touched out with all the nursing. I feel annoyed by Jack’s latch. I feel nursing aversion when he is latched on. I feel guilty about all of this. I still feel the distance from him and it makes me want to grab onto him. I feel sad that I can’t spend all of my time with him. I miss him.

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I remember watching this picture be taken. She said “smile!” and I knew he would because he is a happy guy, but I also knew he wished everyone would go away, including Exley, and we could go back to the way it was a few hours ago. 

It’s definitely different than it was in those early days after the birth. So we are working through things here. Jack is still working through them as well. He has good days and bad. All four of us went to the park. Jack was running and fell. He scraped his hands and knees. He cried all the cries in the universe. He sobbed and sobbed. Much harder than the scrapes warranted. He asked to go from my husband to me to my husband and then home. It seemed to me like the floodgates had opened and he was letting it all out. We just held him and told him we were there for him. The other afternoon he wanted to nurse. I was nursing Exley and he came to me and said “I want boobie.” He has done really well with tandem nursing lately so I thought he would just hop up. He began to cry that he wanted Exley to go away. Over and over “I want the baby to go away!!!” And then he entered meltdown land and threw his body around repeating it again and again. It was so over the top that, again, it seemed to me like it was about so much more than meets the eye.

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I know we will find a new normal here. But the journey toward it is a bumpy one. Jack has given Exley much more attention lately. He likes to touch Exley and lie next to him. One evening he even said “I like him.” He has kissed Exley and held him. We’re just taking this all moment by moment. We’re trying to see things through Jack’s eyes so that we can support him. We’re trying to give Exley the gentlest start to life as possible. Exley spends most of his moments on my chest either nursing or sleeping. It must be so hard to see a stranger sitting in your safe space.

Abby Theuring, MSW

***A special thank you to Tiny Bubbles family Photography By Leslie for the professional photos you see here. Please “Like” her Facebook page.

Comments

  1. Michelle says

    My 4 year old was playing with a puppy the other day – He looked at me and said “I really like the puppy better than my baby” (what he calls the littlest brother). I just looked at him and smiled and said “that puppy IS fun!!” – I thought “Well that’s honest!” 🙂 Out of the mouths of babes 🙂

  2. I really appreciate that you are brave enough to document your raw emotions for strangers to see. I currently have a 15 month old who still sleeps on my chest and nurses on demand. I know deep down I want to have another child, not necessarily for myself but for her. I also know how terribly hard will be on her and it really helps to read how someone else is coping with it while still in the thick of it. I hope you realize just how helpful your posts truly are. I look forward to hearing about more of your journey.

  3. I love this! I’m 34 weeks along with our second child. My daughter will be 22 months old when our son is born. I’m so worried she will feel left out and I’m sad that she will no longer be the center of my universe. I’m grateful that we live with my father, whom she adores so she will have her father and her ‘ampa’. I know everything I’m feeling is normal but I can’t help feeling sad that our relationship is about to change. I really appreciate your honesty!

  4. Autumn C. says

    Tears!!!! We are just starting to talk about baby #2 and I have all these fears and as silly as it may sound for me- I already miss my son. I look back on the beginning of our breastfeeding relationship and all the firsts for him and me. I love how you ended this post- it must be so hard! Thank you for your beautiful post, I can’t wait to look back on them and realize that it’s all normal. You will get to your new normal soon. Thinking about you all!

  5. Elisabeth says

    I felt like this after my 2nd one, but I realized that instead of trying to put my first first all the time, my first had to see how much I loved the 2nd one too. It’s really hard to adjust. I’m adjusting to my 4th now. 2 1/2 months and I feel like we are doing pretty well. It’s tough. You are doing great!

  6. My son had just turned two when our daughter was born and it was so hard to deal with the feeling that in order to care for one child I was neglecting the other. I tried so hard to be everything for both of them, but that’s just not quite possible. I remember giving my son pony rides on one leg while I nursed my daughter…I developed mastitis when she was two weeks old, in part because I was so distracted while feeding my newborn. What I can say for certain is that it definitely gets better! I don’t want to say it gets easier…you just get the hang of it, everyone finds their own groove and once you get there it’s pretty beautiful! We’re now expecting our third child just after my son turns four and my daughter turns two and I’m already looking forward to that time, a couple weeks in, when it all just starts to fit together. Good luck! Also, your birth story was beautiful!

  7. My babies are spread apart at 12, 7, and 1 years. I think about how hard it would be on this little guy if I had to share myself this way with another baby while he’s still so little. I think it would be so hard for him. Thank you for sharing this with us. It made me cry a little bit, but I’m like that;)

  8. Reading this makes me relive those first few months when my daughter arrived. It was so hard to watch my first born who was 2 years and three month old transition from having 100% of me. It was heartbreaking. But I am telling you one day we woke up and he was in love with his sister and everything was right in the world and it was like we were never without her. But knowing all of this does not make me not cry tears along with you now. I still miss wrapping myself around my son every night. He was so much more cuddly than his aggressive beautiful nursing tossing and turning 23 month old sister who still nurses all night long:) Be gentle on your self. Thank you so much for your honesty.

  9. I’m glad I’m not alone in those emotions. I had my 2nd child 4 week ago and have been going through similar challenge with my older daughter and my relationship with her. Even though she is not nursing still the special time we used to share is not always possible now.

  10. Oh. This made me cry all the cries. My son will be 2y4m when my 2nd will be here and he is such a mama’s boy. He was nursed until he self weaned at 23 months (my milk dried up). He is non verbal and we suspect he has autism so I know it will make it that much harder to adjust to the new life we have ahead of us. All I have done is worry about how he is going to take this change and I have cried and cried thinking he is going to feel like he has been pushed aside after he has been practically the center of my universe until then.

  11. joley payne says

    I know too well the feelings you are speaking about here. I can tell you that with me it did get better, eventually. My first dd was 2 1/2 when her sister was born and it took a good 6 months to get to a point where I felt ok as a mother of 2. When dd#2 was 3 my son was born and it all came back again, but I was ready for it this time. Things are definitely different with more children but the love that they have brought to my life is immeasurable, I wish you luck with this new phase in your life and I will continue to follow you on your journey. Thank you for being so open with the world 🙂

  12. Wow. This is deep. Thank you for sharing this. My oldest is 3 1/2 and I just had my baby girl 3 1/2 wks ago. And man it’s intense!! He isn’t nursing anymore but the little one is and with the help of your pg I feel confident to continue. However many times I say to myself ‘this too shall pass’ it sure helps to know I’m not alone.

  13. Hi Abbey!.
    I am experiencing something of the same sort with my 19 month old a newly home premature baby son. He has acted up in more ways than i can count and I find myself going between each of them and feeling guilty of both. It spreads me thin

  14. Is that red hair on Exley??

  15. I felt so alone in my journey when baby #2 came. After trauma with my oldest son shortly after his second birthday we were all still coping when his brother arrived. I felt like a deep canyon separated us when I used to be his rock. I was devastated, mad, emotional, and frustrated I couldn’t meet both thier needs at once. It took at least 6 months before things settled and our new normal surfaced. It is good now almost 1 1/2 later. There is a beautiful relationship between brothers that fills my heart. Thank you for your honesty and putting words to so many emotions I couldn’t grasp at the time. It will get better. It will be different. But different in a very special beautiful way.

  16. Wow this is so very beautiful, sad & emotional. I’m a FTM, it has completely transformed me. My 7 month old and I are so very close. I still breastfeed and bed share. I love being a mom and want another child but because of all these reasons and feelings that I have & that you confirmed through this article I’m holding off, I’m terrified to go through this & put my baby boy through it even though I know I’d make it work out and I know it’s completely normal. Maybe some of us mammas are just way overly sensitive (in a good way) I don’t know. 🙂 But nonetheless I enjoyed reading this article. Made me want to cry for you, for Jack and all us moms who love & work so hard!

    • I’m with Tina! Except my son is nearly 14 months. It made me feel really emotional to read this, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I am definitely sure that I want to hold off a while longer! It must be so terribly confusing to go through these emotions, and I really appreciate your honesty and rawness in expressing them!

  17. Thank you so much for this!! My son is 17 months and him and I are extremely close. We are still nursing and cosleeping. Recently my husband and I started discussing expanding our family, but I am so worried about all the things you are currently going through. All my friends and family think I am crazy! As much as I want my son to have a sibling I worry so much about him feeling pushed out by a new baby! Thank you for letting me know I am not the only one who feels this way!!

  18. Ohhhh….. This completely made me tear up. I feel for you. I just had my second 10 weeks ago and sometimes my son will just look at me and I can tell his little heart is just so sad. The pictures I have of him from the first few weeks just break me because you can just see in his eyes how hard or was for him. Someone told me it will be ok, that they will never remember this transition once they’re older but it still hurts just the same. Good luck mamma…. I’m sure it will get better someday.

  19. Jennifer Shelton says

    I went through some of this when my son was born, but my daughter thought he was her baby. They are 23 months apart & the best of friends at ages 4 & 2. It’s been a harder transition having twin boys. My son will point to their bouncy chairs or baby bed wanting me to put down whichever one I’m holding/nursing. Other times he runs up & kisses them or pats them. My daughter is still my little mama & wants to hold them all the time. I feel spread very thin, especially on days where I have all 4 by myself. It’s slowly getting easier. We’ve passed 5 Weeks!

  20. All of your blog posts say you knew what Jack wished or that you know what he’s thinking. That might not be the case. You may be projecting what you THINK he’s feeling onto his true feelings.
    My son was 4 when my daughter was born and he waited a month to kiss her. We didn’t push it but I was careful not to project what I “thought” he was feeling or thinking onto him to make sense of it all.
    Turn your brain off (easier said than done) and just go with the flow. Having 2 babies is a new ball game but you guys will work it out and all will be well in no time.
    Be easy on yourself because guess what, mistakes will be made. It’s inevitable. Mom guilt is the worst! Kids are resilient and people have been having multiple kids since the beginning of time and the older siblings always survive.

  21. I felt exactly the same when my son was born and dd was 21 months. It was hard expecially the beginning and being winter the baby kept getting sick from the toddler it was bad. But now 12 months on they lived each other so much and char each other and giggle and cuddle. I know the small amount of closeness between me and my 1st that changed when my 2nd was born is totally worth it compared to the lifetime of love they have for each other.

  22. It’s so hard for them when a sibling is born! Good for you to let him get his crying out. It will help him heal from the trauma of it all. One thing I found super helpful to rebuilding the family dynamic was playing lots of laughter games and also letting the older one ‘pretend’ to be a baby. It does take time and I even found that things got worse as time went on! But, it all settles eventually 🙂 Much love to you!

  23. I’m so glad to read this, but sadly it makes me rethink having a second child. I know I will feel the same way you do and that my son will be just like jack. I worry that I will be more “loyal” to my first born, and that’s not fair to the new baby. Hang in there and keep being honest with us and especially your self.

  24. I’m having a similar experience. My almost two year old and my almost 3 month old (21 months apart, to the day!). My daughter was my entire world, my heart, my breath… And now I’m crying… Because I miss her, no, I miss us and our bond so so so much! I feel the loss in my heart and in hers. It’s been a very bumpy transition for us too. It’s getting better, but I still long for more time alone with each baby. It’s so stinking hard to balance. Best of luck to you. I hope we all strike a balance soon!

  25. Jessica S says

    I just found out I’m unexpectedly pregnant with #2 and my son will be 22-23 months old when this baby is born. My son still nurses on demand and naps with me, so adding a newborn to the situation is both happy and exciting, but heartbreaking. My son isn’t ready for this and can’t understand what’s going on, why my milk supply is already decreasing and why my patience is spread so thin. Even though Jack is older than my kiddo this helps me a lot, and frankly makes me realize that with time my son will love his brother or sister.

  26. This article has really struck a chord with me. I currently have 4 month old and 21 month old children. We went through and are still going through a similar emotional roller coaster. It does get easier though and there are upsides. Seeing how my partners relationship with my eldest has grown since our new baby arrived, seeing my eldest slowly warming to his sibling- running to get me if baby is upset and he hears cries before me, reading baby sorry books, little kisses. It’s getting easier for all of us. Once the nursing settled down with the littlest I made a point of doing things one on one as much as possible to the eldest. Little shippets of time made a huge positive difference. Nipping to the local shop with the eldest while the youngest stayed at home with dad for 10 mins, doing bedtime or bath time with eldest, giving him my undivided attention when baby sleeps. It gets easier and remember what a wonderful gift a sibling is.

  27. As I was reading this I found myself crying like a baby.. I have a 17 month old little boy who is my world.. His daddy has been away for 8 months and we are getting ready to make the big move to Germany to be with him. We had to get rid of both of our dogs. =-( We are planning on trying for a 2nd when we are together again and I am so terrified that with all the changes going through my sons life, he won’t be ready for mommy to have another baby.. My son is also still nursing, I don’t plan on tandem nursing though. Anyways, reading this gives me fear about whys to come.. But it also gives me hope that all will eventually work out. Thank you for sharing.

  28. Having a new baby in the household is the natural progression of a growing family. Im sure he will not be scarred by this experience.

  29. Your articles have helped me soo soooooo much. I have a newly 3 year old baby boy Henry. He is the apple of my eye..as I am his. We literally are each other’s worlds. I am 38 weeks pregnant with baby boy #2 and have found myself pushing my thoughts aside when my mind starts to think about how life will change when our new bundle comes any day now. I am too scared to think about it. Your raw emotions are so honest and help me cope with what I know I will feel. Thank you so much!

  30. Brenda Holland-Robinson says

    No words…just, no words.

  31. kristin kate White says

    I could have written this! Im 6 months down the road. Have struggled to bf my second baby. I miss my daughter terribly sometimes I wish my son would go away so it could be me and ella again. Or that ella was older so she would understand my needs to feed baby. And she doesnt nurse anymore. I dont feel connected woth my son most of the time. He jas spent the better part of 6 m I nths screaming. All the while my girl grows before my eyes. She has pottied trained herself and even tries to help me wash dishes. And change diapers. I loce both babies bit I love them differently.

  32. Thank you for this, i have tears in my eyes. I sit here nursing my 6mth old and i am so glad and relieved to know im not the only one who has felt this way. I miss my elder daughter, i miss the one on one cuddles and how we used to be. I also miss being able to have one on one time with my baby and do at times get annoyed and touched out with my toddler. Its gotten easier and there are definite moments now when my big girl shows she has accepted our new normal and is starting to genuinely love and adore her baby sister. One day at a time mama, it does get easier!

  33. Viktoria Aird says

    Thank you for sharing, i thought i was the only one with these challenges, types of thoughts and worries. But you’ve reasured me that i am actually human and these are just things i need to work through….not to get down and hard on myself about. I look forward to reading more.

  34. I am really glad to read this website posts which carries lots of valuable information, thanks for
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  35. jenni more says

    This is deep. This is soo dead on. This article accurately puts into words what I could never explain about going from one child to two. And then again when i went from three children to four. I definitely felt all these feels when my second-born Jimmi joined 3 year old Jack; and then again when fourth baby Jorja joined 3 year old Jasper. (Jimmi was a little older when he became a big brother, and much wiser than his 5 years, so that made things quite a bit different.) I shared this on facebook for my many friends with little ones who will soon make -or have recently made- the transition from mommy of one to mommy × 2.

  36. My boys are 13 months apart .. I was really scarred that my oldest would feel left out and it was hard at first but thankfully he seemed to love the new baby ..I’m very thankful they are so close in age tho because I know me and my sister are best friends and we are only 11 months apart!! Good luck mommies I’m sure it will all turn out great as they grow up together

  37. A couple of months ago, before our angel got his/her wings, I was in your shoes–or on the way there. My son, now 18 months old, is still very much Mommy’s boy, and still nursing, still needing my attention even when I need to do other things. During the 6 weeks I was pregnant and aware of it, I would tell him about “our” baby that was growing in Mommy’s tummy and talk to him about how great being a big brother would be. But deep down, I worried: would he feel pushed aside, would he resent the new baby, would he get enough love and attention from me? Now he’ll be older if and when #2 comes along, and more verbal, maybe weaned, but I’ll still worry.

    Thank you for expressing your feelings, and giving the rest of us hope that what we feel is normal.

  38. I love how you were not afraid to really speak your mind about your feelings.

  39. When my son was born, I found it really hard too. I remember looking at my little daughter asleep in her bed, and thinking how different her world was going to be when she woke up, mummy would be gone and away from her overnight for the first time ever.
    She was not impressed with our new arrival, she was just over two years old when he was born, and she tolerated him for two weeks. Then all of a sudden she seemed to realise that he wasn’t going anywhere and was here to stay. She put us through hell for a few weeks. Now she’s four, my son is nearly two. They are inseparable! It does get better I promise!
    I also remember the feeling of wanting her to go away, her seeming so big, so foreign compared to her newborn brother. Honestly, the guilt was horrid. But again, it got better, she is my best friend again, my amazing wonderful little girl & I love her!

    I promise, it will be better! Xxxx

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