They say two’s company, and when I was in the throes of SPD with my second pregnancy, that thought went around and around in my head. While some people love being pregnant, I wasn’t one of them, but I knew it would be worth it.
As an only child, I consoled myself with the knowledge that however difficult the first year would be, I was providing my son with a lifelong companion. I observe sibling relationships with the intrigued detachment of an anthropologist. They baffle and interest me in equal measure, and from the moment I knew I wanted a child, I knew I wanted more than one.
Sibling relationships seem – from my safe position on the outside – to be comfortable, honest, frustrating, but above all, safe. I know siblings who speak every day, fight about every second day and yet in any emergency they are each other’s safety net, emotional or practical. They may not be the type of person you would choose to be friends with, but shared history is an incredible bond. I wanted that for my son, and for us, I wanted a house full of fun and laughter and noise.
So, embarking upon baby number two, I was prepared for the sleepless nights, the endless pacing the floors and two-hourly feeds round the clock for a year or more. I even bought a chair and placed it by a window so I could watch ships passing in the night. I had stockpiles of Infacol, the lactation consultant and the GP on speed dial, ready for witching hours and clock watching in the early hours.
I thought I knew what to expect.
EVERY BABY IS DIFFERENT
But what I wasn’t prepared for, at all, was the reality that every baby is different. My second son is the mythical ‘easy baby’. He is a ray of sunshine. He is a bundle of comfort and cuddles and contentment and at just three months he had slept the night a number of times, a feat his older brother did not manage until over 16 months. He has been to ladies’ lunches, funerals, and is a regular on set at the RTE Today show. Where I go, he goes, and sleeps.
The Infacol has been used just twice. The Wonder Weeks app has been deleted – he has barely had a cranky day and I’ve forgotten the point of it, whereas I could time his brother’s leaps to the half hour.
So many people say it is we who are different. More confident, less anxious, better prepared, taking it in our stride… and perhaps we are, although I know other people who had the easy baby first, and the rude awakening on number two.
But this boy is, simply, a different person. Before our eldest was born we couldn’t imagine what he would look like. We couldn’t conceive how they would be different.
But already we know their personalities are entirely different. They look utterly different.
With our first baby we marvelled at how he has his daddy’s eyes, his grandad’s famously unruly hair, his nana’s smile. With our second we compared his features one by one with those of his brother, marvelling at his draw from the genetic lottery and I secretly congratulated myself on how he has my mother’s eyes and my uncle’s smile.
LOVE AND LOGISTICS
Oscar’s sunny personality is a major asset in a family where he will never get 100% of the attention. Perhaps he is quieter because he already knows this. The guilt has multiplied. Does it multiply with every additional child?
I felt guilty when I was pregnant about dividing my love in two. I wondered how I could come to love another child as much as I love the first one. No need. I have discovered that love is a limitless resource and I have more than enough to go around.
Neither of them will ever have 100% of the attention again. As an only child, that makes me a little bit sad. But it will probably be good for them.
The love they have for each other, already, is something to behold. It can be a little too enthusiastic (one A&E visit so far), but the adoration is mutual. I am so looking forward to watching them grow together.
The logistics are what makes life challenging. How do you collect a hyper toddler and his stroller from a busy city centre creche with limited parking and three security doors while carrying a baby? I still struggle with this every single day.
I watch other women in supermarkets with three or even four small children – one in a sling, two in a trolley, one walking along beside them obediently – and wonder what the hell they have in their genetic makeup that makes them so compliant when my toddler would burn Aldi to the ground if he was out of my sight for two minutes.
Luckily, the local supermarket delivers, the dog is used to unexpected noises, we have neighbours who could have come out of a good neighbour catalogue, excellent childcare, and wonderful family and friends. And some nights, miraculously, there is sleep.
It’s not all perfect. Nothing is ever always perfect. It’s exhausting, even though we’re all getting more sleep now than we have in almost three years. It’s challenging – they don’t call it the terrible twos for nothing. It’s financially ruinous. And, I’m continually told, this is only the beginning.
Life with one was fun. Life with two is relentless, exciting, wonderful. We didn’t know who was missing until he arrived, and now we can’t imagine ourselves without him.
Evening Echo, 27.02.19