The last few weeks have been the longest I’ve gone without blogging since I started. In my defence, I’ve been pretty busy having a baby. Sophia Rose is six weeks old today, and those six weeks have been the mixture of ecstatic happiness, exhilaration, excitement, exhaustion, tearfulness and panic which normally accompany a new baby. We also had Christmas in the middle of it all, and of course the job of helping Anna make the transition from only child to big sister.
Sophia is the baby I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to meet, but she is also the person I somehow knew our family was missing. The whole time I was struggling to come to terms with the miscarriages I’d had, I knew that I was incredibly lucky that I already had a wonderful, healthy daughter, but however hard I tried I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted a second. That I wouldn’t feel complete, our family wouldn’t feel complete until s/he arrived, and that I would always sense the gap if s/he didn’t. We feel so lucky and blessed that she is finally, safely, here.
I’d wondered and wondered about how a second baby would be different to a first. Popular wisdom has it that you feel more confident, that you worry less and pamper less because you have learnt that babies are quite tough really. Everyone I knew with two or more children said that you do love them the same amount, that your capacity to love simply expands with each child, but I couldn’t help a niggling anxiety. I’d wanted this baby so much, but would I really be able to feel the same intensity of love I feel for Anna for someone else? Is the firstborn actually always the most special, and the whole world engaged in a giant conspiracy to prevent younger siblings from discovering this? I needn’t have worried. From the moment I heard her cry, and saw her little red scrunched face, howling in outrage at being dragged from a warm, dark safe womb into a bright, chilly operating theatre I was wholly and completely in love.
One difference second time around is that I am much more relaxed about the bad bits. Sure, I haven’t exactly enjoyed the midnight-6am nonstop cry-fests. And it was frustrating that Sophia had clearly read the bit of the baby book where they talked about cluster feeding, but had decided that the suggested early evening time slot was for wimpy babies, and the early hours of the morning was when the cool kids should do it. But the big difference this time was that I knew that this stage would pass. That sooner or (probably) later she would sleep through the night, that my nipples would live to fight another day, that my stitches would stop hurting and I’d be able to leave the house without carrying my own body weight in nappies, wipes and muslins. The flip side is that I also know that the heart-aching sweetness of having another human being totally dependent on you also passes. That the impossibly tiny fingers and toes grow. That the first smile becomes the first laugh becomes the first proper food, the first steps and in no time at all the first day at school. I read somewhere that with parenting ‘the days are long, but the years are short’, and I want to appreciate every second of the long days (and nights). Having said that, I also know that although the cuteness of the tiny baby stage is gone in the blink of an eye, other things get better and better. I love having an almost-six-year-old I can chat to, who has her own opinions, friends and life apart from me, but also still needs her mummy for a cuddle when something goes wrong.
As well as adjusting to a new baby, we’ve also been adjusting to the change in the shape of our family. All our roles have altered. My husband and I are now parents of two. It is no longer always crystal clear that Anna’s needs take precedence over everything else, we have to factor her little sister in too. Anna is no longer the youngest, no longer the only child, and although she seems to be coping very well with this, and loves her baby sister, we are very conscious that this is an enormous change and there are bound to be parts of it she will struggle with. On Friday I was elbow deep in changing a dirty nappy when I heard Anna, obviously in pain, screaming for me. I couldn’t drop everything and run, I had to call out that I’d be there in a minute, clear up the baby poo and put Sophia down in a safe place before I could go to Anna. When my husband came home (luckily only a few minutes later) I was running backwards and forwards across the landing like a demented thing, trying to soothe and console both my girls while feeling I was succeeding with neither.
I know there will be many more moments like this, but there have also been idyllic ones. All four of us snuggled together on the sofa, watching Shrek II and drinking, according to personal taste, hot chocolate, tea or breastmilk. Or watching Anna rocking her sister’s Moses basket and singing her a lullaby. Or just the sheer triumph I felt the first morning I was flying solo with responsibility for both girls, and I got Anna to school on time. And she was dressed and fed. And Sophia was dressed and fed. And I was dressed and fed! I’d even had a shower. Honestly, getting my degree wasn’t a prouder achievement.
And of course, the time famine which accompanies any new baby is hugely exacerbated when it is a second. I should issue a blanket apology now to all friends and acquaintances for phone calls unanswered, emails not responded to, text messages unsent and birthdays forgotten. If it’s any consolation, there are also baths untaken, meals uneaten, books unread, programmes unwatched and blogs unwritten. I don’t quite know where my time does go, but at least this time around I know that it will eventually come back again.