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Two Different Moms

I feel like 2 different mothers sometimes. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but not the flying into a rage part. Well, ok, sometimes the rage part. OK, OK, often the rage part! Get off my back!

But what I want to highlight here is that I feel like each child brings out a different part of me. It’s the anxiety ridden mother versus the calm, cool and collected mother. I had heard from other mothers that the second baby is easier. I didn’t know until I actually had a second baby what that meant for us.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, with first son.

Since the moment my first son, Jack, was born I felt anxious. Even before he was born my husband and I focused on books, how to get him to sleep, how to manage, how to get by. He wasn’t even here yet! When he did come we followed through with our plans and were anxious most of the time. What is wrong with him? Are we doing this right? Are we screwing him up? Oh my god, he fell down! Oh my god, he made a weird noise! IS HE BREATHING????

Holy moly, we were scared. He got a bit bigger and he was able to tell us what was going on. Which made it a bit easier, but we had already developed this relationship with him. On some level I think it’s normal for a first born. On another level I think my husband and I are both anxious people with a flair for the dramatic. Jack is a sensitive guy, cautious, a bit nervous. Hmm, connect the dots much?

I don’t need a lecture on how our emotional state will affect our children. We get it. We really do. It’s not like we enjoy being anxious and helping our already sensitive boy develop anxiety about his world. No, we dislike that and we battle it all the time. We talk about it all the time. We try to grow and learn and help Jack all the time. Help ourselves. All the time.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, after homebirth

Photo courtesy of Tiny Bubbles Family Photography

When our second son, Exley, was born we were totally into the whole “easier” thing. We had been sucker-punched by parenthood; Jack threw us for a loop. We were really excited to embrace this easier thing. And when Exley was born in the most beautiful and dramatic fashion in our living room the way we had been dreaming for far longer than I was pregnant with him, it seemed… better.

And then Jack, our sensitive and anxious boy reacted with the anxiety and sensitivity that we expected. We worked it out, we stuck with him, we held him, carried him, cried with him, stayed up late with him. We still walk him through this major transition. We realize now that Jack has always had our undivided attention. We have always talked about feelings, validated his feelings, left it open for him to express his feelings, modeled the feeling of big feelings. And when Exley came, Jack had many of these big feelings, and we were anxious about it. We listened too, but it’s harder to listen, to give that full attention when another baby comes. The baby has needs too. And now here we were balancing the needs of 2 children. The needs of all us. The anxiety of all of us.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder's husband and son

A few weeks ago we went to the park. Jack and my husband went to the playground, Exley and I lied on a blanket. A few minutes later I hear Jack crying and I see my husband rushing toward me holding Jack. My heart shot into my throat. Oh my god, what happened? Is he OK? Is he…? I rushed toward Jack, stopped, looked back at Exley, moved back toward Exley, moved toward Jack, back and forth until my husband had reached me with Jack. Jack had fallen from one of the climbing structures. My husband was a bit shaken so I guessed it was pretty high up. I calmed Jack down. I nursed him. He was obviously OK, he was crying. Not unconscious. I was not able to immediately connect with the rational part of my brain. I took note of my extreme reaction to hearing him cry.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder's son

A few weeks ago Exley was crawling in the hallway. His hand slipped out from under him and he banged his face into the floor. His tooth cut his lip and he bled. I rushed toward him, picked him up, talked calmly to him, soothed him with my voice and gentle touches, I checked his wound, I talked calmly to him again. I was shaken, he was bleeding a lot, but I clung to my rational thoughts. I stayed present. I nursed him. I took note of my rational, nurturing, level-headed reaction to hearing him cry.

When Exley sneezes I wipe his nose and kiss him. When Exley falls I pick him up and comfort him. When Exley tries to climb I take a deep breath, smile and spot him.

When Jack sneezes I feel the anxiety grow in me and fear the worst. When Jack falls I gasp, run to him and act as if he broke his head. When Jack tries to climb I rush to his side and grasp his bottom to give him a boost and steady him.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Beastfeeder's 2 sons

I don’t love Jack more than I love Exley. I don’t love Exley more than I love Jack. These relationships are built and developed based on so many factors. First and foremost on the personalities of my husband and me, second, on the birth order, third and fourth and for infinity on factors I cannot even fathom still living on this earth.

All I know is that I have a totally different relationship with each of my children. Each so different and so unique and, I’m sure, fucked up in its own way. Beautiful and loving and connected in its own way. So different. For now. Families are the thing that real and natural beauty is made of.

I feel like Jack represents all of my new mom insecurities and anxieties while Exley represents my second-time-mom confidence. Looking forward to a place where my confidence can outweigh my insecurities and I can model the hard work and healthy growth of a person to my children.

Abby Theuring, MSW

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