As a mother and a health care provider, I felt I was fully prepared, or at least more prepared, for my second child to arrive. I was ready for all the feelings I had with my first, overwhelming joy, excitement, anxiety, frustration, exhaustion – the whole range of emotions. I breezed through some books and websites about preparing for the next child, and in the end decided that what happens will happen. Every family is different and my husband and I would just roll with how our little family would adjust to the new addition, especially my 2 ½ year old daughter. Lucky to say our daughter was excited to bring the new baby home and help, she handled the transition very well for a toddler who had been numero uno in our household.
What I was not prepared for was the overwhelming feeling of guilt the first night when my daughter asked me to “take me night-night mommy” and I responded with an “I can’t” because I was breastfeeding. My throat tightened and I held back the tears as my daughter cried while my husband was upstairs trying to get her to understand why mommy could not read her books. Over the next few nights the one-on-one time we used to have, that I took for granted, diminished literally overnight and I felt so guilty about this. I opened up to my other mommy friends and a trend emerged, they had all experienced the same guilt, even my OB-GYN admitted the same feelings. They all shared stories about how they adapted to lessen those guilty thoughts.
Why do we feel guilty for having another child? Not a question I know the answer to. But what I have learned is that these feelings are not uncommon, even normal shall we say, and they will pass. You will do what is right for you, your child, your baby, and your family. To adapt to this, my husband will give my son a bottle if his feeding time falls on toddler bedtime. While I know breast is best, what is best for my family is that there is a happy toddler who gets a good night’s sleep and subsequently enjoys her baby brother even more, now insisting on giving him a kiss every night before bed.
Kelsie Kelly, MD MPH is an Assistant Professor at KU Family Medicine and mother of two.