Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Second and Final Child

DD just turned 9 months old, and I can't even believe how fast the time has gone. She recently started walking (oh holy hell....) at 8.5 months. My mother tells me after a cursory check at her diligent entries in my baby book circa 1977, I also happened to walk at the exact same age. (DS was also an early walker, though at 9.5 mos he was a full month behind his sis. I suspect a strong genetic component to early walking). Yesterday was the first time we "lost" DD in the house and seriously didn't know where she was for a very scary 5 minutes. Turned out she had crawled all the way upstairs and was playing with a tent & tunnel toy she recently discovered. Another favorite activity of hers is splashing around in the dog's water bowl, so we've had to find a new location for it, much to our dear pooch's chagrin. She is so squirmy, and just wants to move!! She recently went swimming for the first time and totally loved it. She would start kicking her legs at just the right time, and enjoyed standing on the pool stairs. And of course watching her big brother jump off the diving board.

What I also can't believe is how vastly different her first 9 months have been compared to her older brother's first 9 months. He was born in the big city, where I went back after my 19-week maternity leave, to working a high pressure job, while he spent 4 months in a great center-based daycare. Then we moved to Podunkville (land of no good daycare, and no office job for me) when he was the exact age that DD is now. And that was 2 years ago this weekend. Wow - how time flies. My grandma always said time flies much faster the older we get, and I am discovering that to be true.

After way too much ruminating, DH and I have decided that DD is going to be our last baby. We once had aspirations of having as many as 4 kids. Pass me my crazy pills, I know! After actually having 2 we now see what a naive little dream that was. At the rate we're going, we wouldn't have even been able to remember the 4th kid's name, let alone when little what's its name took his first steps! Anyway, our decision to be done at 2 healthy kids has turned out to be oddly freeing. I feel like I now have extra encouragement to savor the sweet little moments everyday. Smelling the proverbial roses. And even to buy small things that are just hers alone, like a silly pink bib with polka dots, even though I know I'll never have another baby to wear it. And I'm also feeling the need to tone up my body and buy properly-fitting bras. (I'm a size 39 DD and a half...) And visit my newly-single BFF in London this summer. Because if you think about it, we're saving at least $225,136* over the next 18+ years by not having any more kids. (*figure pulled from my ass).

I confess it has been much harder to remember even the basic things about DD's babyhood. I think it is because I already have one set of memories of having witnessed the miracle of a tiny newborn turning into a walking, talking, egg-smashing, defiant, clever, spontaneous hug-giving & kiss-planting toddler who is newly-obsessed with "Toy Story," not sharing, and berating other kids who even dare look at his baby sister. And having a firstborn who is just such a vibrant, overwhelming personality in our house has honestly made it harder to carve out unique time and memories only of DD. I used to think parents who talked so much about their firstborn must secretly love them more, but now I realize that's not necessarily true. First anythings are just inherently more memorable (primacy effect?). Everything and everyone who follows will at some level be compared to how the first was. It is a struggle to give DD equal time -- no wait, forget equal time, how about just sufficient time? I feel like I need to read and talk just to her a lot more than I have been doing.

Any advice from those of you who have 2 or more little ones?


paola said...

And the photos? When I was a kid I remember thinking there were so many photos of me ( first child) and hardly any of my brother in the early years, until, that is, we were able to stand still enough to be in the same photo. Same with my kids.

I think it helps to know you are not alone in not remembering enough of no.2's babyhood/toddler years or feeling you don't spend enough one on one time with the second child. 'Seconds' still blossom and probably learn to be more independent and fend for themselves quicker than 'Firsts' and who knows what advantage that'll have for them in the long run.

Cloud said...

Ummm.. no, not really. We're in the same place. I look at my sweet, smiley Petunia and wonder how she got so big??

Anyway, one thing that helps us a little bit is that we split up a bit on the weekends. So, I'll take Pumpkin to the store and Hubby will play with Petunia. Or Hubby will take Pumpkin to the park, and I'll play with Petunia. We do try to do at least one thing as a whole family each weekend, too, but the solo time seems to be really helpful for Pumpkin. I can't really tell what Petunia thinks!

It is hard to feel like things are "fair" since there is no way we can give Petunia the sort of attention Pumpkin got. But, she has Pumpkin pulling silly faces at her, and not just us. And Pumpkin will do it WAY LONGER than we will, so that's some sort of trade off.

I'm the second child, and I don't remember being too upset by the obvious difference in the number of photos of me vs. my sister. (Yeah for digital cameras, though- this is less of an issue for us. We have way too many photos of both kids.)

Jac said...

I have nothing since I am only expecting the second. I'll be reading with interest.

loved your comment about how freeing it was to make a decision to stop at two. DH and I have always agreed that we wanted 4 or 5 (yes, this was us before we had one). Also, DH has also been very, very adamant that he would NEVER get a vasectomy. But, this pregnancy has been ridiculously difficult on me and I recently told him I was done. No more for me. He agreed, said he would get the snip, and we both laughed and felt really free. Like we don't have to put the rest of our life on hold while we get through these baby years. No I feel like I can enjoy the next few baby years, rather than slog through them on the way to the next baby.

Melba said...

I used to want more than 2 kids too. I have 3 sisters and love having a big family, and I really wanted that for my kids. But. But but but. I don't think I can have more than 2 either. I don't think I'll survive it. Nor will my marriage. Nor will my husband. I am not very good at doing the newborn baby thing and handling the sleep deprivation. While I think I could handle three kids, I don't think I can handle another baby.

For me, this revelation is more disappointing than freeing. But I think that we'll be happy with our little family of four and that in the end it is the right decision to only have 2 kids.

And I know what you mean about finding the time and space for the second child. Sometimes, after a nice day out or a family trip, I look back through the photos and there are far more of Rosie (older) than Annie (younger). I know its because Rosie is out actually participating in whatever we're doing and Annie is passed out in the stroller. But try explaining that to Annie when she's old enough to realize this. I'm a second child, and I WAS hurt by the lack of photos of me in comparison to my older sister.

blue said...

I love this post and the comments so far. It's interesting to hear everyone's perspective.

I have two kids who are widely spaced (4.5 years apart). I've commented here before about being pretty sure we're all set with two. I have a (perhaps incorrect) view of life with three being intrinsically chaotic. I am not good with chaos, noise, nor do I do well with the newborn, sleep deprived, ppd phase of life. It took A LOT to decide on #2, so 3 is probably not going to happen here. DH and I have conversed about this and decided that it might actually ruin our marriage (we're real blunt that way).

We definitely have more photos and video or #1 in her first year; however, I, interestingly, spend a lot more time with #2 because I'm now no longer working full time. Also, he is an easier baby and, in so many ways, I'm a better mother.

I don't feel at all guilty about having more to "show" for the first one. If anything, I feel a slight pang of guilt at knowing that I'm more calm and a better mom this time around.

I loved your comment about how not having more saves you money and time to do the things you love, just for you. I do this same sort of rationalizing. But in a way it's true in that it confirms your need to focus on having some of your own freedom.

Good to have you back, Hush.

blue said...

Oh, Also? A big fat YES to savoring the "sweet little moments everyday". Forget about the money you're saving, think of all that extra ENERGY and attention you can give to your kids! (that would have had to be saved up and used on another baby?) Yikes, now that I typed that it seems kind of crazy and nonsensical! But, still...

hush said...

@Paola - Photos are such an important time sink for me. Kind of an obsession. Oddly enough, we've had more professional photos taken of DD than we ever did of DS - I know it is usually the other way around. I attribute that to where we live now and the greater flexibility I have with my schedule. I can take the kids to a session for an hour when the mood strikes us, and good photos don't cost an arm and a leg here in Podunkville.

You're so right that there are advantages to being a Second!

@Cloud - I hear you on having way too many photos of both kids in the digital camera age. Splitting up 1-on-1 over the weekends has been working for us, too. However, DS has been monopolizing his beloved daddy DH's time, and DH has been feeling like DD is getting short shrift from him. I think a written schedule may be in order.

@Jac - I hope nothing I've said on having 2 has ever freaked you out, and I hope your pregnancy is going great. DS has a big personality and I think it is not crazy like this for everyone. There are some families out there who can handle 4+ kids without seeming to break a sweat, and hats off to them. But that ain't us, and it's ok if that ain't your life either. Free to be you and me!

DH is getting a vas after DD's first birthday. Which still honestly makes me a bit sad, (like nailing the reproductive doors shut forever) though I know it is the correct choice for us, and can sometimes be reversible. Apparently, there is even a new needle-free anesthesia guys can get for their balls these days. If we have that in Podunkville I'm sure you can find it in your gorgeous town.

@Melba - That's a powerful realization that you wouldn't be happy and your marriage wouldn't survive. Me, too! I have a hard time saying this out loud IRL, but I totally feel it.

@blue - Blunt is good, especially about marriage - as I am learning! Being a "calm & better mom all around" is something I've overlooked, but you're right. I also think it is hard to put a price tag on the value of the extra time and attention. Imagine how guilty and overcommitted I'd feel with more than 2. Since having kids I already feel a ton of guilt about the lack of attention given to the dog!

Jac said...

@Hush - do you think the decision to stop with two is made easier by the fact that you have a boy and a girl. Would you feel differently if your second was a boy? We just found out that our second is going to be a girl, so I don't feel like I need to keep the reproductive door open. Also, any tips you have about having a girl after having a boy would be appreciated. Everyone I know has either two of one or the other. I'm not feeling as confident as I think I should for a second-timer cuz I feel like a girl is a whole different can of worms.

hush said...

@Jac - Congrats on your girl! To answer your question, no, for us the B/G birth order didn't make the choice to close the door any easier. Had nothing to do with it actually. We honestly didn't care whether or not we had one of each sex or not. And I don't think we raise our boy and our girl any differently, at least not on purpose anyway. I guess that would be my advice for you - "raise boys and girls the same." I think I saw that once on a bumper sticker in the UK. FWIW, DD has been MUCH easier than DS was, and I don't attribute that sense of it to our first time parent inexperience with DS, nor to the not sweating the small stuff as much the 2nd time around. DD's temperament is a lot more in sync with ours, she goes to bed for the night easily (though doesn't sleep through), eats whatever we put in front of her, and is basically just a happy camper 24/7. Nothing to do with being a girl, I think it was just our luck of the draw.

And at some point, we gotta leave the casino while we're ahead.

I guess another factor in our Done-at-2 decision was the fact that both kids were healthy, plus DD has an easy temperament, and yet... things are still fucking hard as hell! Not to scare you. The thought of having a 3rd who had a health issue or is colicky or is in some other way not as easy as DD, well, it is just too scary and too great a risk to our fragile marriage and our overall sense of peace. Hopes that makes some sense.

caramama said...

Tell me you got my comment! Did Blogger eat the one I wrote yesterday? The one I pour my heart and soul into? (I could probably be more melodramatic, but that's all I got for now.)