When you have your first child and they hand you that baby, you think to yourself there is nothing in the world you could love more.

Then, you find out you’re pregnant with your second. Secretly, you think to yourself you and your firstborn have this unbreakable bond and he still may be your favorite, because he was your first, after all.

Then you come home with your new baby and your oldest runs over while holding a foam sword in one hand and hard plastic flute in the other. You stiff arm your firstborn away like you’re Todd Gurley. You feel this innate sense to protect your baby (the new baby of the family) from your oldest. So, the barrier begins.

I find all of this a little amusing as I am also the oldest. I always felt this little bit of a barrier between my mother and me when it came to my younger brother. Why was it always my fault when something broke? Why does she still pour his cereal for him at age 25? Why was it my responsibility to set the example (mind you, I did)? I graduated high school with a 4.0 and went on to graduate college in three years. I did have a great childhood and have an amazing relationship with both my parents to this day, but that always loomed in the back of my mind. Then it all came full circle that day I brought my son home to my almost-3-year-old daughter.

I, of course, love both of my children the same—unconditionally. But, what no one warns you about having your second child is the frustration you will take out on your first. You expect your toddler to now act like an adult as you truly have a baby back in the house. I remember telling my daughter you can get your own snack, you can put on your own shoes, you can find that lost toy. I would snap at her, my patience lacking from only getting a couple of hours of sleep.

I would hear my son cry and immediately think my daughter had done something to accidentally hurt him or wake him (most of the time it was her waking him). I could feel this growing resentment toward her that I hated. She would be hanging off my neck while I had my son on my boob and I just wanted her to leave. I wanted that special time with my son and mostly, I just wanted time to myself.

Finally, one day when she was acting out about something minuscule, I caught myself, and instead of yelling I simply asked her, “What is the matter?” She turned to me with her beautiful blue eyes and said, “I just want you to hold me.” My heart sank. I couldn’t even think about the last time I had held her. Her bedtime routine had been cut down to five minutes of YouTube Kids and a quick prayer goodnight for the past month, all while I rocked my son for what seemed like an eternity to get him to fall asleep.

It was in that moment that, for the first time, I felt like I was failing at being a mom to two souls. I had to take that barrier down that was put up the day I brought my son home. I took her in my tired arms and held her. I could hear my son crying in the distance for his next feeding. My daughter let go and said, “it’s OK mommy, go get him.” I didn’t. I let him cry it out a little longer while I held my first baby.

Now, a year later my daughter is the BEST big sister I could ever ask for. Those first months with a new baby and a toddler do seem to drag on, but somewhere in the midst of the chaos, your older child will see and learn the love you have for both of them. My daughter has stopped my son from choking on random items more times than I can count. She looks out for him, she plays with him, she loves him. It’s not always rainbows (there was that one time she held his head underwater during a bath to teach him how to blow bubbles), but for the most part, they are great together.

I have learned how to break that invisible barrier down. And hey, even if I still snap at my eldest from time to time and expect more from her, there is a reason for it. I’m raising her to be a confident, successful firstborn woman. After all, that’s why they say the oldest is more likely to be president and most astronaut to go into space have been eldest children. I’m a pretty fabulous oldest child myself, too.

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Dear Toddler, We’ll Figure Out How to Handle a New Baby Like We Do Everything Else: Together

My Second Baby Taught Me to Mother Without Fear

Rachael Ramas

Rachael is a writer and chief encouragement officer to her fam of four. She is a Jesus lover, baby hugger and schedule juggler. As a midwestern girl living in a South Florida world, she enjoys transcribing her time raising her fournager daughter and wild man one year old. She doesn’t take herself too seriously but does her kids bedtime.