When I announced my second pregnancy to family and friends, many people told me that when they were about to have their second child, they weren’t sure they could love another child as much as they did their first one. I can honestly say I’m not concerned about that. I’m excited to meet and love another unique human being that is part of me, and I know I have the capacity to do so.
Given that my first son was born with a severe cleft lip and palate – the cause of which cannot be determined – many people asked if I spent my sleepless nights worrying that this baby will have a cleft, too. While the thought crossed my mind, it did not go much further than, “If it happens, it happens, and I know I can handle it.” Fortunately, this baby appears to be perfectly healthy.
Other issues relating to raising two children have crossed my mind, though. I see many parents who constantly compare their children against one another, and I see the jealousy and sibling rivalry it creates. Being aware of this, I hope that I do not foster and instill feelings of jealousy between my children by continuously gauging them against each other. But, this isn’t something that I stay up at night worrying about.
I could worry about one child feeling that the other one is the favorite or that they won’t form a close relationship. But, all I can do is attempt to raise them in a caring and supportive environment where they know that they are loved unconditionally, regardless of how alike or different they end up being.
However, I do have a concern that consumes my thoughts when I wake up in the middle of the night – one that I don’t really know how I’m going to handle, and one to which there is no good or easy answer. I fear the day I have to explain to my son that life just isn’t fair. Now, I’m not talking about when he doesn’t get what he wants for his birthday or when he doesn’t make the team he tries out for or even when a girl breaks his heart. No, I’m worried about trying to explain to him why he was born with a birth defect and his brother or sister wasn’t.
In a sense, I am worried about sibling rivalry. I fear my son will be jealous that his new sibling doesn’t have to endure the countless surgeries and appointments that he does. I’m also afraid that this new child will be jealous of my son – not jealous of the surgeries and appointments but jealous of the attention my son will receive every time he has another of his 12 – 15 remaining surgeries.
I dread the day my son asks me, “Why?” because, honestly, there is no answer. All I can tell him is that sometimes things happen in life, and we don’t know why they happen; they just do. Even though he may think it isn’t fair, I want him to know that he’s still incredibly loved and extremely lucky; things could be a lot worse. I want him to know that having to endure this will make him a stronger and more compassionate person, even though it will take him years and years to see that. Most importantly, I want him to know that I love him more than anything, and that if given the chance, I would give anything to not have to have him go through all of it.