Thursday, 10 May 2012
The Second Child
What no one seems to discuss is the fact that the child that will change your life irrevocably is the second one. With one child, you can still hang on to vestiges of your old life; you can pursue sports and hobbies, and your friends will stay your friends, to whom you will be "Bart, Miriam and little Jasper". With Child Number Two, you become "Bart, Miriam, and The Kids", your child-free friends will float from your life, and you will not have the strength to woo them back. You may not even realize that they have gone.
Another hazard of moving from a one-child to a two-child family is dealing with the assumptions that you know what you are doing. One assumption comes from yourself: "I have a kid, right? I know what I'm getting into." No, you don't. Child Number Two (and every subsequent child, should you be foolhardy enough to continue) will differ in every way from Number One; everything that worked with the first kid will fall flat. Children aren't just children; they're individual human beings. I was what they called a "home support worker" in my misspent youth and I was often sent into help mums with a new baby. Whether it was Baby Number Three or Baby Number Six the cry was the same: "None of the others was ever like this!"
The other assumption comes a wee bit earlier. It is assumed that if this is your second pregnancy that you remember what to do. I don't know about you guys but I had a severe case of porridge brain throughout my first pregnancy and thus had very little to go on when I got knocked up the second time. Oh, both children were planned; what I mean is that I was very nearly as clueless the second time around. The fact that there were four years between my daughters didn't actually help.
Plus, of course, just as every child is different, every pregnancy is different. So the months, weeks, days and hours before younger daughter entered our lives sixteen years ago were full of surprises. Like gestational diabetes, for example. I was informed, as my third trimester began, that my blood sugars were elevated "slightly" and that I would be going in for nutrition counselling. By the end of the morning, they were showing me how to inject myself with insulin. "I feel like the bloody Balkans," I protested. "First I was a border skirmish, now I'm a global crisis. What gives?"
Things got even more fun when I was required to go in to the hospital (two-hour round trip bus ride) for weekly "non-stress tests", usually followed by a one-to-four-hour wait for a brief consult with an obstetrician who informed me with grim delight on one occasion (he was a rather grim man) that I was dilated 3 centimetres, so he merrily stripped my membranes. Never said what he was doing, of course, just left me recovering from what had seemed to be one hell of a rough pelvic exam. I was wiping the cold sweat from my upper lip when I noticed the blood on the examining table.
And so on through hours of induction culminating in an emergency C-section in the wee hours of the morning (I could have told them that was coming), then a spinal fluid leak from the epidural, resulting in headaches whenever I sat up, resolved by sealing it with a blood patch. Golly that hurt. Oh, and did I mention the rigour?
And yet? And yet. The most danger I was ever in of having more than two children was when I gazed at the ineffable beauty of my second-born. I thought the beauty of my first-born was a fluke, you see.
I'll shut up now before I start to sound like an insufferable commercial for disposable diapers. (For the record, I used cloth.)