Isla and I are like secret lovers forced to steal moments together without being found out by my first born. I find myself suppressing the urge to coo and fawn over her in the presence of Esther for fear of making her jealous. This is not fair to Isla, I know, yet the thought of spending countless hours with my eyes glued on her, talking nonsense with my ridiculously high-pitched baby voice on, makes me sad. Sad because to keep my infant stimulated involves a certain amount of ignoring my first born and leaving her to play make believe for hours on end while mummy tends to the baby. I have noticed that her penchant for make believe has grown more elaborate as if she knows she needs to tune out and leave us alone. I appreciate this but I sometimes feel like I am missing her childhood. Yet I also feel the powerful pull of this sweet infant, dying for some up close and personal attention and not always getting it. Is this the way it has to be? Am I being too sensitive of Esther’s feelings? What of mothers of three, four, five or six children? Did they feel this way? Did they feel torn? Did they have time or energy to care?
This is made all the more distressing by the fact that Esther has grown and matured behind my back somehow. She glides around the house saying “please” and “thank you” and “okay mom” with a nod of the head that is just so unlike her. She still has her moments when overtired or frustrated beyond reason yet mostly she is some alien child from another world come to replace the little whirling dervish of a demon who lived here while I was pregnant.
The best quality time I get with Isla is during the night when we are up nursing. We lie in bed or sit in the enormous chair in the corner by the light of the Christmas candle and she slurps and snorts and sucks and gulps in an ever-increasing frenzy until she passes out from sheer elation or lack of oxygen, I am not sure which. Then she buries her sticky face into my breast or belly and goes all quiet and peaceful and lovely. I pick her up gingerly to my chest and try to coax a burp from her and she instinctively curls up her legs like a little tree frog. Her sticky frog hands feel warm on my neck. Her little fingernails scratch me. She feels so vulnerable and tiny at these times. My little creature, my little limpit, my baby, my child.