It's weird how you can feel so differently about your kids. And, of course, we're not supposed to admit that we do feel differently about them. As I write this, I worry about the girls reading these posts someday and searching for clues of whether I loved one more than the other, favored one over the other. When you are a child and before you have children, this sort of arithmetic seems a simple matter of more-than and less-than. After children, you realize such equations never hold.
After I had Addie, I asked my friend Cortney--who had two kids of her own--if she loved the second one as much as the first.
"Yes," she said. "Absolutely."
"No way. Tell me the truth. You can't love the second one as much."
"You can. I do. It just happens."
At the time, I didn't believe her. I couldn't imagine loving anyone as fiercely, as insanely, as protectively as I loved Addie. The moment she was born, after so much waiting and such a long labor, I fell ridiculously in love with her. In fact, the phrase "in love" doesn't really capture it. It was a feeling totally different from any other love I had felt before, more consuming and overwhelming. I still grasp at words to describe it, and still come up short. It seemed impossible to me that I could feel that again.
I was trying to explain this to a pregnant friend the other day who is expecting her second daughter. She said she almost hoped she wouldn't feel that fierce, insane love a second time. Worried that it almost undid her the first time around with its manic intensity. Exactly.
And, in fact, that wasn't how I felt for Nolie when she was born. For one thing, I didn't have an epidural during Nolie's birth the way I had during Addie's, so I was sort of in shock at how much the whole thing hurt. Again, the word "hurt" doesn't really capture it, but that's fodder for another post. Also, I badly hemorrhaged after Nolie's birth, and was pretty out of it and exhausted for several days. Then Nolie was diagnosed with a severe case of jaundice, which necessitated her being in a bilirubin box, and...well...those days are a blur. I mean, I knew I loved Nolie, but it was a love that was a little harder to come by. I fretted over it, worried it into a tight little ball that I watched roll around in my peripheral vision. I couldn't grab it, clutching it the way I had my love for Addie.
And, too, Nolie's the second. This is the blessing and the curse, right? The blessing of being free from the focused scrutiny that curses the firstborn; the curse of never having been the sole center of attention. The blessing of being outside the neurotic magnifications of new parents; the curse of being familiar, sharing the slide with another child underneath the scope of older, calmer parents.
But now that Nolie is three months old, I find myself falling deeply and strangely in love with this gentle person, in ways different--but equally magical--from how I love Addie. There is a different history between Nolie and I. She is, in many ways, my tenacious little miracle baby, the baby who didn't show up on three different pregnancy tests (even though I knew, I KNEW, I was pregnant); the baby whom we thought we lost three months into the pregnancy when I started bleeding profusely; the baby who sent me into labor no fewer than five times before I finally coaxed her out in a castor-oil-induced bullet-train of a rush, so fast the doctor never even made it to the hospital. She is calmer and quieter than my spirited, ebullient Addie. She looks into my eyes for the longest time as she nurses, smiling at me and batting her caterpillar lashes. We look into each other's faces as if sharing the magnificent secret of our connection, only with each other.
In short, we are in love. A thousand times a day we share our little secret with each other, my Magnolia Jade and I, of this intense, quiet emotion. Just as my love for Addie is raucous and complicated and fierce, my love for Nolie is sweet and deep and gentle.
What gifts they give me, these girls of mine...