It’s true that with your first child, you drink in every stage, every moment of them – there isn’t a thing you don’t know and aren’t expert in with your first. There wasn’t a single thing that Mr D did that I didn’t know about first. I saw everything first and it was a huge privilege. I knew every single thing about him; likes and dislikes, when he rolled over, sat up, cut teeth etc. He was my mastermind subject.
With Miss E it was different; the opportunities for lazy mornings in bed, with her nestled in against me after her morning feed were never there; it’s impossible to enjoy those slow lazy mornings with a 16 month old in tow. I remember saying to a friend how it took me a long time to feel like I ‘knew’ Miss E, which sort of doesn’t make sense but is the only way I can explain it. She was hard work and was a shock after my placid, and fairly easy first baby. It took a long time to settle into anything like an enjoyable day-to-day routine with her and whilst I was still the first one to know when she first did things, it wasn’t that complete and utter knowledge of every single minute detail.
By baby 3, it’s true that this passes even more. I am so much more confident on what is normal development; I’m not in a rush for Mr H to sit up, or roll over, I know he will giggle, that he will soon reach out to be picked up and that he will, eventually, sleep through the night. I know the signs of developmental leaps, the signs of being ready to wean and the stages of development from sitting to crawling to cruising to walking. I’m more relaxed with him and I think that in turn makes him a very chilled out and contented baby.
When you’re pregnant with a first child everyone is interested; how do you feel, gender predictions, what do you need to buy for the baby and offers of help. People are keen to remind you to get out for a meal whilst ‘you have the chance’ and people are eager to live the pregnancy with you. When someone asks how long until the baby is due you know in hours and days – such is the anticipation.
By the second baby the interest dies away a little; you probably already have much of the baby paraphernalia and your parenting choices are already known. You might even find yourself forgetting you are pregnant and even having to actively think how many weeks gone you are. You’ll get the odd offer of help and an offer to baby sit so you can enjoy a trip out with your husband or partner before the baby arrives. And when your new baby finally arrives the number of congratulations cards are lower and visits are fewer. It’s not that the second baby is less loved or people are less interested, but it isn’t such a huge momentous life changing moment. Many of your friends will be those at toddler groups so they’ll catch up with you there.
By Baby number 3… well… it will at times feel like people are ignoring the fact you’re pregnant – I swear there are people who quite literally never even mentioned I was pregnant the third time around. Offers to help out are few and far between – it’s hard work looking after a 3 and 2 year old, and when the baby arrives long gone is the excitement of baby number one. It isn’t that people don’t care, of course they do, but emails, texts and facebook messages replace the visits.
I sometimes wonder if the interest in a first baby is just to see how the new parents are coping – a bit like observing animals – how do they react to a change in environment – how are they coping with this tiny bundle that has turned their world on its head? Do they go away back to their child free lives and think phew, glad that’s not me, or for those past the newborn days so you leave and think, I’m glad I’m not doing all that again?
But, one thing that any subsequent baby can count on it it’s mum. No matter what, each pregnancy and birth are a unique experience, forming a bond between a mother and her child that only they can ever know. A bond that no matter what is going on around them means that he or she can always rely on mum to notice the little things and take pride in those little moments.
Erm… yes…. sort of. I have prided myself on being able to give the children my time and attention. I try not to show my frustration with Mr D’s endless torrents of mummy mummy mummy and I answer his endless questions about the moon, trains and why why why as comprehensively as I can. I try not to show my impatience with Miss E as she tries to explain something to me; restarting the story when she stumbles on a word or can’t find the word she wants. I try to interrupt and instead give her the time and space to develop her language, suggesting words where needed. I have been pleased that I’ve managed to carve out time with Mr H, against the odds, to talk to him, to read to him and to just have those snatched moments of time together.
Imagine my shock today when my mum asked me if I’d noticed anything with him. I was a bit confused and at first thought that maybe Mr D or Miss E had drawn on him or something. But no. I’d ignored all the tell tale signs and he has, quietly cut two front teeth. Two teeth that I wasn’t the first to spot. Two teeth that he had, nestled in the centre of his gum.
I can’t believe that I didn’t spot them first and I can’t believe I mistook the tell tale signs of red cheeks, unsettled sleep, chewing on hands and lots of dribble. I assumed he would be like his siblings and cut them around seven months after many months of teething. But no. With the minimum of fuss and just two restless nights we have two little, razor sharp teeth in the bottom gum at the age of just 17 weeks.
It seems that when you’re the third child you have to do things a little bit early to grab your mums attention and keep her on her toes.