The Loss and Gain of Having Two Children

Almost the very moment my second daughter Juliette was born, I realized that my relationship with my first daughter had changed. I think I knew it in the days leading up to giving birth for the second time. Each night in those last days of pregnancy, I crawled into Vera's bed with her and kept my arms around her until she had fallen asleep. My swollen belly was there in bed between us and on those last nights I could quite literally feel the sand draining out on my time in this one-on-one mother and daughter bond. On each of those nights I couldn't keep the tears from slipping down my face. I couldn't keep myself from thinking about how it felt to lose my mother so young, and hoped that Vera would never experience that herself. Nonetheless I could feel loss coming our way.

I am an only child and for the last three years my relationship with Vera has been very much like my relationship with my own mother - incredibly deep and connected and urgent. My mother was my absolute universe. She gave light to my entire world and, for much of my life, my days unequivocally revolved around her existence. And then they revolved around her death. My relationship with Vera has easily mimicked that closeness, giving me a much deeper understanding of the bond I shared with my mom. I never imagined that it would really change, until those last days of pregnancy when I suddenly realized that everything was about to change.

We brought Juliette home after just one night in the hospital. We got to the house around 7 that evening and Vera danced around the living room, wild with excitement about her sister's arrival. The next morning when Vera awoke, I left Juliette and Greg and in our bed and climbed into Vera's bed with her in an effort to keep things the same as usual. But instead of snuggling into me like she normally did, she opened her eyes, looked right past me and said, "Where's my sister?"

In that very moment I knew that things would never be the same. In that moment, I realized that these two girls will probably be closer with each other than they'll ever be with me.

While that breaks my heart a little, it also mends it in a strange way. My biggest fear as a mom is of more loss. Because I know mother-loss so intimately, I worry all the time about the girls losing me. Them having each other assuages my fears about that in an unexpected way. I can't even imagine how different the last decade of my life would have been had I had a sibling. So even in the midst of mourning an overly close relationship with Veronica, I feel incredible gratitude for what she has, and will have, with her sister.

We're four and a half months into this change and, although things have shifted irrevocably between all of us, I can certifiably say that Juliette has only served to enhance our little family. (The fact that I'm more crabby and stressed out than ever before in my life must be acknowledged but does not count in this context.) Vera is still a momma's girl and yet her relationship with Juliette has already planted deep, deep roots. Now, whenever Vera is upset, it's not just me she runs to, but Juliette too. Crying over a scraped ankle the other day she moaned into my shoulder, "I want to snuggle with Jules."

I feel such an enormous responsibility to these two girls, to them as women, to them as individuals and to them as partners. I know that I am going to have to grow and stretch and face all kinds of things about myself in order to carry out this responsibility in the highest fashion.

Here goes nothing.

Claire Bidwell Smith is a therapist specializing in grief and the author of a memoir called The Rules of Inheritance. Her mother died of cancer when she was eighteen and Claire now writes about parenting, grief and other life issues on her website