Some people say that once you have one child adding another isn’t all that different. Those people are liars.
Having your family grow from three to four is a massive change and affects all of you, physically and emotionally, in endless ways. It’s a steep learning curve for everyone and any rhythm or routine that you had previously perfected gets rather dramatically flung out of the window.
With our family growing there was a whole other level of complications on top, because my children have different fathers. While Matt is as much of a dad to TI as her actual dad is, the language and treatment of others towards both kids has at times left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Most parents when extending their family talk about their worries that the older child will feel pushed out and rejected when the new arrival makes their grand entrance. And understandably so, suddenly there’s this new screaming ball of puke and poop that everybody seems inexplicably obsessed with. The house is filled with visitors bringing gifts but none of them are there to see you. It’s annoying enough as the mum that nobody actually wants to talk to you (apart from to ask about the condition of your fanny), imagine how upsetting, confusing, and frustrating it must be for a child. Never mind the fact that even your parents now can’t do everything they could before.
We’ve tried to ensure a routine is stuck to, and that TI is included in all things Fox. We’ve also made a point of having some one-on-one time (easier for Matt than me right now because boobs) so she knows she’s still the most important thing to us.
What I’ve found really difficult however is other people’s approach to this. Matt’s a popular guy, he has friendship groups in every corner of the country and they are all solid (something me and my three close friends I’m lucky to see once a year are endlessly baffled by). There have been so much talk of how loved the baby will be, how many aunties and uncles he’ll be blessed with, so much chat of meeting the baby so he knows them forever…which obviously makes me sad for TI. She doesn’t have that. She has two of my friends she calls ‘aunty’. She’s the sister of the baby everybody wants to prove themselves to, yet is forgotten. It’s like a Disney film (although if that’s the case she will grow up to marry Prince George and Fox will be destined to clean their floors).
The language regarding Matt has got my back up a little bit too. Obviously I’m over-sensitive to it all because TI is my baby and I will do anything to protect her. But the amount of messages and cards we received with the wording ‘now you’re a real dad’ absolutely broke my heart. And it would break TI’s if she heard that. The dismissal of the incredible relationship they have is horrible. Yes, he is now a biological dad which he wasn’t before. Yes, it is different. Yes, he’s experienced emotions by watching his son be born that he has never had before. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t already a real dad. He’s been more of a real dad than many men I know since he came into our lives. He deserves credit for that and his relationship with our daughter requires more respect.
I was so prepared for TI feeling pushed out by the birth of her brother because that’s what everybody talks about when preparing for a new sibling. I was prepared for behavioural issues, regressions, clingy-ness, resentment towards me and the baby. What I wasn’t prepared for was how pushed out I would feel for her. My maternal protectiveness has gone into overdrive.
I knew that for some people the birth of Fox would matter so much more than the existence of Ava, because of course, I get it, blood’s thicker than water. I just didn’t expect so many people to show it so explicitly.
So genuinely, if you’re somebody who included her name in a card, sent her a little gift too, or have made a point of speaking to her separately (and about something other than the baby) I cannot thank you enough.
I don’t know if she’s really noticed anything different, or felt rejected, but it’s allowed me to breath a little easier and feel a little calmer.
Parenting is a minefield. Parenting two is navigating that minefield on a pogo stick.