To My Second Daughter: I Hope You’ll Never Wonder If I Love You as Much as My First

Dear Baby Girl #2,

A funny thing happened on the day you were born. As soon as you were thrust toward me in the arms of your father, I took one glance at your brand-new face and erupted into tears. “I love her,” I exclaimed. “Well, yeah,” your dad responded, chuckling.

It wasn’t that I was surprised I loved you. Of course, I loved you. You’re my child, and I waited for you and loved you all along. But it was the profundity of the instant connection that really got me. I knew I would fall in love with you in time, but having already established a bond with your sister, I’d been nervous. I knew how to love her, had learned my way through her challenges and quirks. I had cared for her for almost three years, was well versed in how to parent her particular self. How would I do it with another? I didn’t know you yet. And I was scared.

Don’t get me wrong. You were so wanted. Another girl was the ultimate gift, exactly what I had hoped for. But I worried about competition. Sisters. Rivals. Girls. Would your first opponent in this complicated world be your big sister? Was I equipped to bond with you just the same as I had her? Would it take some getting used to?

In that moment when I first saw your absolutely perfect face, I knew. All of those ridiculous fears washed away, and your future spread out before my eyes like the glimmering promise that it is. You were (are) mine. My daughter. Yes, the second in chronological order, but not by any other consideration.

You’re just getting started at life, baby girl. You’re sitting up, looking around, interacting and discovering things. Right now your sister is your best friend, and your mother your primary protector. We all love you so much, and you can feel it. I hope that as time pulls us all forward, you won’t forget this. I hope you never wonder if your sister’s headstart in life made her more special or more loved than you.

People joke about “second child syndrome,” an issue I’ve battled a bit myself. Growing up in the shadow of an elder sibling with a big personality isn’t easy. I know because I’ve done it. But while a little bit of sibling rivalry is inevitable, please don’t question my love. Don’t worry for an instant that your mom places you anywhere other than right beside her in importance. Please don’t think that the three extra years I spent with her made her more mine or more special.

Because here’s the thing: Not only are you just as much mine as she is, but you’re not just like her—you’re you. At only five-months-old, you have the beginnings of a personality that’s totally different from hers. It’s amazing and expected at the same time. Yes, another little girl, a second daughter. But also a completely unique human to love and cherish.

Slowly, I am learning your challenges and quirks. I am figuring out how to mother you in a way that is what you need. It might sound crazy to some, but even at this young age, there’s so much about you that’s different and new, so many ways I’m changing up the routine from when I had her.

And on and on we’ll go, through the years getting to know each other better and better. I understand these baby days fly, and things get more and more complicated. We’re just getting started, you and I. We have a lot to learn together. Your sister has taught me so much, and you’ll do the same.

You’re too young to notice it now, but I try extra hard to make time just for you. Whereas your sister had me all to herself, you don’t. So, I carve out evening snuggle sessions and cuddle you a little extra. I block out working hours when she’s at preschool to do nothing but enjoy you.

I get a lot of criticism for it, but I didn’t just “hand down” all your sister’s old stuff to you. The biggies that didn’t need replacing, sure. But with wardrobing, bedding, and toys, I sold a lot of her stuff and bought new things for you. It might not work for every family, but I made this choice for ours.

I did this silly, expensive thing so that one day when you flip through your baby books (yes, you’ll have as many as Big Sister), you’ll see not only repeat outfits but things that were selected just for you. You’ll have that little shred of proof that I planned for you just as I did for her.

When you’re older, and life gets more complicated, I won’t be able to make things even all the time. There will be periods of life when she needs more and others when you do, and I vow to do my best to be there as much as I can for each of you. No one is more important than the other. That’s all I’m trying to say.

Some days I am more tired now than I was before I had you. Double the kids means double the stress and half the sleep. But on my weariest days, I love you still. Just as much as I’ve ever loved your sister. I will never be a perfect mom, despite my best efforts. But what I will be is here for you—both of you—always in all ways.

I love you.

Photo: Getty