The Grief of Having Another Child

It can happen any day now. Our hospital bags are packed. Her name has been chosen. Her bassinet is ready, onesies washed, diapers organized and ready to be used. I’ve been working like a mad woman this last month at the church so nothing falls through the cracks while I’m on maternity leave. Though I know something is bound to fall through the cracks. 

During this waiting period, I’m surprised by the mixture of emotions that come up for me. There’s excitement, of course. This is our dream come true. I’ve always wanted two children (one boy, one girl) in a nice home in the ‘burbs. My life is unraveling exactly as wished. 

Melded with excitement however, is grief—grief at the loss of a special relationship with our only child up to this point. A fear I’ve carried while simultaneously carrying my second throughout these 9 months is whether I’ll be able to love her as much as I love Hugh. Can that special bond with my firstborn ever be replicated?

As I shared these thoughts with a congregant, she shared so wisely, it’s only natural I would feel this way. Hugh was our first. The thing about firsts, is that they change our identities.

He’s the one who expanded our hearts and made us to experience a love we couldn’t imagine before; the one who pushed us towards a selflessness unfathomable prior to parenthood; the one who filled us with a joy beyond the most ecstatic moments of our lives. 

It also doesn’t help that Hugh was an easy baby. We wonder with some trepidation, will she be as chill? As giggly? As smart? 

There’s a belief within Korean culture that family members have signifiant dreams before the birth of a baby, which provides insight into the baby’s personality or life. These birth dreams usually contain prominent animal or nature symbols. My parents dreamt of Koi fish before I was born, a large oak tree before my brother was born, and I dreamt of a big, ripe tomato before Hugh was born. 

While neither James nor I have had any birth dreams about baby #2, my parents both (and independently of one another) dreamt of a tiger early on in my pregnancy. 

“She’s going to be feisty!” said my dad. “Just like Hilary Clinton!” said my mom.

“Oh no, she’s going to be the death of me,” I think. 

The truth is, deep down, I’m not that afraid. My mind can identify these thoughts as ungrounded, anticipatory anxieties. Even if our affection towards her has a lot of catching up to do to match our affection for Hugh, who has had the advantage of more time with us, my mind knows we will come to love her wholly—tiger characteristics and all. There will even come a time when we will not be able to envisage a life without her. 

But I want to recognize this significant turning point of our lives, the end of a chapter. The chapter where it was just the three of us. The chapter called, “Life as New Parents” or “Life with Our Firstborn, the Best Kid in the Whole Entire Universe Who Made Our Hearts Pulse with Obsessive Adoration and Convinced Us His Scratch was Reminiscent of Picasso” or perhaps, simply, “The One Who Changed Our Identities.” 

This chapter is almost over. It was a good one.

Here’s a family-of-three-favorite-moment-of-the-week. Hugh, a lover of bikes just like his dad, all of sudden got obsessed with his scooter. He woke us up at an earlier than usual hour on Saturday morning because he was eager to ride it and asked us to take him to a nearby church parking lot. We agreed with as much enthusiasm we could muster on an early weekend morning. It had rained the night before so the air was cool and clean. He was super excited about showing off his “trick,” which is simply jumping on the foot board. 

All this said, you’ll hear from me until you stop hearing from me, in which case, you’ll know she came. 

In the meantime, keep sending me your October “Ask Me Anything” questions to as I’m planning to shoot a video in the next few days. Your question can really be about anything: faith and spirituality, life conundrums you’re working through, guidance in regards to one of the workbooks, you name it. Subscribe in the box below so you receive that video as soon as it’s released.

Life MusingsLydia Sohn