Henry is our whole world and my whole heart. As our due date with our second son approaches I’m scared I don’t have enough. Though I’m excited for our family to grow, I fear I may not have it in me to give equal love, attention, and time to this baby. How can I love anyone ever as much as I love Henry? Thinking about splitting time from Henry to give to another child makes my heart quicken with anxiety. He has all our time. He’s needed it. I changed my work schedule so that Henry could have 100% of my time during the week and have 100% of his father’s time on the weekend. Henry has all of us.
Henry is growing and becoming more independent by the day, but he’s still my baby. And we have just stepped into a ferocious separation anxiety phase that began days ago. At least that it is what I thought at first. Last week at Henry’s early intervention, he literally had to be pried off of me screaming and crying. We walked in and immediately he popped out his bottom lip and started signing “all done.” He began to cry and climb up my body until he was practically on top of my head. I stayed and tried to get him to play for about 10 minutes until Henry tried to crawl in my shirt to hide. It was then our wonderful PT, OT, and speech therapists had to get him. Heaving and grabbing on anything available, I gathered all of myself off the floor and with hair mused and clothes askew waddled out as quickly as I could.
Outside the classroom I pressed my belly against the wall and stood on my toes as I watched through the one-way glass while he committed to the crying fit with his whole body. He’s mastered the signature two-year-old “backbend of despair” move. It took everything I had not to fly back in and sooth my little one. I watched on helpless and defeated. This behavior is highly unusual for us because Henry has loved school. He usually claps and wiggles out of my arms as fast as he can to go play as soon as we get there. Unable to watch him cry any longer and with tears streaming down my own face, I fled down the street to drown my sorrows in chocolate milk and a doughnut. In the pit of my stomach I could not shake it. My baby still needs me.
I sat with my back to the door at the end of the family- style picnic table close to the register in the doughnut shop to sad-eat my cream-filled confection. Crumbs gathering on my belly, I was contemplating just going to rescue Henry and take him home; this is so not like him to act out. He is two years old, but this has to be something else. He’s doesn’t know manipulative behavior yet. He is such an easy-going little guy.
Then a young woman came in and sat her messenger bag down in the seat next to mine. I watched her back as she set her car keys down and hurriedly rummaged through her bag for her wallet setting out her laptop and work-related items carefully as she got further into the bag. It’s a mundane everyday task I’ve done 1000 times before just like anyone else. I heard the lady at the counter ask her if she wanted her usual iced coffee.
She turned and breathed her reply over her shoulder. “Yes, please!” I could tell by her voice she was smiling.
I watched her finally pull out her wallet, pay with her card, and carefully use the tablet to sign and tip. I noticed her signature was beautiful – mine usually looks like scribble. I was lost for some reason just staring blatantly as this interaction took place. Then she turned and I saw her face for the first time. This beautiful woman in a hurry to get to work had Down Syndrome. She made eye contact with me and asked me if I was having a good morning. I could only nod with tears filling my eyes again.
By the time she had her things together and was walking out with her coffee I finally mustered a “Have a great day.” We smiled at each other and I watched her get into her car and leave. Something so small but huge just happened. It felt like someone opened the window and let in fresh air. I was suddenly lifted from melancholy.
“This is why I can’t rescue him,” I thought. In case this is not totally separation anxiety but the beginning of his two year old manipulative behavior… If I do this now, it will set a precedent for the future. He can do this. So can I. I want this level of independence for him and if I begin rescuing now he may never make it. It doesn’t stop his tears from hurting my heart. And even though I feel a resolve, something else is lingering within me. My heart was heavy again and I sighed as I brushed all the crumbs off my belly. Still I wonder how I’m going to manage loving and caring for two.
Will he take his new baby brother as a challenge for competition and excel into more independence? Or will Henry take his new brother as a threat and regress into more dependence on us? We are consumed with therapy and appointments and all my attention is Henry’s. How can I take time from a son that needs it to give to the new baby? Will we bond with our new love like we did with Henry? How will we explain to a 2 year old that his brother needs to be fed, changed, bathed… and we can’t cuddle or play right now?
I’m anxious that our adjustment as a family of 4 will be difficult on Henry… and me. My heart breaks as a mother every time he sticks that pitiful lip out and cries for me. If I reflect on the last month I can see him clinging more and more to me and his dad than before. He has been signing and asserting preferences more than ever too. So really I’m sure last week was a long time coming. I’m sure he senses a change along with his realization that he has a voice and a choice. I guess I was naive in thinking maybe we just wouldn’t have a separation anxiety phase or a truly terrible two phase.
How will we manage? My heart is Henry’s. My mother has told me your heart grows and room just appears… like magic. Love finds a way and you love just as fiercely but in a different way. I want to believe my mom. Then last week happened. My tribe of early intervention moms have been incredibly supportive as they’ve watched me ugly cry all last week- Like full fledge ugly cry into my coffee. It is not a cute sight to see. They all have at least one other little love and have been so very wonderful explaining it will all be okay. Two moms in particular have children with about the same age difference in their two babies as we will have with Henry and his brother. They both also have special needs with their firstborn children like me. They’ve been in my shoes and felt what I’m feeling. The phase ends. You find room. You find time. The love is there and grows more powerful with more to love. It will be okay. I feel better with my mother’s wisdom and support from my tribe, but I don’t think I can believe it all until I experience it… in about a month.