I prepared myself for child birth the second time around.
I prepared myself for no sleep, for emotions running higher than usual, for the pain, for the tears, for the love. But nothing could have prepared me for the guilt I have felt for my daughter, Mila.
Guilt because all of a sudden there is a new kid in town. Guilt because her whole life has been turned upside down. Guilt because she was told throughout my pregnancy, “you’re going to have a little brother to play with soon”, and since he’s been born, the only thing that has changed is she needs to play quieter while Layke is asleep. Guilt because there isn’t two of me. Guilt because sometimes I look at her and it seems like she’s grown a full inch.
So much guilt because she sleeps alone in her room and Layke gets prime position in between his parents.
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And that brings me to the thing I feel most guilty about – Layke has both his parents with him everyday. Mila is my daughter from a previous relationship. I know that it’s common for kids to grow up with a parent and a step-parent, or even with a single parent.
Then there are children that grow up with a guardian who have lost both parents. I know that there are worse situations, there always is. But I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about is the feeling that almost resembles pain that shoots across my heart when she brings up that Joel is not her daddy, only Layke’s daddy.
This isn’t because she doesn’t love or see her daddy. She does and she absolutely adores him, he is a fantastic father. It’s because after she tells me that Joel is only Layke’s daddy, I completely imagine her little face changing and I wonder, “What are you thinking baby girl? Do you think we love you any less? Do you think Layke is Joel’s favourite? Are you feeling replaced?”
Of course all the answers to these questions are “no”. They are “no” because Joel loves her as if she were his own, they are no because we now do more to involve Mila, they are no because Joel and I are so conscious about how family and friends treat her and what they say around her. The answers are no because Mila has so much love from us and our extended families, from her father and his extended family. If anything, she has a bigger family and more love than she would have ever had if her father and I were still together.
But as a parent, and I imagine more so as a mother, there is a guilty monster that lurks in the shadows of our mind just waiting for an opportunity to pop up and make us feel like crap.
Nothing is ever good enough when you’re a parent because nothing will ever be good enough for your babies. We are trying to raise healthy, safe and happy children at a time where the world knows so many horrible things. I can’t even explain the terror I feel when I watch the news and see innocent people dying. Children losing their parents and parents seeing their children die before them. There is so much heartache in the world – there always has been, but you don’t notice it as much until you have something, someone that depends on you for life. You as a parent are their whole world. When you’re happy, your babies are happy. When you’re anxious, they start to stress. You are their protector, their lifeline, their heartbeat.
There isn’t a more selfless job in the world than being a parent; the things that used to matter to you become comical. It’s not until you have sacrificed every inch of yourself to your core, to the point that you feel there is nothing left, just an empty shell of your former self.
With absolute certainty I will continue to beat myself up for Mila having to share her mummy now after nearly four years of having me all to herself. No doubt when Layke gets older, the guilt will start that I overcompensated so much for Mila that I didn’t enjoy him as much as I should have. But I did. And I do.
And it’s worth it a million times over. Everything. The guilt, the fear, the sleepless nights, the staying in, the tears, the tantrums.
I wouldn’t change anything.