Wednesday, 17 September 2014

So big

Not an original observation, but one that needs to be made.

He was my baby, my precious tiny firstborn. I've written elsewhere about the astonishing levels of intimacy in our relationship, with perhaps the most surprising thing for me being the physicality of it. Of course there's breastfeeding, but it's more than that - we owned each other's bodies, with no clear line between us. He weaned during my second trimester, painlessly, seemingly resigned to the absence of milk and open to discovering the joys of food. We still slept together, though, usually squeezed into his single bed, him nestled into my back as my bump grew.

In a trite moment, this shifted so completely. Baby 2 arrived, and baby 1 become boy, suddenly, one Sunday morning. Now he's massive. Not just his enormous hands, huge head, the hair on his legs, but the way he holds himself and how he moves.

I am still regularly entranced by this whirlwind of a boy, with his captivating thought processes, his articulacy, his exuberance and creativity and spontaneous affection, but physically it's so so tough, as if someone has hacked apart the Lyra/Pan bond. Today I woke him from a sleep and he cried so hard, tried to sit on my lap and curl back into me but he didn't fit, he couldn't nestle how he wanted to, and however much he tried to get me to position my hands for his wishes, it wouldn't work. He wasn't satisfied, but worse, I was irritated and un-tender. Why was this big lump trying to act like a baby? His skin's not smooth (it is), his eyes aren't disproportionately big (they are), he doesn't smell sweet and milky (actually, this one's true, he's usually a bit whiffy, in the way of 3 year olds), HE'S NOT A BABY which somehow, if you're not careful, becomes HE'S NOT MY BABY.
Oh precious firstborn, you are, you are. My body doesn't cry out for you like it did, because it's being poured into the care of another, who is soft and smooth and fuzzy and smells perfect and whose head fits in my collarbone. I swing behind me and swipe your feet off my back when you crawl into my bed in the night, all without breaking the curl around the other baby. I sometimes flinch a little bit when you come and sit on me naked straight after going to the toilet. And tonight we fought about bed, driven by my desperate desire to spend some sweet time with my new one, alone putting him to sleep, without having to indulge your needs. But honestly, I know it, even if I forget it, I know you're only three, I know your language is ahead of your emotions and that you need me as much as you ever did. I know that when I push you away you just come in closer and harder, that I'm still your prop against a confusing world, and I don't want you to be forced out there alone, bullied into growing up before your time just because an interloper has arrived.
I want to cherish my little boy even though someone else is now my baby, and I want to see him for the size he is. Can anyone press the pause button for me so we can get this sorted out?


  1. Oh how I love this post! It's so true; the whole interloper thing, and yet and yet... a firstborn is still just as precious as they ever were. Wish I could help with the pause button but I'm afraid that's beyond me. I still find it difficult with a 7 (and nearly 4 year old). Nearly 4 year old is my 'baby' still, and yet my 7 year old still needs me so much, and my heart aches when I'm not able to always be there for her... So, hugs for you, hugs for me. Hugs for all the other mothers who have felt this, or are yet to feel this.

  2. Oh, it's so hard for the big baby when the new baby comes along and for the parents to manage it all. A beautiful moving post.

  3. Thank you both. It's so urgent for me to capture these feelings, because they change, and yet it's so intense and, I don't know, packed with meaning, and I don't want to forget any of these phases or to look back and think they were less vivid than they are.