This post has been a wee while in the pipeline for a couple of reasons. Firstly, our second child, a girl (or so the three white lines on the scan say), has been in the pipeline for the last nine months. Secondly, my attempts to clear the mental space to get it written have been frustrated by the bindweed of trying to earn some money, keep J-Zilla in one piece, actually have conversations with my wife, and other life stuff that always knocks my plans to write a little further down the ladder. But, seeing as the due date is on Monday, I don’t want to be hanging around outside the delivery room as Babli is crowning trying to type out the last few hundred words before I meet the delightful little badger. Once we’ve met face-to-face (or face-to-hairy-chest, initially), a new line of magic will have sprouted and my current perspective will be lost forever.
J-Dawg arrived very early, a day after 36 weeks following a week in hospital, so this is virgin territory for me and Dr L. (I’ve been hammering this pun for weeks and I still haven’t got tired of it.) First time around, we’d only just started sorting out the practicalities, and only had a dim inkling of what half the practicalities were: we hadn’t even had our antenatal tour of the hospital. The story is a little different now. The case for the maternity ward has been packed for about a fortnight. The bedside cot is bought. The Moses basket is assembled. The baby clothes are out of the cellar and washed and sorted and waiting for fat little arms and legs and fatter spools of drool. We’ve even managed to get someone in to deep clean the kitchen and much of the house to try and welcome the baby into as clean and unstressed environment as we can manage. But we still have very little idea about how things will move when they start to move; Dr L has never had contractions, not even Braxton-Hicks. How her body is going to react is a mystery. All we do now is wait and enjoy the relative peace and order and try (in my case) to cram in as much paying work and sleep as I can – which is not an easy balance to strike.
Before J-Burger was born, I set up a gmail account and sent him a few emails during his in utero months about how I was feeling and what bizarre thoughts had struck me – and some stuff about the London Olympics, which were really exciting. I’ve set up another account for Number 2, but only sent a couple; though I might try and fit another one in before we meet. This is probably the kind of shoddy, inattentive behaviour she should look forward to receiving from me in the coming years; my basic impression of the experience of the second child is that, unless something goes very wrong with their health, they are pretty much left to get on with things for themselves as their older sibling continues to break new ground and create new worries. But I think I’ve probably been reluctant to email much as I can’t help but associate the excitement of waiting for J-Bro to arrive with the crashing panic and awful feelings that rushed in after he arrived.
Imagining what Babli might look like, how differently she might combine the genetic threads she has inherited, whether she will have my nose or Dr L’s hair or some new rogue elements, is a fascinating and absorbing hobby. We fully expect that she will be a terrible sleeper to balance out the good fortune we’ve enjoyed with her brother, but hope that, in return, she will be a better eater and tuck into the boob in a way J-Babber never quite managed. We know that she is a girl and we know that she is a chunk; the consultant told Dr L that she was obviously “good at growing large babies”. We know that she has moved around in the womb very differently to her brother; where he wriggled and kicked, she pushes and stretches. We also know that she is more respectful of due dates, which will hopefully translate into a more patient child. (I suspect that is more dependent on how patient her parents might be.) While driving with Dr L and J-Bub a couple of days ago, the brand new iso-fix car seat in the back of the newer, bigger car we bought to accommodate the expanding clan, I had a faint, tingling sensation of a fourth family member: a sensation like a cold sore before it appears, or a phantom limb with pins and needles, only in reverse, my brain receiving raw information about an appendage from the future rather than an absent arm. That was encouraging. Soon, I will only know that feeling and the time as a threesome will start to fade.
J-Bags himself seems to be dealing with the idea of a baby sister OK. The first few months after he found out in September saw him refusing to get out of bed saying his tummy hurt because he had a baby in it. He has been wrapping Lavvi (his bedtime lion and daily companion) in blankets and feeding him as his own baby. He’s corralled and harangued an invisible knot of “my brothers and sisters” on the way through the park to nursery. We’ve finally got round to buying a couple of books on having younger siblings, which has upped the ante a little. But there’s still the worry that they won’t get on, that some of the hugs from big brother might be a little too squeezy, some of his delight emitted through gritted teeth.
Ambivalent lumps loom up too about the fact that I have a daughter on the way. Worries that I have about launching J-Boy off into the big, bad, sagging, greedy, cruel, canophagous world seem tiny when I think about what lies ahead of a young girl these days. And I don’t mean any of that threatening-to-break-the-legs-of-prom-dates protective posturing; I mean helping her to work out how to be an adult female in the murky soup of rape culture and eating disorders and structural violence against a group of people purely because of their chromosomes while remaining focused on what she wants to achieve in life and offer her a safe home when she needs it. I’m even worried about using the wipes properly when changing nappies. But then, I do love to worry. And I also expect J-Blob to take on his responsibilities and bash at the patriarchal machine while he’s at it: making the world safer for women is a job for non-women too.
I’m tempted at times to think that Babli represents a fresh page in my parenting book, a chance to get right the things I feel I’ve done wrong by J-Boy these last three years. Realistically, I know that the same traps await me the second time around; I know this because I laid them myself. So I put faith in things working themselves out as they always do and as they were always meant to. She and I will grow together as humans with all the sprains, rips and spurts this temporal plane has to offer. The family will wobble on with its new fourth pair of legs. And there will be pictures: maaannny pictures. You have been warned.