As I walked down the stairs with my newborn daughter, my first precious love, I saw the sharp corners of the banister and imagined what it would be like if I accidentally tripped and spiked her head on one of them. The soft squelch as it pierced the membrane. The blood pulsating out of her body. And how on earth I would tell her father. I concluded that I wouldn’t have to because by then I would have killed myself. It wasn’t one option, it was the only option.
I was so sure that I would kill her somehow, that every day I foresaw multiple deaths, felt the agony tear out at my heart as I relived her death. Again and again.
Would it be the car coming down the street which would mount the pavement and smash the pram?
Would she fall off the changing table and shatter her skull?
Would she suffocate in her sleep because of the extra blanket?
The thought crossed my mind that I should just kill both of us and be done with it.
It comforted me that there was a way out.
Over the months doctors bullied me to inject her with 6 inch needles and disease ridden vaccines. I felt each of them pierce my soul. How could something that felt like murder be the ‘right thing to do’? And yet like a man walking to the gallows, I had to face the inevitable. By law, she wouldn’t be able to go to daycare and mix with other kids; she would be outcast from society, if she didn’t have them. And so I, her mother, allowed other people to hurt her in the name of science I didn’t understand or believe in and felt a piece of my heart die every time.
My daughter – unsurprisingly – cried constantly. She couldn’t go to sleep without one of us holding her upright and walking around the kitchen. Her existence must have been an unhappy one. Through extreme sleep deprivation and massive anxiety, I loved her. But post natal anxiety trapped me inside a cage and obscured my love.
I’ve asked other mothers. Just a few though. Because it’s not a topic that you can bring up with those who aren’t close to you. I’ve particularly asked those who like me, had a daughter first and then a son. Just to test out whether the way I love my children has to do with my first time mother anxiety. I ask them ~
Do you love your children differently?
Usually what people hear when I say that is “do you love one more than the other?”
Few would answer yes. Society forbids it.
But my friends are honest. And so those close to me have almost all come back with the same response. Loving their first born was tinged with anxiety, especially if it was a girl. Because as mothers, we project more on our daughters.
I love my daughter, they say. But it’s like I’m in love with my son.
With my daughter, I clung to the social workers’ advice. They told me that my daughter should get used to sleeping in a cot by herself and that the crying was something I would have to listen to. And I did. For hours. Hating it. Hating that I felt that way.
Then after 6 weeks I went back to work, handing her over to a nanny who could manage everything far better than I could.
With my son, I called bullshit. I couldn’t go through that trauma again. I knew better. He needed to be next to me. We co-slept for 7 months. I slept better and so did he. He fed better. I was more confident in my mothering capabilities and lived in a system which paid maternity for a year to be at home with him. I knew how to change nappies and the system for mushing food (it’s the small things that make a difference). I had less fear in my heart and more space for love. Sooner. I loved him sooner after his birth.
My daughter is highly intelligent and acutely sensitive. She picks up on my impatience and in order to settle the nervousness this creates in her, she will goad me until sometimes, I lose it. Then she and I will burst into tears together. I project on her because she is a girl. She is me in my childhood. We love and feel each other so much. There is true connection. Deep. Amazing but sometimes dark.
And then there’s my son. My irrepressible, joyous son who is completely oblivious of my levels of patience. Who laughs in my face when I get angry. He laughs…until I start laughing. I’m in love with him. Totally in love with him. We gaze in each others’ eyes and repeat each others’ names over and over. I don’t know how much of it is because he is a boy or whether this has everything to do with him being second born. With a boy there is less projection and less mirroring of my own wounded childhood.
It’s an easy love. Less intense, more abundant.
He might think though that I don’t love him as much because quite simply there’s less to say about him. There’s no need for words. We drift together. Easily.
She might think I don’t love her as much because of the needles of anxiety that still sometimes prickle me. They will never go completely. When I look at her, I love her so much it hurts.
But neither is true. I cannot love either of them more than I do. It is the knowledge that I love both of them infinitely that tells me quantification of love, true love, is impossible.
When my children read this, as I am sure they will one day, I want them to know about the enormous respect that I hold for each of them as individuals. I want them to know that our different relationships have been created through a variety of experiences and influences, none of which is their fault. They may blame me for how our relationship has shaped their lives. I understand this, and take full responsibility.
Then I will take the opportunity to remind them, that our connection with each other is whole and intact. It always has been and always will be. And that despite our relationship dynamics, no matter where they go, or what they do, my infinite love for them both, is unconditional.
Children and mothers never truly part–Bound in the beating of each other’s hearts.” ― Charlotte Gray