What They Don’t Tell You to Expect…

The guilt.

Before anyone knew we were pregnant, I was holding my brand new teeny, tiny nephew, feeling all sorts of hormonal butterflies about the baby starting to grow in my belly. As I held him, my two-year-old ran into the room. She needed my attention and as I bent down to answer her request the helpless, wobbly-necked newborn careened backwards out of my arms. I caught him just before dropping him completely onto the faraway floor, but not before his newly minted parents saw it and probably wanted to grab him from my unfit arms. After the “incident,” I glanced horrified at my husband, the sharer of our baby secret, and gave him a wide-eyed look of, “what in the hizzle have we done?!” I know in my guilt-ridden, I almost just killed your kid paranoia, I said the phrase aloud, “We can never have more than one kid.” Whoops. That ship had sailed.

And so began the guilt about having a second child.

I firmly believe it is the greatest gift to give a child a sibling, but I never really knew I’d feel guilty about having another baby.

I feel guilty about the fact that I don’t have the time to sit around and daydream about our second child like I did with our first. I know I devoted hours to picturing my daughter’s hair, her lips, and her little hands. I’d pull out her little outfits and try to envision her chubby little legs filling them out. This pregnancy I spend my days tending to the needs of that daughter, the one I spent so much time dreaming of. The demands of my occasionally tiny toddler terrorist must be met with some urgency leaving little time to daydream about our second daughter.

Actually, I feel guilty that I don’t even think to daydream about our unborn daughter as much. I sometimes forget we’re having a baby. It pains me to say it because I feel like I’m shorting my unborn, but there are just not enough hours in the day. Some days I barely remember to brush the pearly whites, which won’t be for much longer with my negligence. I’m rolling up exhausted for bed, working my stretchy pants like a sex machine, and snoring before the lights are out.

I feel guilty that I’m three parts terrified, one part pooping my pants at having a second kid. Is it normal to have fear? Almost dropping my nephew made me realize this two kids, not enough hands business is real and intimidating.

I feel guilty that I worry I’ll love one child more than the other. What kind of monster thinks that? I’ve never had multiple children before and I hear the heart has room enough for all, but perhaps I’ll feel more connected to one child than the other. Is that a parenting truth no one has the guts to say? I mean most kids think their parents have favorites. (Favorite sibling of my parents, you know who you are and you know how we like to call you out for it. And by call you out I mean talk behind your back about it. We gossip because we care.)

I feel guilty that Harper has no idea how much her world will change. I watch her cock her sweet little head and pull funny faces to make me laugh, totally enamored with my undivided attention, and the guilt lodges in my chest. She’s thrilled by the idea of “sissy boo,” but her innocence at how much her world will really change breaks my heart. I feel like a jerk. She has no idea what’s about to hit her and it’s all my doing (well mine and my lover’s). I worry at how she’ll adjust to my divided attention.

I feel guilty that my attention will be divided. I want to be there for my daughters. I want to help them and guide them, but I know, at times, I won’t be able to. I hate to think that at times I’ll have to choose between their needs. Every day Harper asks me, “Where are we going today?” I don’t know how I’ll tell her “no where for six months” once the baby arrives. I know that’s an exaggeration but our world will slow and change and it’s nerve-racking.

I feel guilty that I’m growing to be a lazy-pile-of-sludge with each passing day. I enjoy running amuck with my toddler, but sometimes the loud and proud belly is a buzz kill to all her jumping, skipping, dancing dreams (read: peeing my pants). I try my darndest, but sometimes, pregnancy with a toddler just ain’t easy. It’s hard out here for a preggo.

I feel guilty that I am mourning the loss of being a “new” mom. There is something sacred in the harrowing, emotionally tough but sweet lessons taught to a first-time mother by her first-born babe. We have cried together, made mistakes together, but ultimately, grown together. We have learned together how to be a family. My first made me a mom. She gave me so many “firsts” and while I know my second child will still give me “firsts,” I feel guilty that she doesn’t have the same opportunity to be the first baby that expanded my heart.

My dog-eared copy of What to Expect hasn’t been much help on the subject either. I am finding I harbor a generous helping of guilt at any given moment. I mean I have guilt about having guilt for heaven’s sake…

Image: Me in all my exhausted pregnant glory

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  1. by Victoria

    On December 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I felt the same way…my daughter was 2 and I wanted another…but then all of the sudden it was what if I can’t love the 2nd as much as my first, or what if he takes up too much of my time. But…you find that your heart makes more room for two and you love them equally but no less than before. You see your now 2 and 4 year old, giggling and playing and are inseparable…and all that old guilt is just some old memory of the past.

  2. by Desiree

    On December 23, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Mine are 2 and 5 and I still feel guilt. My oldest is autistic, and my youngest is in the middle of being evaluated as well. So on top of the normal mom guilt for turning the world upside down, I’ve piled onto it. Guilt about having to drop whatever my two year old and I are playing with to tackle a meltdown the 5 year old is having. Having to cancel plans constantly because one of them is having a horrible day. So for me the guilt has become double sided – I feel guilty because I have to constantly drop what I’m doing for one child to rush to the side of the other. Added to that the knowledge that I will probably never be able to spend as much one-on-one time with the youngest…
    I think guilt is normal. I also think it’s 10 times more intense for mothers, and 100x more intense for mothers with more than one child.

  3. by Melissa

    On December 23, 2012 at 11:43 am

    I got pregnant with our second a couple months before our first turned 1. Although I didn’t feel exactly the way you did, I did have a tremendous amount of guilt. I lost my job due to cuts around the same time I conceived. We didn’t think we could conceive on our own due to fertility issues so worrying about getting pregnant was a far off thought. But it was a miracle in and of itself that we conceive our second. My guilt came from the fact that we were now livig on a single income that could not make ends meet! Luckily, around the start of my second trimester I got a job and the guilt went away. For the first time in months I was finally excited about the arrival of our second child. Then, the guilt came back for not being happy when we learned I was pregnant. Although it wasn’t an easy pregnancy, it did go by fast because there is no time to think about being pregnant when you have a child under 2 running around.
    I didn’t write this to share my feelings but to caution you that the feelings of guilt came back when we brought our son home. Maybe it was the hormones but when we got home, my daughter cried and acted out any time I picked up our son or hand to tend to him. I looke at my husband an sobbed whole I cradled our daughter who still wasn’t yet 2 years old yet. I cried “what did we do? How could we do this to her? This was a horrible idea”. There was not one moment that I ever thought of doing anything harmful to our son…let me make that clear! He was the perfect addition to our family and made our lives complete but I couldn’t change the way I felt when I saw the hurt and frustration in our daughter eyes the first few weeks. But, like everyone said, she got use to the little monkey we brought brought home. I am grateful that she will never remember life as a single child and that they will grow up and play together because they are so close in age. Don’t worry! Everything will be fine and after sleep returns, you’ll look bak on these days and cherish the memories of these days! Feel well and rest up! (There are no more days of taking cat naps throughout the day with this pregnancy like the last pregnancy but its SO worth it!)

  4. by Jessica

    On December 23, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Honestly, I felt guilt, but it was a different kind. It was more of being afraid that I was neglecting my oldest by having another child because instead of having all of our attention, she would now have to share it. I swore that no matter what, I would make sure that she knew she was just ass loved now as she was before. My daughter is now almost four and my son is eleven months. I have tried to find a balance with attention, but I still try and get in some one-on-one time with my daughter. She’s handling it ok, but we still get those days where you can just tell she feels left out. Those are the days we plan something extra special like a baking day with mommy. <3

  5. by Tiffany

    On December 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Relax. you put way to much thought in to being parents that you stress yourself out. Being a relaxed parent is the best thing you can be for your child. Stressing about their future now is rediculouse. Just love them and protect them. Teach them. and let them explore. Don’t hold them to close. No guilt needed. I have 3 sons. 2, 4 and 6. I teach them to love each other all the time. There so busy being there for each other that they don’t even think for a second that there not getting enough attention.

  6. by Brooke

    On December 23, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    My son is 22 months and I am pregnant with our 2nd. And I am so relieved to see that others feel the same way I have been feeling. I thought I was being a terrible person having thoughts such as, how will I love my 2nd child as much as I love my son? How will I make time for both? But, the first question weighs extremely heavy on my heart. I guess this feeling is one that every mother goes through and I just pray that everything will work itself out.

  7. by Katie

    On December 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I feel this way even moreso with my 3rd pregnancy. I’m expecting Baby #3 in just three weeks and I have a just-turned four year old daughter and an 18 month son. My daughter seems fine with it, she’s been through it before and she’s old enough to kind of grasp the idea. My son, however, has no idea. He’s a huge Mommy’s-boy and I love that about him. I feel a lot of guilt because I feel like I’m taking time away from him that I had with my daughter (an entire year less between babies!) It’s hard, but I know I’ll love this baby as much as I love my other two and that everything will work out, and it will for you too! Love grows, your heart will grow and you’ll love your little family more than ever! Best of luck to you!!

  8. by Carolyn Kavarnos

    On December 23, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Since I was a little girl I always knew I wanted to have a lot of children. I came from a family of five and then a slew of nieces and nephews as I was the youngest and so I was always around babies. I clearly remember by bff and I talking when we were 8 or 9, she asked me how many kids I wanted and I told her and she said she wanted 2 but she was worried that she would love one more than the other. She then asked me how would she handle that (this was an 8 year old conversation that we talk about to this day). I told her then that it was just the silliest thing to worry about and that we love all our kids and to stop worrying about that. I honestly thought it was the silliest thing and 5 kids later still do. She has 2 herself and we laugh about this. I can honestly tell you that was never something that ever crossed my mind then or when I was pregnant or now. I worried about a lot of things during pregnancy like contracting CMV or Fifth’s Disease, having a miscarriage or child with a birth defect but not if I would love one child more but based on my friend and these comments and others I guess people really have those concerns.

  9. by e

    On December 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    My daughter is 22 months and 30 wks pregnant with our second daughter. I’m typically very energetic but I feel awful I can’t wrestle and jump and frolic with her these days. I had horrible morning sickness thru week 20. Part of me is scared I won’t have time to cater to everyone’s needs and part is scared that I will love one kid more than the other. I feel guilty just showing my friends new baby love and attention in my toddler’s presence even though she loves being around her. It’s definitely hard emotionally and physically as I am now chronically tired as well. I used to be super mom with clean house, laundry etc daily. Now I do laundry and such as necessary. Not because I lack desire, but energy to do that and still care for our toddler properly.

  10. by Pamela

    On December 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I am a mother of 5 children and preggos with my 6th. I find it easy to spend time with all of my kids. Stop feeling guilty accept it. You will be alot happier its a blessing.

  11. by Kay

    On December 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I know how you feel.. When my 1st daughter was 7 months old I found out I was pregnant again… I felt so guilty I would cry and not understand how I’m going to handle 2 kids under 2… I had so much love for my first one I didn’t think it was possible to love the new baby as much..I felt guilty cause I felt I didn’t have enough time with my first..I had all kinds if fears..now my second daughter is 6 months old and I love her to pieces.. I include my first daughter in everything with the baby like feeding, changing her and putting her to sleep.. She loves her so much and it’s amazing watching them interact and laugh at each other.. It’s a whole new set of first and I wouldn’t change a thing.. It is hard at times but watching them laugh at each other makes it all worth it.. I’m looking forward to baby #3.. Well maybe in a couple of years.. Lol

  12. by Rebecca

    On December 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Totally get it. I’m one month in with our 2nd daughter and iut first is 2. Don’t worry….it’s amazing how your love grows. Our oldest loves her sister and even though we see her fight for attention at times, she is doing just fine. And the first week was super rough, but you get in the grove quickly and find the new balance. Fortunately newborns sleep a lot so you will still find time to cuddle with your precious older daughter as well.

  13. by Rebecca

    On December 23, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    *our first is 2

  14. by Jen

    On December 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Interesting. I just had my second and guilt was the last thing that entered my mind. I am overfilled with JOY that I am able to have more than one child to teach and care for. The world is much too selfish these days and having multiple children can help counter this in our own homes. Kids don’t need to feel like they are the most important thing in this world. They need to learn to share and deal with life from day one in a loving, caring environment. It is totally possible to have the same amount of love for each child, and also to love them and their different personalities. Some worry about spending enough time with each child, if you get off the computer or turn off the TV for awhile you shouldn’t have any problems at all with time! Read to your kids, have bedtime talks with your kids, just little things make a huge difference!
    Having another child can be an adjustment for the whole family, but try and look at it in a positive way, as a new opportunity and a new joy for everyone and no one will suffer ill effects.

  15. by Ashley

    On December 24, 2012 at 6:06 am

    I really appreciate this post. I have a 19 month old daughter & am 16 weeks pregnant with our second child. I am completely enamored with our little girl, and I have felt such guilt over changing her life & she’s not even aware of it, & how will I have enough love for both babies, & why does this pregnancy not consume every waking second of my thoughts. So, it is great to know that other people are going through or have gone through the same things.

  16. by Young Mom

    On December 24, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I only have one child but my husband wants another one, I told him we have to wait till my doughtier is about four or so and I have a job. However, I do not want another child to soon because I know what its like to live in my older sister’s shadow we are five years apart and she IS number one to our relatives. But, my mother has no favorites and never made me feel unloved or unwanted so I know a mother’s heart is BIG and grows bigger even when there is a third child like my little brother.

  17. by Iva

    On December 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    A little dramatic and over the top. Everyone has a right to feel what they feel. But keep in mind… This is life… This is family…. This reality has always been. Our different experiences are what make us who we are and make the world and life interesting. Trust yourself. Trust in love. Trust in your partner and daughter who will surprise you with her love of sibling. We are so afraid that our children may suffer. Of course they will… It is part of life. It is how we teach them to cope with any kind of suffering that makes a person who they are. You are giving the gift of sisterhood…. A very powerful thing.

  18. by Bekka Besich

    On December 26, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Young Mom,

    Thank you for your comment. I’m glad to know the mother’s heart is big enough for all. I fully expect mine too growas well. I’ve just never done this before and sometimes wonder how it will all work out. And just in case you thought otherwise, my mom really didn’t play favorites. She loves us all equally. I was mostly joking about how kids think at one point or another that there is a favorite. Oh kids.

  19. by Bekka Besich

    On December 26, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Iva,

    I’m glad you got my humor, always dramatic and over the top;) I do appreciate your advice to trust in love. I know it will all work out and my heart will grow and expand in ways I haven’t experienced before and my daughter will surprise me. I have no doubt about that. And I wholeheartedly agree that suffering is a part of life. I don’t expect or want to shield my daughter from it all. I’ve just never done this before and was surprised by the emotion of guilt. The guilt however is most definitely outweighed by the excitement I feel at giving my daughter the gift of a sister. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  20. by Bekka Besich

    On December 26, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Jen,

    Thanks for your comments. I wholeheartedly agree that having multiple children is a great way to counter selfishness. I believe families are the best place to learn about sharing, unconditional love, and selflessness and it is the one of the reason we chose to have more children. I fully expect to have the same amount of love for each of my children. I’ve just never done this before and put to thought some of the questions of my heart. Really though, I feel the positivity of this growing experience as a family everyday and I am overwhelmed with excitement for the joy a new addition will bring to our family. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  21. by Bekka Besich

    On December 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Rebecca,

    Thanks for the support. I know it will work itself out. It will be a growing experience for all of us and I’m elated to have my love grow more.

  22. by Bekka Besich

    On December 26, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Pamela,

    It is a blessing. I agree. Guilt comes and goes but mostly, I really am excited.

  23. by Bekka Besich

    On December 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Tiffany,

    Thanks for reminding me to relax. I have a tendency to forget. I think parenting can be hard in this day and age with so many expectations (many of them totally unnecessary). It is good to be a relaxed parent. When I get nervous I try to remind myself that my job as a parent is just to love my kids. And teach them. Everything else is a bonus. Thanks for reminding me just to love them.

  24. by Christina

    On December 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    I could have written this word for word, and as I sit here watching my 3 month old sleep in his swing as my 2 year old naps upstairs I can tell you it all works out, and perfection is a dangerous game to play. Every day you do your best to divide attention and affection and you will love them equally. And that equal is not equal in every way. I love my daughter’s feistiness and her outgoing, verbose nature. I love my son’s easy smile and laid-back attitude, his sense of calm. They are so different and so perfect because of that. It’s an amazing thing juggling two and you should worry, but you’ll be fine :)

  25. by Bekka Besich

    On December 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Christina,
    Thank you! You said it perfectly what I needed to hear. I definitely don’t want to play the perfection game. I’m not about that. I am ready for my heart to expand and love them each for their own strengths and weaknesses. Your thoughts about “equal is not equal in every way” is profound. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Best,
    Bekka

  26. by Mom

    On December 28, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Talk about melodramatic. Your children will be just fine. So your oldest wont think the universe revolves around her- boo hoo. So each child won’t have your undivided attention 24/7, neither does anyone one else in the world have that of someone else. Mothers go to work or fathers go to work and during that time they aren’t giving attention to their families. It’s called life. Time to look at the glass half full instead of freaking out that you now have to share that glass.

  27. by Bekka Besich

    On December 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Mom/Jenn,

    Thank you for reading my melodramatics. I am nothing as a writer if not melodramatic. I hope you could tell a lot of it was facetious and a (hopefully) humorous way to approach a feeling I think some, maybe even a lot of moms feel. Please don’t think I want my daughter to believe the world revolves around her. I’m firmly against that. I wasn’t raised that way and I won’t raise my children that way either.
    Also, I think the majority of my pregnancy is spent looking at the glass half full but occasionally, I (like all people) experience emotions I didn’t expect. And those emotions aren’t always the best, or nice, or pretty. I want to share my glass with all my children, my husband, and myself, but I’m just a mom who has never done it before and is at times worried/intrigued/curious at how it will all happen. I know it will work out well because I saw my own mother do it with six children and I see many moms do it on a daily basis. My approach to processing emotions are to acknowledge them, like the guilt, write it out, and move on. Glass half full again. No worries. Thanks for reading and commenting.