this week’s contributor is from courtney, of parent tango, a she says/he says blog about marriage, family, and parenting. in this post she writes about the transition of being a mother of one to multiples, and the beauty of it.
I know several women who are pregnant with their second child. All of them have expressed trepidation over how they will ever be able to love the second child as much as they love the first. I can relate. The mother of four and an only child myself, I am here to tell you, you can love all of your children hugely. And you’re doing a good thing by given them another person to share their young life with.
As an only child, I went along obliviously happy as a lark, not realizing how fortunate I was to benefit from the perks of having my parents’ full attention and the opportunities that went along with that. But when I was 10, my parents told me they had had another baby, born prematurely, two years after I was born. He lived only an hour. Besides the heartache of my parents which I couldn’t even wrap my young brain around, I was suddenly so sad for myself. I went from being contentedly solo in the world to feeling the absence of a sibling I had never known to miss.
From then on, whenever my parents were particularly annoying (they grew increasingly annoying as I entered my teen years, naturally), I wished my brother had been there to commiserate with. I felt lonely for the first time ever and wished he had been there to hang around with. I was changed. And it changed what I thought about having my own children someday.
I married a man who had wanted to have four children since he was a young child. I wasn’t so sure about that number, since four people sounded like a crowd to me! As life and my husband’s fear of a vasectomy would have it, we did indeed have four. For the most part, our kids are friends and certainly devote a lot of time to talking about how incredibly annoying their parents are. It must be great for them.
Sometimes I look at them and remember when I was like my pregnant friend, unable to imagine how I could possibly, ever, love another child as much as I loved my first child. So in the wee hours of the morning, before heading to the hospital in labor I whispered to my sleeping two-year-old, “I’m sorry.” Yes, I apologized to my first child for giving birth to my second! It seems so unfair to the second child and it was so untrue. I wasn’t sorry I was having him. And I wasn’t sorry I’d given her a sibling. Of course, I adored him heart and soul immediately. And my first child loved him too when she wasn’t hating him.
I often watch my children interact (with some envy) and see how their relationships with each other morph and change over the years. They all have different relationships and roles with each other. Most of the time, they probably don’t consider each other much of a gift. But they are, providing playmates, confidants, and exercises in all sorts of life skills.
So I take back the apology I made to my daughter 20 years ago. I had more than enough love to go around. And I gave them each other.
this is so beautifully written and i appreciate the honesty in it. i am a bit nervous about introducing another child into the mix bc i am having so much fun with miss ramona and am a little worried how a little squish is going to change our dynamic! however, i know that what these two siblings will do for each other will be immense. thanks, courtney!
my aunt texted me this photo over the weekend with the question “who does this remind you of?” i had a hunch and was so excited when that hunch was correct: it’s a photo of my grandma driver (my father’s mother) when she was a little girl growing up in fort wayne, indiana. when i showed ramona the photo in the morning and asked her who it is, she said “mona.” i can see why:
the likeness is uncanny. and to see it make it through four generations blows my mind. i asked my grandma about the photo and she told me:
I suppose I was around three or a little younger since it doesn’t look like a November kind of weather. I can’t say I remember much about it except we lived across from the high school stadium and I am told when I was a little younger I ate a little box of garlic that was sitting on the back porch; I must have reeked. It is a wonder they didn’t give me away. The baby buggy I have in the garage, put together last summer by your Papa. Grandma Stowell had carefully shipped it out here many years ago, but it had been in [my aunt and uncle's] garage all those years.
it’s an honor to have ramona look so much like my grandmother, gloria. she is one amazing lady: spunky and witty and full of love. it’s great to see ramona inherit –not only her adorable cheeks and chin– but also these personality traits that will certainly serve her well in her life. i love you, grandma!
jp’s mom has stage IV breast cancer.
that’s how it felt to receive this news. seemingly out of the blue. but that’s how bad news arrives, isn’t it? it doesn’t gracefully edge it’s way into your peripheral and then tiptoe into your line of vision, waiting for you to acknowledge its shy wave from a little ways away, much like a guest in a receiving line at a wedding. no. it’s more like someone in a monkey suit jumping out from behind a couch when you walk into a dimly lit basement. it sucks.
first a lump. then a confirmation of a lump. then a biopsy. then cancerous results. then in more lymph nodes than projected. then in lung fluid.
bam. bam. bam.
i spent the better part of an afternoon in bed racked with grief, unable to move or catch my breath. having been dealt little to no tragedy in my life, this has been one of the heavier things i’ve had to “deal” with.
thank God for a close-knit family bc “deal with” it we are. i’m not sure what the proper response or plan-of-action is for a family that receives as troubling of news that, right now, we’ve got to get really serious about supporting our matriarch in fighting a battle she was not expecting to face. but i’m certain that the way i’ve seen my husband’s family band together –the way i’ve seen my father-in-law take the reins and be my mother-in-law’s greatest advocate and loyal sidekick– is not far from what i imagine to be ideal.
the two of them, my in-laws, they are doing this together. in addition to going to every appointment hand-in-hand, they’re researching and interviewing and keeping themselves open to alternative methods of treatment to supplement traditional treatments. there’s a hormone pill she’s taking (and eventually chemo and surgery) but there are also vitamins and a diet heavy in greens and superfoods and whole grains and exercise every day. and they are being honest and open and communicating to their community about what is going on: the good, the bad, the ugly, the encouraging, the tough news. and people are responding to this transparency with an outpouring of love and support and good vibes. i’ve watched the way my mother-in-law has, yes actually, embraced what life has thrown at her. she seemed to understand from the beginning (though i’m sure she’ll tell you it wasn’t as easy as i’m making it sound) that though she couldn’t change her diagnosis she could change the way she was going to live with this more intimate knowledge of the precariousness of life. it’s been truly beautiful.
and i’ve seen the five of us kids (jp, his three siblings, and me) change our outlook from one of complete devastation to one of camaraderie and joy at being able to look at this woman with new eyes, even more proud and more thankful to have her as such a huge part of our life than we already were; certainly working to take less in life and family for granted.
we don’t know all that is ahead for our family, for mary. it’s still strange to be placed overnight in the “there’s a cancer patient in the family” camp; i’m still digesting that this is, yes in fact, something that can happen to me (don’t we subconsciously live life assuming the bad things we hear about won’t happen to us?). we do know that, in just one month of hormone treatment, her cancer shrunk 15% and there was little to no sign of it in her pleural lung fluid. this is amazing. and we do know that survival rates for those diagnosed with cancer are higher for those who have a strong support system and, well, this has been built into our family from the beginning.
i’ll keep you posted.
photo by the most amazing, megan newton.
as a child, during trips to my grandparents’ home in florida, my grandfather had a fairy that put tootsie rolls in his desk drawer. the grandkids checked the drawer at least once a day. and what a treat it was to find the little rolls waiting for us. how cool that my grandfather had access to a magical being that would be so thoughtful and generous. when the rolls stopped showing up, i’m not sure i thought much of it. perhaps the fairy forgot or didn’t know we were there. and then i got older and didn’t think of it at all. years later, when i watched my parents do the same thing, i remembered the tootsie rolls in the desk drawer, and fondly realized that the fairy was my grandfather.
my parents have a similar arrangement for their grandkids. in their spacious backyard is a big, old tree. and they’ve let a little pixie build her home there, complete with a rather sturdy wood door leading to her abode. the pixie leaves tiny sweet treats and seashells and small coins for the visiting grandkids. without fail, the older ones head out there directly, which keeps the pixie on her toes and ensures she’s got a full stash of goodies so she never runs out. ramona’s older cousins made sure she was initiated into these treasure hunts on our july visit to minneapolis. she was delighted.
and a handful of years from now, the pixie will most likely stop leaving treats and ramona will wonder, aloud or to herself, why the pixie decided to stop. and then she’ll forget about the pixie. and then, when she has children of her own, it’ll all make beautiful, whimsical sense. and that’s when jp and i will be figuring out a way to leave small tokens of love for our grandchildren.
what special secrets do you do your parents do for your little ones? or do you do for them? what memories do you have of ways your grandparents made your visits extra special?
my parents were recently in town. every time they come to visit we make sure to make a trip up to boulder. usually we time it with the farmers’ market. we extended our stay up there this time, getting in a full late morning and early afternoon of adventures. we’ll most likely never live in boulder (but if we found some land we could afford on the outskirts of it, that might be a different story) but we love taking day trips up there as it has such a different feel than denver. here’s what we did that day that i’d highly suggest for any family with (or without!) little ones:
- start at the boulder creek. dip your toes in it. picnic in the shade of the trees (there’s also many grassy spots for frisbee throwing etc along the banks).
- then walk along the river path down to the boulder farmers’ market (saturday mornings and wednesday evenings). pick up fresh, local, organic produce for your dinner.
- finish up your visit with a refreshing visit to the small splash pad along the pearl street mall. make sure your little one either has a swim diaper or swimsuit as they’re required (or be willing to sacrifice your child’s clothes, as we did!).
what day trips do you take to get outta your town?