“Love doesn’t divide. It multiplies.” (Theresa Jamieson)
I had baby number 1, and I was devoted in every way to showing him just how much I appreciated him and adored him … just how very much I needed him in my life and loved him. He inspired me to be a better person, to find a fairer way of dealing with problems and a more intuitive way to make decisions. I found it easy with baby number 1 to see love and patience and a ‘yes’ answer to every question, and an opportunity to learn with every step we took and every minute we sat together. With glee I noticed every new gesture or word he made and I wrote in his baby journal every day. I recorded everything. I didn’t miss a thing.
I had baby number 2, and I faced an incredible conflict. How do I show baby number 1 how very important baby number 2 is? How do I stay loyal to my love for baby number 1? How do I answer ‘yes’ to both of them with their very different needs? How do I stay peaceful, patient, and kind? How do I show them both how equally they are loved, with every bit of their individuality and also all their sameness? How do I write in journals for both of them? If I thought I was stretched for time before, now I was really stretched.
I let the journaling take a backseat to being there for my little ones. Instead of writing, I decided to enjoy every moment and fasten the best bits in my memory, and to give myself some TLC from time to time.
Sometimes I confused this decision with laziness, and almost blamed myself for not being enough. Occasionally I worried that one day, baby number 2 might wonder why he didn’t have the same journals. If I could turn back time I would write in his journal every day. I still want to write every day from now. Just to show him how much I love every little part of him. Like baby number 1, baby number 2 is everything.
And then I realised that the baby journals aren’t only Baby Journals, they are also Parenting Journals.
The passion I had for journaling every special moment was not driven just by wanting a keepsake of the baby years. It wasn’t just about him reading his baby diary as an older child and thanking me for writing it all down. So much of my fascination was with parenting techniques and about the change I was seeing in myself. Me, learning how to be a parent and growing into adulthood. Me, having an important job to do outside of the workforce.
As I wrote this, baby number 2 just made it through his first day with no breastfeed. At almost 2 1/2 years and fairly independent, he barely noticed the change during the day, but at bedtime he blessed me with his words as he told me, and cried, about how it was hurting him to not have his milk. What a beautiful moment, as I nurtured and rocked and sang to him, and as my heart just spilled over with love once again.
Baby number 1 (now 5) watched the bedtime process in his own mild distress. He urged me to give baby number 2 just one last breastfeed, so he could fall asleep happy. Instead, I showed baby number 1 and baby number 2 something they will always remember: how I dearly love both of them, and how gentle weaning from breastfeeding was a shared experience for both of them.
I did this by weaning, that way, in the same way I did 3 years earlier. I played the same music soundtrack, I rocked my toddler and softly sang to him and kissed his cheeks, and I honoured his every wish for a cuddle, or to be rocked, or to hang onto my shoulders while I walked him around, for the short hour it took for him to understand that breastfeeding was not going to happen tonight, and it was something a bit different in his life.
Baby number 1 might not remember the day he was weaned 3 years ago. But today he witnessed how it played out for his baby brother, who I love equally and parent equally. The memory of today may become his memory of his own weaning. He will know I treated him with the same love and gentle patience that he saw tonight. He is older, and he sees first hand how his babyhood was special by the way I cared for his baby brother.
And as his baby brother grows, baby number 2 will be comforted by seeing how I treat his big brother, because he’ll know that I will one day give him the same gentle and patient guidance and love. And he’ll read my parenting diaries knowing that I didn’t need to record it all a second time, because exactly the same glee and love was there for him when he was a baby, and because his brother will be there to tell him all about it.
The way I see it – if a little boy sees his mum treat his sibling gently, patiently, with love, and glee in all the small achievements, he will naturally receive these feelings for himself and will believe he received the same, which is the truth. If he sees his pregnant mum care for herself with love and patience, and show love to her baby in her belly, he will naturally believe he experienced the same when he was in the belly, which is the truth. If he hears his mum talk about her birth experience or other parenting experiences with love and fondness, he will believe he experienced the same, which is the truth. He will be comforted. He will be safe. He will be able to love himself.
Journals are beautiful ways to share memories. But often, actions speak louder than words.
So if we act a little bit more mindfully – just a little bit more aware that our child is watching their sibling and receiving, maybe even forming a belief and creating a memory – their ability to self love and be happy might change for the better.
Day by day we aim to repair our bodies and have trust, faith and optimism for the future. You can join me as I walk to wellness in the private facebook group Joanna Haley Homestead (Journey to Wellness)
Joanna Haley, Author