When I found out we were pregnant, I read as much as I could find about bringing home a second baby. I talked to all my mom friends for insider information. I questioned my own parents for their thirty-plus year recollections of having a baby and a toddler at the same time, which was hazy, at best.
Based on my research, I formed a plan for everything, starting with our return home from the hospital. His changing area had diapers and wipes set out with a stack of clean onsies. There was a bottle cleaning station by the sink and his bassinet was next to the bed. I thought we were totally ready. Yet, I was totally unprepared for the hardest part of the transition going from a family of three to four. The Grudge.
Thankfully, it wasn’t against the baby.
It was against me. By my beloved first son. The Grudgemaster.
Everyone said, “Make sure your arms are open for your toddler when he first meets the new baby. He needs to see that you still have room for him.”
So when we returned home from the hospital, my husband held onto the baby’s carrier and I walked in behind him, slightly hunched over from the lingering c-section pain, but nonetheless with open arms.
I held them out to my sweet boy and announced, “We’re home and we missed you so much.”
The three days and two nights at the hospital was the longest amount of time that we had ever been apart since Little Legs was born. I wasn’t sure if he would run away or run towards me for a hug. Quite naturally, he did neither.
First, he crept over to my husband to investigate what strange mewling creature we brought home. He peered into the carrier and reached in with his index finger to poke the poor, wrinkled little thing that we explained was his brother.
He stared up into our faces with a questioning look, unsure why we would bring home something so noisy into our otherwise peaceful existence. Then, he ran off to play with his grandma, who stood nearby secretly (not-so-secretly) hopeful that he would emancipate himself from us so that he could live with her forever.
From that point, Little Legs commenced to ignore me. He refused to sit in my lap or give me hugs, he didn’t want to tell me in his jibber-jabber language about his day or lean against me for story-time. He went to Daddy Longlegs when he needed help or to his G-ma, her cool self-appointed grandma name, when he wanted a snack.
As for me, I stopped existing for him. I was a sad ghost floating through the house, anchored by a crying baby, suddenly without the center of my world.
It was a more emotionally painful experience than anything I’d experienced, perhaps made worse by the post-partum hormones and sleep deprivation. I feared that I had forsaken the love of my first-born son in a sacrifice for the safe passage of his little brother. Apparently, this was the terrible price I had to pay and my train of irrational thinking as I tried to rationalize the situation.
I thought the grudge would never lift, until recently, he sat next to me with a book in his hands. Not too close, but close enough that I could see all was not lost. It felt like the dark sky parted and finally allowed the sun’s rays to break through, warming my heart and soul.
Things were going to be ok; they would get to a new normal.
As for the Grudgemaster, he would sit in my lap again.