In labor with child number two, my body was pulsating, gripped at irregular intervals by fierce contractions. I felt like a food processor operated by an unsupervised toddler. I was also seized by a paradox-the comfort and anxiety of “here we go again.”
This time, however, I had a new source of pain. I was preoccupied with an existential question: Would I ever love this child the way I love my firstborn?
Unconvinced by everything I had read and everyone I had spoken with over the last trimester, I decided to call my mother. Acknowledging the irony-I’d spent most of my childhood convinced that my parents favored my younger brother-I shared my angst with her.
“Oh, Rachel, nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” She paused, letting me take this in. Then she added, “Those words come from Zelda Fitzgerald, but their truth comes from my own experience.” I considered my own experience: adding a life partner did not lessen the love I felt for my parents or brother, nor was it diminished by the arrival of our first child. My finite resources-time, money, patience-have been reallocated, but my capacity to love and be loved has grown exponentially.
Squatting in the doorway, brought low by a contraction, I looked up at my husband holding our daughter and felt a surge of emotion so strong that I lost my balance. When I responded to the inevitable, “Are you okay?” with: “It’s my heart,” and saw his expression, I hastened to add, “Not literally.” Still, I felt it was my heart that had thrown me in its eagerness to show off the room it was just now readying for a second crib.
Rachel Brodie is the Executive Director of Jewish Milestones www.JewishMilestones.org