Mayim's Poem on Life With Two Kids – Kveller
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Mayim’s Poem on Life With Two Kids

Earlier this week Kveller’s editor, Debbie Kolben, asked for some advice for dealing with her daughter’s transition to being a big sister. Kveller writers Carla NaumburgTamara Reese, and Jordana Horn have chimed in. Here is Mayim’s contribution.

I’m not a poet but I write poetry. Mostly sad mopey existential stuff, and in the past 4 years, song lyrics for the pieces I’ve written on piano. None have I ever shared.

The poem I am sharing here today is one I wrote about 4 years ago, just weeks after my second son was born. In those weeks, my older son (not yet 3 at the time) was so sad and so distraught, and seemed so impossibly big in every way. The feelings I had for and about him ranged from pity to rage to regret to profound passionate mama love, often within 3 minutes of each other. He was never violent or angry at the baby, but as many of you know, that’s not the only way #1 shows us they are adjusting to #2.

It’s such a personal thing to share this poem. I’ve shared it with many close friends and it’s been reported to me that I nailed it in terms of expressing the myriad emotions and feelings that come up. These friends say it’s helped them to read it and reread it for the first months and even years. It still brings me to tears even years after I penned it.

I share this poem as a gesture of gratitude to Deborah and to Kveller for–especially in the past weeks–being the place I have learned to be the most public and also the most private.

To parents of two or more, grab a tissue. Or seven.

Ode To The First Weeks

Before the baby
It was mama mama mama all the time
Naps and nights
Mama mama mama
And every moment in between
Mama mama mama

But then he came
And you wanted nothing to do with me
You wanted dada
Just dada
Only dada

Before the baby
Your skin was so soft
Was there anything softer?
There could not be anything softer
And I would caress you at naptime and night
Your softness: a leg, a cheek, tiny fingers,
Soft soft soft Firstborn

But then he came
And your skin, once like porcelain, seemed rough and full of imperfections
Bumps and scrapes and scratches
You were not so soft as him
That was very clear

Before the baby
I loved you with everything I had in me
Could I love you more?
Yes I could, they told me, and so I did
At naptime and night and every millisecond in between
All you, only you, forever you

But then he came
And that love grew and grew and grew
And it filled up every corner it could find
Every crevice that I didn’t know existed got filled up with golden warm light
And I kept on loving you so hard
But I loved him too, with everything I have in me
I loved him so hard, so quickly
Did I love him faster than I loved you? Earlier in his life?
I feared the answer was yes

Before the baby
You amazed me
Each eyelash held a universe
Each movement of your hand told a story
And you learned to be a little boy so fast and so well

But then he came
And you broke my heart every minute
How did you come to be so lovely, so creative, so tender, so gentle, so sweet?
How did we make you? Where did you come from?
And why are you crying?

Crying for the milk you had long given up
Crying mama mama mama
You are shrieking a rejection of me with hands once so tiny, yet now so big,
You are clinging to my body with desperation and longing

And sometimes I can not give myself to you like I used to
And you are sad
And you cry
And I cry
And I wonder, what did I do to him?
How could I do this to him?
Will he ever forgive me?

But did you know
That when it is dark
And you are asleep
And he is asleep
And he does not need me
I roll to you
And I cradle you in my arms
And I inhale your scent
And I hold your hands
And I stroke your skin
And I remember the Great Love
And I cling to your body
With desperation
And with longing

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