“How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?”
- Albert Einstein
As Valentine’s Day approaches our minds turn to our greatest loves. Certainly the focus of the day is romantic love, but as parents we have experienced a love that rivals even the most memorable of romances.
As a mother who is about to welcome her sixth child to the world, I am often asked how I have enough love and attention to share among my kids. Admittedly, things can run a bit thin in the individual attention department, but what is lacking there is made up for with the love and affection they get from each other. On the rare occasion I escape the house with just one child, said child spends most of our time together obsessing over what the others are doing in his/her absence. My experience both as a child and now a parent tells me that children in large families spend a lot of time relishing in the fun and antics their siblings provide and very little time resenting one another for stealing away their mother’s attention.
While being able to lavish undivided attention on each child is rare (and often unwanted), having enough love to pour into each of my children couldn’t be easier. Even still, I can distinctly remember being pregnant with my second baby and wondering how I could possibly love another child as much as my first. I’ve since discovered it’s a common concern for many women embarking on motherhood for the second time.
Of course we do love that child and indeed every child after as much as we do our first. However, the love you feel for your firstborn is different. It can be compared to the first time you fell romantically in love. Both times you feel a kind of love that you never knew existed.
Remember how you felt as a young person when you first fell in love? Suddenly you were one of only two people in the world. Everything else seemed so unimportant – you could skip your morning university lectures to lounge over coffee together for that extra hour. Your friends suddenly seemed less interesting to spend time with and other relationships seemed insignificant in comparison.
Such is the feeling when you experience the first love of motherhood. I know women who once defined themselves by their professions and then found themselves unable to go back to work at the end of their maternity leave — the thought of leaving their baby too torturous. Many women swear they won’t let motherhood change them and then look into the eyes of their first baby and know nothing will ever be the same. First romantic love and first mama love are completely overwhelming and both times we are left wondering if we will ever love another human the same way.
Just as you find love again after your first broken heart, you fall deeply in love with the children that come after your first. The one difference is you fall into it knowing better what to expect and your emotions don’t necessarily catch you off guard. You may even surprise yourself by being a little more realistic and practical about it, which is probably why the second romantic relationship is healthier and your second baby is more settled. Even though we are wiser the second time around it doesn’t diminish what we feel – it just means we are better prepared to brace ourselves for ride that love brings us on!