Most of the kids I knew growing up had brothers and sisters. It was mystifying to me to watch their dynamic—bickering and wrestling one moment and then thick as thieves the next. One of my best friends would always ask her mother who she loved best out of all her children.
“I love you all the same,” she would say every time.
That was hard for me to imagine. But then, I was an only child. I was the favorite by default.
My firstborn came into the world like a storm. I clung to the bed rail gasping in pain as I labored, only vaguely aware of the icy rain coming in drumbeats against the window on the bitter November night. When it came time to push, I roared for over an hour until she shot out—face up, one eye open, afraid to miss even a second of this brand new world. She told me who she was from the very beginning.
The idea of giving birth had been a source of fear, but those first months of motherhood were more agony than labor ever had been. Postpartum depression stole the color from my world. I looked at my beautiful daughter, the one I had hoped and prayed for since I was a little girl cradling baby dolls, and all I felt was a keen sense of failure. She deserved so much more than me. She would be better off without me.
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When I think of how close I came to missing it all, I am chilled to the bone. We fought so hard to get to each other, my girl and me. By her first birthday, she was the light and joy of my life. When she cried out in the middle of the night, I picked her up and melted as her little arms wound around my neck. I held her until her sobs quieted into soft, even breaths. My feisty, spirited little girl.
How could I ever love someone else as much? My heart felt like it was holding the entire sky.
When I got pregnant again, I was thrilled but hesitant. Memories came flooding back—the months of morning sickness, the pain, the creeping darkness that came after. This time if I went under, I was leaving two children, one of whom would be old enough to watch it happen. Could I fight through it again? Even if I did, was there room in my heart?
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I waited for the discomforts of pregnancy that never came. Aside from some bouts of heartburn (blame the spicy food cravings), I had never felt better. The baby rolled and thumped reassuringly throughout the day, much to the delight of my daughter, who poked my belly and shrieked with laughter when it poked her back. By late summer it was nearly time, and my doctor sat me down in her office. She closed the door.
“You need to consider a C-section,” she said gently.
What? No. No, I did this before. I didn’t need surgery. I didn’t WANT surgery.
“It’s your choice,” she said. “But this is different from before. The baby is much larger. If we run into a situation where the baby becomes stuck, I can’t promise it won’t go badly.”
At that moment, I knew my heart had all the room it needed.
The idea of losing this new little life was too much to bear. I agreed to the C-section.
The next day I packed a bag and went to the hospital as the sun was rising. As the nurses prepped me, I felt like I was in a dream. There wasn’t really going to be a baby born soon, was there? Everyone was so relaxed. In no time, I was on the table. There was music playing. My husband was next to me, eyes shining with excitement. The medical team was chatting and joking.
Suddenly, there he was. My son. He looked astonished at suddenly being surrounded by light. I must have looked the same. I had been preparing for a storm and was met by a sunny day.
At five and two, my children are so different. They have been since day one. And yet, they are the best of friends. It still mystifies me to see them fight one moment and snuggle up on the couch the next. It makes me miss something I never had. But it makes up for everything when I feel two sets of arms wrapping around me, their giggles threatening to stretch my heart to the point of spilling everything out.
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They have never asked me who I love best. If they do, I won’t tell them I love them the same.
Make no mistake, I love them equally. But I don’t love them the same.
You can’t love any two people in the exact same way. No two loves follow the same path. Loving the ocean doesn’t mean you love the sky less. And sometimes when you stand back and take in the sight of them together, you just can’t believe the world could be so beautiful.