Before he was born

We made a decision to have another child. I remember the moment so clearly! We were at his cousin’s wedding, drinking cider and eating the odd combination of soggy meat pie and rubbery samosas. We were happy. It was the day before half term was due to start and i had just completed my first seven weeks as a newly qualified teacher. By this point, I had the dream house, the beautiful daughter and the posh, grown up job. All that was missing was the next baby and then all of a sudden the idea was out there, slapped on the table like a gleaming twenty pound note, daring either of us to laugh and say, ‘no, surely we can’t… can we?’

But we didn’t. We wanted another baby. We imagined warm, cosy times and snuggling with a bouncing bundle of joy. We imagined it would be as rosy as it was with E and we were excited about the prospect.

Five months later and the whole thing had changed; soured slightly with the erosion of time. Why wasn’t I pregnant? What was wrong with me? Had the section damaged me somehow? Why was I feeling so utterly desperate, like a failure? Why had the idea of another baby seemed so easy and why had nobody told me that, in fact, having another baby was not a simple decision to make? We couldn’t just come along like kids in a sweet shop, demanding more of life’s perfect pleasures as and when we liked. Obviously, we had to endure dark questions about whether or not we deserved this, or we were destined to thold another baby in our arms. At times, it seemed like the past was about to catch up with me. At night, I imagined ‘the past’ creeping like an old man in slippers, sneering and whispering with vile breath, ‘You messed up once, we won’t let you do that again. You don’t get another chance..’

We didn’t mess up with E, of course. Peeping in on her sleeping in her bed, thumb in place and hair over her face, she was still there, still perfect. It was the baby before her that we messed up and now, finally, I was being punished. Or, we were being punished. I forget which.

So by February, five months after the heated and rushed decision that we will now have another baby, please, we were still a family of three and we were losing faith rapidly. I became one of those women I never wanted to be and I was now taking my temperature on waking, recording it and other unpleasant facts about my  uncooperative body. I was obsessing, pure and simple. I was not me. It became like a game, almost. If I cross the road after this car, I will get pregnant. If I count to twenty before I get to the top of the stairs, the second line will appear. If I take this tablet and that multi vitiamin and drink that pineapple juice… you get the idea. I forgot to enjoy what I already had, just focussed on what I didn’t have and how unfair that was. I was a bit of a shell compared to what I used to be. I remember looking at our daughter, our lovely home and every little ‘important’ thing we had chosen to fill it and I remember thinking… it’s not enough.

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The Hunger Strike

It’s now been around a month since the latest hunger strike began. He eats small amounts, but not enough and mainly only smooth, sweet things. I make a meal, he refuses to eat it. So I make another meal and he refuses that too. By the time I’ve made porridge or weetabix P and E’s dinners are ready so they eat with L and mine goes in the bin! The plus side to this is that my clothes are now all hanging off me and there is definitely not on ounce of baby weight left… but I’m ill now and I can’t seem to shake this cold. I NEVER get colds!!! So, the hunger strike. He ate like a trooper thursday and friday (at nursery) and we were told not to worry if he wasn’t hungry for dinner as he had eaten so much. But by last night (sunday) he still wasn’t hungry. Oh. Apart from the jar he ate at P’s mums…. so now we are totally either doing something wrong or inventing all of this again. No wonder he is always full of a cold or tonsiltis!!

Today he has eaten very little again but he is so happy. He’s such a beauitful little boy and on days like these I love him so much.

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In the beginning…

We started out with a happy surprise and from the moment my daughter was born, I became someone else. Her birth wasn’t particularly straightforward but it was an event that ultimately ended in the presentation of the most beautiful girl in the world. When they made the first incision and began to dig around inside me, I never imagined what on earth they would pull out. I never knew it could be so good! They pulled her head out first and rested it on my body. I remember thinking, ‘she feels like a kitten!’ and then before I knew it her whole body was free and kicking in the harshly bright lights of the operating theatre. There were exclamations of, ‘It’s a girl!’- we already knew that!- and peels of affectionate laughter as our daughter took her first wee all over the midwife. She was washed and wrapped in a gaudy yellow hospital blanket, then handed to P to be cuddled whilst they stitched me up. I couldn’t take my eyes off her! I produced this wonderful, amazing, terrifying creature!

Straight away, her eyes crinkled and her now infamous bottom lip trembled as she prepared herself to protest her indignation at being ripped from her warm, cosy home. She’d been induced at two weeks past my due date and obviously had reservations about this, becoming distressed at the doctors insistence that she no longer had a place inside my womb. So the emergency section had been the ultimate price to pay but I swore then that it was nothing- I would do it all again tomorrow for something as precious as this!

So my daughter screamed and cried and felt all the pain I did not as they stitched me and closed up her safe haven once and for all. Her cries were tiny yet they inprinted on my soul and I began to feel helpless, lying there, unable to soothe her. Then, seemingly suddenly, they finished and- joy, oh joy!- they handed her to me. And then. And then… she stopped crying. She looked at me and her eyes locked with mine and then all of a sudden I was falling. I finally understood the phrase love at first sight, a phrase I had always found to be soppy and unrealistic.

Some years later, whilst pregnant with my son, I recalled this moment during a conversation with my sister in law and her response was the only response another mother could give. She bent down low and kissed my daughter on the top of her shiny head- just for being her.

So my daughter’s birth was termed as an emergency and I was helpfully reminded by an extremely sour faced midwife the next day that: she and I had almost died. Why? What had happened? All the pain and the fear and the terror of the previous day had dissipated and I was here, now, with my baby and my life complete. So, I nearly died, nearly lost my baby… but I didn’t. I raised my chin and I took her home. Home.

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The Difficult Second Child

Before I start, I really want to emphasise the point that in no way do I believe my second child to be ‘difficult’. If my son reads this one day: I love you. You know that. Maybe one day you will have children of your own and maybe one day you will then understand the title yourself. You are not difficult. IT was difficult.

I am liking the use of the word ‘was’… but that is a direct comment to my son, who at this moment is only ten months old. At this moment, he is sleeping gently in his bed, probably dreaming of his toys, his sister, maybe mummy, probably daddy… maybe anything else that his small world allows. ‘Was’ isn’t a word I can use just yet… it’s not the past yet, it’s now. And now is, at times, difficult. And to my son once more: I’m writing this because I need to remember and I need to explain. I don’t want to forget this intensely important time in our lives… I want to learn from this. Maybe already you understand?

So. He’s not difficult, as such. I mean, he is a more spirited baby than his sister was- and that was certainly a surprise, given her spirited nature! Unfortunately, things that happened when my son was born- and maybe even before he was born or even conceived- eventually conspired against us and left us reeling a little bit. This is the story of what happened and what we did. In light of this rather confused explanation:

My son is not difficult but having him was, in so many ways.

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