From the minute my home pregnancy test turned positive till the time I delivered- my second pregnancy was treated with an air of nonchalance. By both me and the people around me.
The doctor did not bother to go into details during my prenatal check ups. Because I already know it all. After all I already have a baby.
The radiologists was eerily quiet during my scans as though she had seen an alien developing inside me. When asked, she gave me a casual shrug of shoulder and said: Oh you know it all. You already have a baby.
Even I would plead guilty here. The numerous “what to expect” books and articles I had consumed like a bookworm during my first pregnancy were catching dust.
I already had a baby. I was supposed to know all that stuff anyway.
However when my second little angel came into this world I realised I knew nothing anymore. Nothing that I expected was happening. It seemed like I was a new mom who was lost in the woods! The exact same way I felt when I was handed my first born. Probably now I was even a little more lost!
Ideally it should have been easier this time. Like everyone was saying, “After all I already had a baby. I had done this before!”
While some things, like breastfeeding, were easier the second time around; there were parts of my life that were frustrating and emotionally exhausting.
Why did I feel this way then? Why was I so lost? Trying so desperately hard to keep my head above water again!
Why did I not know it all? After all I had done this before!
After much introspection I realised that the feeling of being “lost” the second time around too had its root in something I keep stressing upon in all my parenting workshops- We mother from a wrong source.
In modern mothering, society and various external factors have such an imprint in our mind that we are slowly deviating from “pure and natural” mothering. The kind that comes from instinct. We are too conditioned!
Modern mothering has become so much about height-weight charts, sleep patterns, diet charts, daily routine and timetables that we forget what really mothering is all about.
In my workshops I go by a simple thumb rule-“whatever you can be substituted in, is really not your main role as a mother. A mother is and should be un-substitutable.”
For example, a paediatrician can work out height-weight charts for your kid and comment on his growth, a dietician can design the best charts for your kid to give him optimal benefits and a good teacher can teach your toddler/child what the syllabus requires. Of course you can do it better. But, God forbid, if you cant or don’t have time-there are these professionals who can take over that aspect of your mothering.
So clearly these areas are not part of, what I like to call, “un-substitutable mothering”.
Then what makes up un-substitutable mothering? The answer to this question also holds the answer to the dilemma of the second time mom.
Mothering compromises of four main aspects- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Physical mothering is taking care of the physical health of your child. Mental aspects include taking care of his school and grades. Emotional mothering means making your child an emotionally sound and a mentally strong person. While spiritual mothering means guiding him on his journey about universe, purpose etc.
While all aspects are important physical and mental mothering are the ones that are NOT un-substitutable. As mentioned before, physical (height-weight charts, meals etc) and mental (grades and academic performance) aspects can be well taken care of by any professional care-giver.
It is the emotional and spiritual aspects that should be on our prime duty list. Growing your kid’s attitude and a personality while kindling her spirit is the most crucial part of mothering. It is, according to me, the only thing a mother should be really worried about.
If my child is in the bottom 3 percentile in weight, then yes, I will be worried. But if she is a scared, timid child with a lack of confidence; then I have doomed her for life! A 90% height-weight chart cannot guarantee a happy confident kid, but a happy confident kid can surely guarantee a healthy child!
Do you see the difference?
And thats why as second time moms we feel lost. While we tend to go into it believing that it will be easier because we know it all, we forget that what we have experience in is actually really only the physical aspect of mothering. We know height-weight mapping, we know what diet to follow, we know how to soothe a baby to sleep, we know to identify signals of hunger, pain or sleep in the newborn. Thats about it.
However, the new baby is coming with her own unique blueprint. She is a whole new and different individual from your first born. She has her own unique set of quirks, likings, mentality, temperament, attitude and above all-a whole new unique different purpose in the fabric of this universe.
She will need to be guided differently. She will bring out new set of emotions in you. She will need to be talked to in a different way. She will need to be understood differently. You will need to become a whole new and different person than what you were with your first born.
And thats why mothering, especially the second time around, is so damn difficult! You have to metamorphose into a whole new individual to tune with your new baby. While at the same time keep going back to the individual you had metamorphosed to in the first place for your first born. And you need to keep shuffling between these two forms to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of both your kids.
Its almost like you become split personalities. You are three individuals in one packing- your own self, the one who is in tune with your first born and the one you become to understand and raise your second born.
No wonder mothering can be so difficult and upsetting sometimes.
But once you understand the real purpose of your mothering and tune in with the emotional and spiritual needs of your kids; these different personalities will come naturally to you.
So the next time your husband says he cant understand you because you have so many different sides to you, please take it as a compliment. It means you are mothering well!
(This post first appeared on TOI blogs on Aug 30th 2016)