I can’t quite believe this, but Bean is going to be six months old next week. SIX MONTHS. In just another short six months she’s going to be COMPLETELY different. She’ll probably be walking, using her hands to eat, drinking from a sippy cup, and saying a word or two!

Which is why it’s difficult for me to admit that up until last week I didn’t feel the type of intense connection with Bean that I had with Monkey when she was born. Kind of embarrassing really.

Don’t get me wrong — of course I had a connection with her. I oogle her and kiss her, cuddle her, and do silly things to make her laugh. There’s never been a question about whether or not I LOVE her and want to care for her and protect her. That came as naturally to me as breathing. But it just felt like something was missing — like when you order a turtle sundae and they forget the hot fudge — it’s still really good with the caramel and the nuts, but it’s just not as good as you know it could be.

I remember telling my mom about this very early on. I said, “Bean just doesn’t demand as much of my attention as Monkey did at this age. I just don’t feel something.” Overall, Bean is much more laid back. She never demanded to be held as much as Monkey did when she was a newborn, which was pretty much ALL-THE-TIME. And when you have a Toddler Tornado running around, capable of saying and doing almost anything to get your attention, you’re kind of grateful that your newborn is nonplussed about being put in the vibrating bouncy seat while you go get juice, or crackers, or color, or change the laundry over, or make dinner, or spend 35 minutes chasing the neighbor’s chicken out of your yard.

Plus, when someone can’t tell you all about themselves — what they like and dislike, what their favorite color is and their favorite outdoor activity — how much of a connection can you really build with that person? Imagine walking up to someone in Starbucks and trying to make friends with them. Except, the only thing you know about them is that they don’t like it when you poke them and they’re happy when you buy them a Danish. Oh, and they smile when you act like an idiot, and they don’t like sitting in their own sh*t. Or anyone else’s sh*t for that matter. See!! Kinda hard to build a meaningful relationship, isn’t it!?

I think another compounding factor is that my memories of Monkey’s first year are not that far from reach. The girls are only 21.5 months apart. It really wasn’t that long ago. When you’re a first-time parent, EVERYTHING is new. And absolutely each new thing rocks your world. And there are lots of new things — like a new thing almost every week. There’s the first smile, the first laugh, the first time they roll over, and the first time they sit up (more or less) unassisted. Oh my gosh, the list is endless!

Being my first child, Monkey was the center of my universe by default. I had the luxury of reveling in baby blissdom because I didn’t have anyone else to pay attention to! By default, I’ve spent lots more one-on-one time with Monkey than I probably ever will with Bean.

By default, Bean’s first year is kind of like a movie I’ve already seen and am watching again, except that it’s on in the background and I’m also folding laundry. You know those movies, right? Your favorite movies that you know really well and don’t have to pay super close attention to? You’re watching, but you’re not watching it as closely as you would if it were the first time. You don’t notice and appreciate the details like you did the first time. You still laugh at the funny parts, but not as hard. You still cry during the sad parts, but not as much. And you know certain parts so well that you can recite the lines by heart. Even though I look at my children and tell myself on a daily basis, “Remember this time. Appreciate this time.” I knew I wasn’t appreciating it as much as I could be.

Obviously, this whole connection thing has really been bothering me. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and feeling like a bad mama. And then, the other morning while I was up with Bean and Monkey was still sleeping, I decided to think of Bean as my *only* child. I began to imagine that she was my first born. And just like that – it clicked. There was the connection I had been longing for.

There are a lot of similarities in a baby’s first year of life, before they can really express who they are. But it’s not the same. While Bean does look an awful like lot like her older sister, she IS her own person. And as soon as I began to appreciate her as if she were the only one I had, it clicked.

Which leads me to reflect on what I do know about Bean. The older she gets, the more her personality starts to unfold.

  • She’s got a really sensitive palate. She’s not as welcoming to new flavors and textures in her mouth as Monkey was as a baby. My first indication of this was at her two-month well-check when the nurse tried to give her an oral vaccine. Upon receiving the first squirt, Bean contorted her mouth and made that awful “eeeh” face like you swallowed a cockroach and you can feel it crawling back up, and then she gagged, and made the face again. And then she gave that shudder — that “Ugh, that was just awful,” shudder. So yeah. There were definitely more of those faces when we started her on solids. It’s pretty hysterical actually. Even now after having had prunes a half a dozen times, she still makes that face on the first bite.
  • Bean is pretty sensitive in general. While she’s more laid back and it takes her a long time to get worked up, when she’s mad, she’s MAD. Sometimes, the kind of mad where even after you pick her up and are comforting her, holding her and rocking her, she’ll pause, and then decide she’s still MAD. And she’ll keep crying her head off. I hate that! Monkey was never like that. There’s nothing that makes you feel like an inept parent more than not being able to calm your crying baby.
  • She’s easily over stimulated. While Monkey seemed to thrive on ACTION! ATTENTION! PEOPLE!, Bean freaks out and shuts down when she’s had too much.
  • She still looooves to sleep. While there definitely have been some transition periods, for the most part, the biggest reason Bean gets cranky and cries is because she’s tired and wants to go to bed. I didn’t even know they made kids like that.

When Bean was first born, lots of people advised me that it would be really important to spend some one-on-one time with Monkey to ease her adjustment to the baby. But after spending the last few mornings playing with Bean before Monkey wakes up, I’ve come to realize that I want, and need, to spend some one-on-one time with Bean too. I think the alone time is what helped the connection click. I just need to make more time where I focus solely on Bean.

And I’m reaching out to you otha muthahs, to hopefully tell me that you know what I’m talking about and that I’m not the only one in the universe to have felt this way. Am I crazy? Selfish? Unfeeling? Normal? Anyone, anyone? I know I feel guilty. Guilty that it took me so long to figure this out and appreciate Bean for who she is and who she’s becoming. And feeling a little sad, because like I said, she’s going to be a COMPLETELY different person in six months. Why does this go so fast!?

It’s really wonderful to finally have the connection I was longing for. The invisible string that ties you to your children. The tugging you feel because a little piece of your heart is walking around outside of you.

Thankfully, sometimes the beautiful thing about watching one of your favorite movies over and over again, is that you’re surprised to notice something that you missed every other time.

Sleeping Bean, 5.5 months, clutching her "My First Doll."


10 responses »

  1. My children are 18 months apart and I get what you’re saying. I can tell you all about my son’s first months and all the other “firsts.” My daughter, not so much. Six years later, it’s all a blur since I was working and trying to take care of a toddler & a baby (plus it was tax season so my accountant husband was MIA a lot of the time) But I felt that as she got older and was able to express herself more, we were able to become much closer. I should add that when she was 1, my daughter was pretty sick and we bonded a lot during that time. What you’re feeling is normal & I know it’s hard to sometimes slow down & just enjoy our children. (I am trying to write this as my kids are playing a loud game of dinosaurs so I’m sorry if it doesn’t make sense!)

  2. No, it totally does make sense. And it makes me feel better that a). as your daughter got older and could express herself more, you got closer, and b). that I’m not the only one! I think this is another one of this things that no one tells you about having kids. Right along with those mesh underwear 😉

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Another great blog, and Jen…I know exactly how you feel! It’s funny how I would say the same thing to my I just don’t feel the strong bond the 2nd time around, and then I would try and justify it w/ well….I do have a toddler that demands my attention waaaay too much of the time (while inwardly feeling as guilty as hell). It’s also the part that you almost long for the 2nd baby to grow up a little faster….so you can enjoy the sibling interaction and have some of your own independence. When it’s your first, you want to take every ltitle moment and suspend it in time because you just dont’ want to miss anything. I remember specifically w/ Isabel I would sit, rock, and sing to her for hours on end…just staring in awe. The 2nd time around…I still rock and sing, but in a hurried way. You know the….I cannot WAIT til you fall asleep and I can crash into my own bed! The good news is…you’ve realized that you have to appreciate Bean for who she is..and you recognize that she is he own little being 🙂 I’ve started to do that too..and I find her personality so fascinating and complex! I cannot wait to see what she’s going to be like at 2 (well I can wait a little longer for I know for sure you’re not the only mom that’s felt this way, and you certainly won’t be the last!

  4. Can completely relate….don’t beat yourself up about this at all. I have been feeling this way with Sydney as well and your blog actually made me get a bit choked/teared up. I have the mommy guilt kicking in for not taking as many pictures, being on top of the baby book, marveling over every little coo/giggle! It really is different with your second one.
    And the sensitivity thing must be a second child issue or something. Sydney is also much more sensitive and gets overstimulated easily. Never dealt with that with Shelby. Sydney definitely lets us know when she is MAD where as Shelby rarely cried. It really is true that each kid is unique and their own person. It’s amazing!
    Also feel like the time is flying by compared to Shelby’s first year. Can it be that Sydney is already 3.5 months? yikes! I need to start savoring these moments. And one-on-one time definitely helps. My mom took Shelby overnight on Monday and kept her until 4 pm on Tuesday. I savored every moment that I had alone with Sydney on Tuesday and also enjoyed getting some things checked off my to-do list without a 2 year old running around! See if Eric could take your older one on a daddy date some weekend morning and give you and Bean some mommy-daughter bonding time. That’s something we need to get better at as well!
    Great blog as usual!

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  6. Thanks for the support you guys. It’s so awesome to have a network of people to talk about this stuff with. I honestly was a little hesitant to post this one b/c I was afraid I would look like a bad mom. You guys were actually making ME cry with your support. 🙂 I love the idea of having Eric spend time with Monkey. He wants to do that more anyway b/c she tends to be a mama’s girl. This would kill two birds with one stone.

    Too bad getting rid of the mommy guilt isn’t easier said than done.

    Thanks for all the support!

  7. It sounds like our kids have similar personalities. Maybe because of the order in which they’re born, maybe not. But I noticed with my second daughter that the love I felt wasn’t nearly as intense. Partially because, like you, “her first year is kind of like a movie I’ve already seen and am watching again, except that it’s on in the background and I’m also folding laundry.” But I think it was also because I was comparing the love I had for her (after loving her only 6 months) with the intense love I had for my other daughter (who I’d been loving at that point for over 3 years). It evens out when the second child grows older and you’ve loved her longer.

    Like you, I felt like I needed more one-on-one time with my second daughter. Taking that time made all the difference. And now? Part of me looks forward to the alone time I’ll have with her when her sister heads off to kindergarten next month. (Yet another reason to feel guilty – does it ever end?)

  8. ck, I think you’re totally right – there’s just no comparison to the love you feel for a person you’ve known for 2+ years to the love you feel for someone for 6 months or less. I’m glad to know that it evens out as the kids grow older.

    And no, in my short career as a mother, I’ve decided that the guilt never ends. In fact, my own mother chastises me for feeling guilty at this stage because she says I have many more years of guilt ahead of me. According to her, especially the teenage years. I think she’s speaking from personal experience.

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