Bonding with a Second Baby: What I Wish I’d Known

I remember before I gave birth to my second baby, Oliver, my worries about having two children were all physical and temporal. I worried about keeping an eye on two kids, doing twice the laundry, how I would feed him and keep my first, Beatrice (who was 2 at the time), entertained, how I would take two children out and about as opposed to just one, and things of that nature. The only relatively emotional concern I had was how Beatrice would adjust to having another child in the family. Never once did I consider how I would adjust adding someone to our family. I felt like, since I was carrying him during pregnancy, I’d done all the bonding with him that I needed and was already completely adjusted to adding another member to our family. I felt that I knew all I needed to know about him in order to start bonding with him once he made his debut. Oh, how I wish someone would have told me that wasn’t true.

I had a hard time emotionally connecting with Oliver initially. I was elated during his delivery, and completely engaged during our hospital stay, but when we got home I began to struggle connecting with him. The struggle was a completely new feeling to me, since I bonded so quickly with my first, and it absolutely riddled me with guilt. He felt like such a stranger, and I couldn’t figure out why our bond wasn’t immediately as strong as it had been with my first. I was confused and guilt-ridden and ashamed. On top of the post partum hormonal tears I was already shedding, I cried constantly wondering why I was such a horrible mother, why I wasn’t completely enamored with this new tiny stranger in my home whom I didn’t yet know or understand.

I missed (and even longed for) the days when it was just me and Bea. I mourned the loss of the “only child” phase of life that I didn’t even realize I was giving up until it was gone. I was caught off guard by the learning curve of acquainting myself with a new person who was ours to keep. I wondered how I would ever feel the love I had for my first for my second too. I wondered if I was even capable of outpouring that much love onto a whole new person. I would beat myself up seeing pictures of my friends’ new babies on instagram oozing adoration for their new babies and wondering why I didn’t feel so infatuated with this new human who was all of a sudden a part of my life.

I wish someone would have told me that this is completely normal with second babies. I spent weeks torturing myself, wondering what was wrong with me, wondering if I would ever learn to fall in love with my sweet little boy until I finally just googled “second baby bonding” and found pages and pages and PAGES of hits, full of threads on mommy message boards, psychological articles, and personal essays on the struggles of bonding with subsequent children.

It’s normal. It’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. Everything is new with your first, there’s nothing to compare that relationship to, so the relationship can feel right and normal. From there, bringing another baby into the picture and having to compare the connection you’ve felt before, any difference is going to feel like a flaw. It’s not. Trust me it’s not. Learning to have a new and different mother/baby relationship can take time. Just like with any relationship, learning how to connect with someone new can take time.

And to be honest, it’s normal to miss the days you had alone with your first. Those were precious times and it’s ok to miss a period of your life that you’ve loved. It doesn’t make you love your new one any less.

You will bond with your second little one. You really will. And it may seem like it’s taking too long or that you’re not doing it right, but one day, you’ll look at their tiny face, and you won’t even remember not being completely connected with them.
Just having someone tell me these things were normal and didn’t make me a horrible mom would have saved me millions of tears and days of agony. Don’t think that no one else is feeling the same way. You don’t know what’s happening behind those shiny, filtered, instagram photos. You will bond and learn to love your new one fiercely. You’ll wonder how you ever survived without them.

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