When I was 8½ months pregnant with my second daughter, I found myself heading into a one-on-one meeting with a female colleague. This woman, whom I admired greatly, had two grown children she was very close to. One was finishing up high school and one was in college, and pictures of them, at all ages, adorned her office. Small talk focused around what they were up to, her plans for their next family vacation, the challenges and joys associated with the stage each was in.
This colleague had been a great comfort to me when I was returning to work after having my first child and was worried about my ability to be a good and present mother while working full time. I could see through her example that though she had always worked full time and excelled in her career of choice, she also kept her children at the center of her life and always had.
“How are you feeling?” she asked me as I maneuvered my giant, awkward body into a chair at the table in her office.
“I’m feeling fine — good,” I answered, though the truth was I had been feeling emotional — to be expected — and sentimental as well. Sentimental about spending time with my firstborn, who was only 16 months old. I was excited about the new baby, of course, but also sad that things would be changing, since the first year of my first daughter’s life had provided me with many of my happiest experiences. And so I found myself tearing up when I thought about “our last trip to the park, just the two of us,” or “our last time reading stories, just the two of us,” or any of the other lasts that were on their way. And I felt anxious wondering how I could ever love another baby as much as the one I already had.
Although I didn’t reveal any of this internal turmoil to my colleague — it was a work meeting, after all — she somehow seemed to intuit how I was feeling. Unprompted, she looked at me and gave me the best advice I have ever gotten about having a second child.
“I always felt like I grew a new heart for my second baby,” she said. “Your first child has your whole heart, and it takes time, but your second child gets a whole new heart to themselves, too.”
With tears in my eyes, I told her how much I loved that idea and hoped that that would be the case. I admitted, though, that I couldn’t imagine how it would happen or what it would feel like.
A little over five years later, I think of her words all the time as I raise my 5- and 7-year-old daughters. Despite being the same gender, close in age, and raised by the same two parents, like many siblings, they couldn’t be more different.
My older child is quieter, more serious, thoughtful, confident, and endlessly kind and compassionate. My younger is sweet, funny, silly, curious, and very loving. And yet my heart doesn’t strain to love them both the same. On the contrary, my two hearts love them both the most. Each heart loves, unconditionally, the child to whom it belongs.
I have passed this “two hearts” sentiment along to many friends who have told me, when pregnant with their second child, that everything is fine. But I see the look in their eyes, and unsolicited, I pass on the gift I was given. Like I did years ago, my friends say they hope the idea will come true, often with tears in their eyes. And I assure them it will, and that with every passing year, both hearts will grow fuller.
Laura Shea Souza is a writer and communications professional in Stow. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
RECENT CONNECTIONS COLUMNS:
TELL YOUR STORY. E-mail your 650-word essay on a relationship to email@example.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.