As a new mother, I felt disoriented a lot, I imagine like most of you. I mean, who was this wondrous little creature, equal parts mom and dad and maybe bit of a wayward uncle somewhere in there.
New babies are all instinct, nervous system and an unrelenting digestive system. We, the new moms, eagerly search for any hint of their uniqueness – anything that separates them from other babies and helps us learn about the little emerging person they are. Are they independent or clingy? A giggler or more serious? An old soul or a new one (if you’re so inclined to think that way)?
And with every expression of something new – a proclivity or an interest or an emotion – I wondered: Is this just typical baby stuff or is it an expression of his unique Caleb-ness. We found it incredible how much he responded to music and loved to kick around balls with a deftness that seemed beyond his babyhood. We harbored fantasies related to orchestral and athletic prowess. But, really, wasn’t this stuff universal? Don’t all babies love music and playing with orb-shaped objects?
That was the root of my disorientation: which of this stuff was the embodiment of babyhood and which was the embodiment of this particular baby? In this one way (and ONLY in that way) I was a bit envious of a friend who had fraternal twins. At each developmental stage their uniqueness was obvious. Susie was the shy one who loved to snuggle and Jack was the independent one who never wanted to sleep.
With an only child there is simply no point of comparison. A first born defines what a baby is. It’s a tall order for such a little guy.
Now here I am with my second boy in my arms. And everything he does is inevitably compares to his brother. He talks later, clings more, sleeps worse, snuggles more, fears strangers more etc… THAN his brother. His teeth came in closer together, his fingers are longer, he loves animals more, is less interested in television shows and wants to be carried more THAN his brother. You’d think I’d finally be relieved by being able to know my baby in comparison to some precedent.
But instead of providing a touchstone to better understand my baby, I find myself wondering if these comparisons are fair to the little guy. It’s as if I can’t understand him outside of his relation to his brother. Somehow, now that I have a frame of reference, I find myself doing the inevitable human thing of sorting and comparing. Sometimes it provides a useful orientation, and sometimes I wonder if it prevents me from fully seeing my baby.
I love those boys more than I thought possible. I feel more protective of and endeared to them than anyone else on the planet. And cliché as it is, that love grows every day. That love defies an intellectual “understanding” of who each one is as person. But, knowing your child is the color within the thickly etched lines of that raw human love. I want to see those colors as clearly as possible.
What do you other mamas think of this? Do you have trouble truly “seeing” your kids not in relation to their siblings? Does it even matter?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our writer in Kenya, Mama Mzungu, who writes at www.mamamzungu.com .
Photo credit to the author.