Seconds

April 21, 2008

In four weeks, give or take some days, I will give birth. To a baby. Another one.

At this point in my first pregnancy, I was totally prepared for the arrival of the baby and for any and all potential natural disasters and had already moved on to alphabetizing the boxes of teas in the tea cupboard. I had purchased and assembled (okay, had husband assemble) a stroller (carefully selected after extensive research) and a crib (examined and re-examined and re-examined again for possible defects and potential baby-head-mangling gaps.) I had outfitted the crib in organic cotton linens and stocked the dresser with impossibly tiny onesies and receiving blankets and diapers and diaper ointment and baby jammies and wee socks and booties and even some of those creepy little fingerless cotton mittens that I never did use. I had stocked the bookshelves with baby books, and put pictures up on the walls, and put little stuffed toys on the daybed. If that baby came early, I was ready. If that baby came late, I was ready. If a tornado hit and shut down the city and we were suddenly faced with an extreme diaper cream shortage? I was ready. If the ice caps melted and the streets flooded and we were suddenly forced to float south on a crib made bouyant by a thousand Pampers Swaddlers and some teething rings? I. WAS. READY.

This time? I am not ready. Not even close.

I have one new onesie for this child – one – and that was a gift. I haven’t even gone through Wonderbaby’s baby things – the stuff that I didn’t give away in the weeks and months during which I was convinced that I would never go through that new child thing again, HELL NO – to see if there is, by chance, one or two onesies or pajama sets that are not a) pink, or b) irretrievably shit-stained. The bassinet is in storage, as is the infant car seat. The BabyBjorn was given away, loooong ago, after Wonderbaby rejected it. And the nursery? Looks like this:


Those are bins of laundry – washed, yes, but unfolded, because who has time for that? – in the foreground. And a vacuum cleaner. And while there are books and magazines on the bookshelf, they’re all old New Yorker magazines, Penguin Classics paperbacks and Martin Amis novels. Not a single work of Margaret Wise Brown to be found.

I tell myself that it doesn’t mean anything, my inattention to the details of preparing for the arrival of this child. I tell myself that I’m slacking because I learned from the last one that all the organic cotton onesies and stocks of diaper cream in the world can’t prepare you for the onslaught of mess and noise and love that a baby brings. I tell myself that what’s different this time is that I know that money can’t buy me baby-love. Or peace, or quiet, or security from fear. I tell myself that I’m not nesting, that I’m not feathering the nest, because I know that the feathers don’t matter. That only my love, and his father’s love, and his sister’s love matter.

But still I worry. Isn’t there a fine line between acknowledging what doesn’t matter, and not caring? Mightn’t I be perched on the slippery slope of devoting less care and attention to this child? This second child?

When I first found out that I was pregnant this time around, I was gripped – along with the joy – with fear and anxiety and ambivalence. I worried that while I was providing Wonderbaby with a wonderful, wonderful gift in a new sibling, I might also be depriving her of me – my love, my devotion, my attention, all of these things, undivided. I don’t worry about that anymore. She has been and will always will be given enough love and attention and adoration to last lifetimes. Now, instead, I worry that I am bringing her brother into a life where everything that he is offered – love, attention, adoration, onesies – is divided. Handed down. Seconds. Even if what he is being handed down – even if what is divided – is in quantities that can only be measured by infinities, doesn’t it matter that these are still seconds? That whatever he has – kisses, hugs, baby socks – will have been had by his sister, literally or figuratively, first?

That my love for him – although perhaps more the sweeter for coming from a calmer, more mature place – will not be my first, most intense love?

I will love him – DO love him – to the height and depth and breadth my soul can reach, etc. There will be no gaps or shortages in that love; there will be no further distance that that love could travel, no greater height that love could climb. It is, and will be, complete.

But it will always be the love that came second.

Does that matter?

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    { 80 comments }

    Her Bad Mother April 22, 2008 at 9:56 am

    I suppose that I’m sensitive to this issue in part because, like verybadcat, I *was*, in my childhood and youth with my sister, very much locked, much of the time, in battles about who Mom or Dad loved more. I was Daddy’s girl, and my (younger) sister was Mommy’s, and we were both frustrated at different points by that (my parents, I should note, did nothing to cause to cause this, that I could see, it just seemed to fall out that way.)

    When I indulge in my secret wish to have a ‘mama’s boy’, I feel guilty for WB. When I wish that WB would be more of a mama’s girl, I feel guilty for the boy.

    Obviously, I worry too much.

    Steph April 22, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Just saw the Globe article!

    Anonymous April 22, 2008 at 10:21 am

    I didn’t prepare for my first at all. I just couldn’t get excited about baby clothes and all of that stuff. Everywhere. Ugh.

    I wonder how my family dynamic will play out when/if we have another? In my husband’s family, he’s very much a mama’s boy- without being that kind of mama’s boy- and in mine, I kind of felt/feel like an afterthought- second kid, been there, done that, etc. It all makes me wonder if we should even try for another. But I do want another one day…

    wright April 22, 2008 at 10:32 am

    As always your post completely moves me. As I sit here thinking about getting pregnant with #2, I ponder all these things. You say them so much more eloquently, and for that I thank you!

    Jaelithe April 22, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Mailing address, please. I have three Rubbermaid bins full of sorted, washed, carefully folded boy clothes, organized and labeled by age, from when my son was younger. All saved just-in-case for a second baby.

    But I don’t have one right now. And you do. And it seems suddenly rather ridiculous to me that these things are just sitting in my basement.

    So I could totally send you some stuff, if you’re interested.

    (I don’t suppose customs would hold up a shipment of onesies?)

    Mitzi Green April 22, 2008 at 10:48 am

    does it matter? i don’t know, i’m the firstborn. ask my siblings. though they don’t seem any worse for wear. my husband is the second (and last), and he was (and is) the favorite. my own firstborn is the STEPchild, and the “difficult” one at that, so i’ve been as concerned as you, only my concern has been for him, that HE will end up playing sloppy seconds, not this baby that is currently driving me nuts with his hiccups…

    Anonymous April 22, 2008 at 10:56 am

    If someone were to cut off one of your fingers, which would hurt the least? You love each one for a different reason in a different way & they are all part of you.

    pkzcass April 22, 2008 at 10:59 am

    I had a second child so the first would have a sibling. I wasn’t even doing it because I necessarily wanted a second child, but I felt my first son should have a sibling. I’m the last of 6, and while I remember my parents being tired and somewhat cranky (after 1 girl and 5 boys, then me -who could blame them?), I never felt that there wasn’t enough love to go around. I still got plenty from my parents, and plenty more from my siblings.

    So when my second son came along, I wasn’t prepared for the whole lotta love that I’d have for HIM as an individual. (It helped that he was a very easy baby, unlike is somewhat difficult older brother.)

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is to stop worrying and believe what everyone else has said here…that you will love this baby just as much. And he’ll be getting even more with the love of his older sister. My greatest joy was the first time my younger one actually laughed out loud at my older one. It makes your heart swell.

    Only four more weeks! I can’t wait!

    Her Bad Mother April 22, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Jaelithe, doll, I would totally take you up on that. Hell, if Customs lets J&J KY lube across the border, they gotta let a few onesies, no? xo

    caramama April 22, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    As the youngest of three, I never felt any less loved than my siblings. Some of us even love having hand-me-downs because our cool older siblings wore them/had them first!

    When I think about first loves, I try to remember that my husband was not my first love yet that does not dimish my love for him at all. I think kids are the same way, except you never fall out of love with any of them. The love just grows.

    Besides, your little boy will have the first older sister… something WB did not have!

    Don Mills Diva April 22, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Doesn’t matter. Not to him anyway. He will be your first boy, he’ll always have a sibling to dote on him, he’ll be kicking your ass like rowdy little boys do and neither of you will have time to give these issues a second thought…:-)

    Kelly April 22, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I’m lazy so haven’t read through the 60-some comments before me but one thing I realized after #2 was born. It’s not the same. Do you love hubby the way you love WonderBaby? Nope. Not.even.close. Same difference will be had between your WonderBoy and his older sister. I have two boys and don’t love them even remotely the same. The same amount, heck yeah, but it’s so completely different. THEY’RE so completely different, that I couldn’t love them the same.

    Perhaps, if you asked me if I love one more than the other, I’d tell the pretty truth and say “no, I love them the same”. Perhaps I’d tell you the unpretty truth that I love whomever is being least annoying and most adorable at that very moment. I love THAT ONE most. But then, that particularly unpretty truth is fickle in it’s choice. ;)

    Chris April 22, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    A parent’s love, even if it’s divided, is the same. I have 5 children and I love all the same. My attention is not equal because the one who needs my attention most will get it. And in time, each one will one wa or another will require my undivided attention.

    Good luck to you! Love the last allusion to Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee”

    Stacey April 22, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I have the same unpretty truth as Kelly! There are times where there is a preference. But it’s never the same one.

    When Mayhem was born he had one new outfit & all his brother’s baby clothes. (They are 15 months apart) He had no bed, he had no room, he had his brother’s boppy, his brother’s sling, his brother’s bouncy chair, his brother’s toys and even his diapers were initially the ones his brother had outgrown before using. He was 3 before he ever experienced my sole undivided attention for more than than occasional hour here and there. Yet despite that, it has never occurred to him he is second in anything but age

    Little Monkies April 22, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    My sweet babygirl couldn’t be any more loved even though she’s the second. I don’t know if having one of each gender makes a difference, but oh, I EAT her UP!

    I agree with Kelly on this one too. It’s usually the one that is annoying me least that gets the doe eyes.

    It will be fine. The fit will be found.

    Syko April 22, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Who cares when the love comes? It’s still love, and as long as it is there, it doesn’t matter if it’s a little more today or a little less.

    I found with my three that I love them all to an infinite degree. There is no limit, no ending. I just love them with all my being. Some days I like one or the other better, but I never feel less love for anyone. Ever. There’s no limit on the amount of love you can have. If you had twenty kids, you’d love them all to that eternal degree.

    As for the nesting – you are tireder! Your body is older, you have a toddler, this pregnancy is bound to make you feel more tired. And also, now you know that the STUFF doesn’t matter. The baby doesn’t care if he’s in organic cotton onesies or in a diaper and shirt from Goodwill’s Thrift Store. All the baby needs is enough food going in, and lots of love. I imagine you will be handling that.

    I am getting so excited about the Sprout, Her Bad Brother, and can hardly wait to see a picture of him (other than the spooky in utero one).

    Laural Dawn April 22, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    For me it’s been the weirdest thing.
    I don’t know how to explain it except that when Chloe was born I felt like I loved both her and Matthew more than I had ever felt love before.
    BTW, I did the same thing – I gave everything away because I was never having another baby. I kept a few things that I loved, but really not much.
    It’s just a good excuse to go shopping.

    Godless Sunday April 22, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    OMG! Good luck. How exciting!
    You will make a lovely 2x mom.

    I know PRECISELY how you feel. I was not nearly as prepared for the second as the first!

    kgirl April 22, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Nope, won’t matter. It’s a different love, but holy hell, it’s just as fierce.

    And we still don’t even have a nursery for our second. She’s 5 months today. Whoops.

    überburber April 22, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    I just have to tell you, I love love love your blog. Can’t remember how I found you but I stop by from time to time. You really tell it. Like it is. It takes me back to so many of the feelings I was having during that hazy schmazy time of my first infant/second pregnancy. Wow. Well, my dear fellow blogger and mom, you won’t believe how you will have access to all this new (well, it’s always been there) love when he comes. Good luck to you. I’ll stay tuned!

    überburber April 22, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    oh, and the nice thing is that he’s a BOY so if it helps you, you can call it “boy love” and “girl love”. The boy love’s gonna rock your world…there’s nothin’ like it!

    Her Bad Mother April 22, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    uberburber: thank you! (*blushes*)

    roz April 22, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    The wonderful thing about love is it’s immeasurable. It just comes and comes from some bottomless bucket. You don’t love your husband any less than you did before WB, right? Nor your other family. It’ll just be as unique as your love for every other person in your life.

    Mom101 April 22, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Oh darling. I could have written this only so many months ago. Except for the part about having a nursery, because what we had was a used co-sleeper in our own bedroom. Voila! Nursery!

    First love is first love. Nothing can take that away. But second love isn’t lesser love. You’ll see…

    The Estrogen Files April 22, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Second baby but not second love. It’s so amazing how the heart expands in places like this.

    The love for baby2 is no less than it was for baby1. Maybe not more love, but more mature love.

    Me, I’m on baby5 and each love is stronger and lovey-er.

    Kristi April 23, 2008 at 10:42 am

    I don’t know you, but those words could have come out of my mouth. I worry about all of those things and taking away from my daughter (my second is due in Sept) and how in the world can I possibly love someone as much as I love her. When this baby is born you’ll have to confirm to us all that it can be done and that none of it matters, I’m going to need to hear it too.

    Anonymous April 23, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I’m pregnant with my first child and shockingly, have done next to nothing in preparation.

    And this is what I’ve been socialized to believe in our modern world: I should be reading, attending birthing classes, buying, decorating.

    And this is what I’ve heard or read about. The colour co-ordinated nursery, art commissioned baby paintings, the advanced stroller, clay mouldings of a swollen belly adorning a room, the recommended diapers, the dangers in plastics, the need to breastfeed, how to parent to be a good mother, and this list could go on, exhaustively.

    My husband shrugs. “Children are not products, nor art we create and mold. Breathe,” he says. “There are no guarantees.”

    And so, here we are, anticipating an arrival for which we are both dismally unprepared, hoping only the child is born healthy, will experience exhilirating moments of happiness with himself, the world, with others throughout his life, will have a caring and discerning heart, and above all, will forgive us, others, and that oftentimes cruel and difficult world, for the inevitable shortcomings, failures, and disappointments that ambush us all.

    Do not worry Catherine. Though he comes second, you know you loved long before you’ll ever hold him.

    Sarah April 23, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Of course it doesn’t matter. If loving your child, the sequal, was wrong then we would have a world of messed up younger children. But thats not the case at all.

    I’m the second of three and I’ve never felt for one day that my brother or sister recieved any more or less love than me. That unconditional love thing fills in all the holes and crevices for all of your children.

    It’s not like you can have 10 first borns!

    Anonymous April 24, 2008 at 10:58 am

    catherine no need to worry your heart will expand and grow with so much love that it will be overflowing.LAVANDULA

    Rebecca F. April 25, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I don’t have time to read all the comments but I just wanted to say that with a new baby sometimes comes a little resentment for baby # 1. I know it sounds odd but perfectly normal that while you are trying to love and care for new baby and yourself, you may find it hard to capture the feelings for baby # 1. I’m typing as fast as I can and am not very explaining it very well but if it happens, it is normal and it WILL PASS.

    Best of luck.

    Rebecca F.

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