The fact that pregnancy is one month too long might be the most convincing argument for intelligent design. Women seem to spend eight months dreading the labour and birth, and one month going, ‘Oh come on, hurry up and get this thing out of me already!’ If that’s an accident of nature, it’s a damned good one.
And it doesn’t just affect the women – most of my anxieties about the birth have been crushed beneath the elephant seal that’s taken up residence on my sofa, barking at me whenever it wants food or attention or a foot massage. It’s no fun being a heavily pregnant woman, but nor is it fun being a heavily pregnant woman’s spouse. Seriously, she snores so bad at night it’s like sharing a bed with an obese eighty-year-old asthmatic. Give me back my wife, damn it! I’m not sure how much more I can take.
We still have three days till the due date, but we’re aching for the birth. And it’s not just us – my twenty-two month old daughter has been looking forward to meeting her little sister for months now.
‘What’s in mummy’s tummy?’ I ask her.
‘Baby,’ she replies excitedly. ‘Baby girl.’
‘Yes,’ I say. ‘And how’s she going to get here?’
‘Mummy bigger, bigger, bigger POP! Hello baby girl.’
‘Yes. Well, sort of.’
If only it was that easy…
Of course, she probably has no idea of what’s going to come – a pretty dolly she can play with, I think – but we’ve tried to prepare her as best we can and included her as much as possible along the way. She’s come to scans (nightmare), midwife appointments (nightmare) and to see the consultant (nightmare); she’s seen the baby on the screen, heard her heartbeat, and helped us pick out the layette; and she talks to her in her mummy’s tummy, hugs her, and kisses her goodnight.
But currently, her little sister is nothing more than an abstract concept. When she arrives, when Izzie faces the reality of a crying baby who monopolises mummy and daddy’s time, that’s when we’ll see how she really feels.
And there have been a couple of signs of potential storms to come, both concerning the sleeping arrangements. When the new cot arrived – after I spent several hours wondering why I’m so much better at baby ballet than assembling furniture – she climbed into it and decided it was hers. When I told her it belonged to the baby, her face fell.
‘My bed,’ she said quietly.
‘You’ve got your own bed, sweetheart. This is the baby’s bed.’
After half an hour of this, and plenty of hugs and reassurance, she finally admitted it was the baby’s bed, and the crisis was averted.
The second difficulty was when she discovered, a few weeks later, that the baby would be sleeping in our room for the first few months.
‘Me, mine room; mummy daddy, mummy daddy room; baby, baby room.’
‘She has to sleep next to mummy and daddy because she’ll be very small and we need to look after her, like we did when you were small.’
‘Mummy daddy, mummy daddy room; baby, baby room.’
And that’s that.
That one wasn’t quite so easily resolved. It took a long time for her to get her head around the idea, though she eventually seemed to accept it. Clearly, she understands the concept of fairness and isn’t going to like that the new baby is likely to have certain benefits that she no longer enjoys.
This might explain why she has become rather clingy of late; she’s trying to keep her dummy with her during the day when she’s only allowed it at night; and she wants to be carried everywhere. Certainly, she is aware that a change is coming, and she is insecure about just what that might mean.
On the one hand, a second child entering the house is a rival, if we look at the family unit as an economic model. She has to compete for limited resources – namely, her parents’ attention – and she will no longer be the centre of the universe, which are both difficult lessons to learn.
On the other hand, I’m not so sure this either/or allocation of love and attention is entirely accurate. We fully intend to involve Izzie in every aspect of our child-rearing – she can help fetch nappies and wipes, hold the bottle during feeds (with close supervision, of course), and she can sing and dance and entertain the little one. It’s not so much about the new baby coming and stealing her place as it is adding another member to our already happy family. So long as she can feel included around the new baby – and if we all work together, there’s no reason that she shouldn’t – then I don’t think there’ll be much of a problem.
But even if there is, we’ll deal with it. That’s parenting.
I sat her down the other day for a chat. I told her not to feel scared about her sister coming, or how strange things might be. I told her that even though things might be different, it wouldn’t change how much she’s loved or how special she is. I reassured her that we’d still have bath times, I’d still read her a book at bedtime, and that no matter what, I would be there for her when she needed me.
I’m not sure how much of this she took in, being as she’s only two-years-and-two-months old, but I’m continually surprised by what a toddler is capable of understanding. You give your child love and patience, there’s nothing that can’t be overcome.
But I really hope this second baby comes soon – if mummy gets any bigger, she really is going to pop, and I don’t want to be anywhere near when that happens.