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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.


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.


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.