I’m certainly no expert in this area, but since my friend who recently had her second child seems to be experiencing the same feelings I did, I thought it might be useful to share what I went through (and am still going through).
The time in the hospital was the start of an uncomfortable distance between Alex and me. Although Marc was a much more involved dad than most, I was still #1 (barely). But that changed while I was in the hospital, even though I was only there for two days. Marc spent most of that time caring for Alex while I took care of Tyler in the hospital. It was heartbreaking for me that Alex wanted no part of me while I was in the hospital bed (but at least he was interested in his baby brother and even smiled for the camera).
When I got home from the hospital, Alex was incredibly distraught that I couldn’t pick him up. Perhaps I should have prepared him for that, but I’m not sure how much he would have understood back then, when he wasn’t even two. My inability to pick him up was the most upsetting part of my return home, for both of us, I think – even more than the fact that I was often unavailable due to nursing Tyler. I mourned the loss of my relationship with Alex. And the distance between us grew greater.
Because I spent so much time taking care of Tyler, and correspondingly, Marc spent much time with Alex, Alex naturally thought of Marc as his primary caregiver and turned to him for attention and cuddles. Even though I understood the reasons for it, my heart still ached every time Alex turned to Marc instead of me, especially when I was available.
When Tyler was a couple of weeks old, I took Alex to a playdate with two friends and their sons who are about Alex’s age. I felt like I had my relationship with Alex back, and that made me so happy I wanted to cry. But it didn’t last, and over the next few months, our relationship see-sawed from distant to close, and back again. When our relationship was distant, I cried often and had to remind myself that it wasn’t personal. Alex’s reason for being isn’t to make me happy. Rather, it’s my responsibility to help Alex grow up to be a happy, healthy, contributing member of society.
I’ve yet to become #1 again, since Alex still spends a great deal of time with Marc, but about the time Tyler turned four months old, I began to feel less hurt. Alex and I simply have a new relationship – Daddy is still #1, but Mommy is pretty good too. I’ve come to accept that things will never be quite the same, but in its place I have two beautiful boys now, and I get to watch their priceless interactions. In the end, I’d call it a net gain.