When you have your first child, you become the center of the universe. No one has ever had a baby before, this is the most important event in the history of the world.
You are able to rest and nap every day. You walk around like an earth mother, hand on your belly, waiting, waiting, waiting for a ‘proper’ bump. You feel calm and smile a lot. You love the nausea and vomiting because it means your baby is growing. You eat fresh organic food, abstain from alcohol, and take all your vitamins. You never want it to end. You are overwhelmed with information and advice. People feel compelled to tell you their horror labour stories. Your obstetrician actually talks with you. You have baby showers and play games where someone smushes a Ferrero Rocher into a nappy and pretends it’s a baby poo. You think it’s slightly gross.
People bend over backwards to help, to shop, to give you their old baby clothes. People are excited for you. They want to touch your bump. Everyone asks if it’s your first and when you say ‘yes’ they give you a big warm smile. They tell you it will be the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you. You believe them.
You read books like What to Expect When You’re Expecting, subscribe to parenting magazines and sign up to online baby forums. You spend months decorating the nursery, making sure everything coordinates. You spend hours researching SIDS and developmental milestones, you buy all the latest safety gear, harnesses, slings, and bouncers. You put special plugs in all the empty power sockets, and put all the poisons and medicines in a high locked cupboard accessible only with a six-digit combination and certain phases of the moon.
You carefully cut the tags out of baby clothes so they don’t scratch your little darling, and wash everything twice in super-soft, extra-sensitive, environmentally friendly, baby-friendly organic detergents. You vow to never give your baby a pacifier, they won’t suck their thumb, you will breastfeed on demand, you will turn them every night so they don’t get a flat head. They won’t watch TV until they are eight, and only then educational, G-rated programs. They will never own a computer game, never use a mobile phone, never get any piercings, and you will not allow a single piece of commercially branded rubbish (like Dora or Disney) enter your house.
Your child will be a Nobel Prize winner.
When you have your second child, your toddler is the center of the universe. You have forgotten all the ‘baby’ stuff, and can only dwell on your pregnancy at night when the toddler is sleeping. You are unable to sleep during the day because the toddler has just dropped their nap. You look like you are six months pregnant by the time you hit the second trimester. You feel harassed and yell a lot. You love the nausea and vomiting because it means you get five minutes to yourself in the bathroom. You eat your toddlers leftovers, try to abstain from alcohol, and remember to take your vitamins sometime in the middle trimester. It feels like it will never end.
You are pissed off with information and advice. People feel compelled to tell you their horror stories about toddlers locking the baby in the cupboard. You forget to attend half your obstetrician appointments. You get a few cards in the mail from friends and family, but no parties.
People who have finished child-bearing start dumping all their old baby stuff on you. Whether you want it or not. People are mildly interested in you. They tell you how big your bump is and how swollen your ankles are. Everyone asks if it’s your first and when you say ‘no’ they look disappointed and walk away.
You drag What to Expect off the shelf and leave it in the loo for the two minutes you get to yourself each day. You start reading your parenting magazines and online forums for advice about siblings and making the transition easy on your toddler. You unceremoniously dump your toddler out of the cot and tell them they are now a ‘big girl’ in a bed. You throw out some broken toys, re-wash the crib sheets, buy some new wall stickers and a box of newborn diapers. The nursery is now done. You look at all the harnesses, slings, and bouncers from your first baby, most of which are still in the box, and consider using them this time. Your toddler has taken all the special plugs out of the empty power sockets and is still alive, so you don’t replace them. The poisons are under the sink with a child-proof lock. The medicines are next to the wine and spirits above the fridge, easily accessible for only those over five feet.
You rewash the old baby clothes in your normal detergents, throwing out the ones which look totally dodgy. You buy a new packet of pacifiers and leave them near the crib. You’ll certainly need them. They will only watch TV when you are really tired, really grumpy or trying to make dinner. You consider Netflix to be an investment in your sanity. You will try and wait until they are three before they get a computer game. They will never get any piercings. Dora and Disney toys are an accepted part of life.
Your child will finish high school.
You forget all about birth plans and look forward to your time in hospital as a break from the chaos at home. You leave the scented candles at home, and instead pack your laptop because you plan to Facebook your entire hospital stay. You have new pajamas, but only because the other ones haven’t fit for over two years. You don’t care how the baby comes out, but you are wondering whether you will be able to breastfeed as passionately as you did last time, and buy a pump and some bottles, just in case. And some formula.
When you have your third child, you have a pre-schooler and a toddler both claiming they are the center of the universe. Loudly. You don’t even realize you are pregnant until you figure out the reason you have gained 20 pounds in four weeks is not solely due to all the playgroup morning teas. You look like the living dead and have learned to nap with your eyes open when you are meant to be watching ballet lessons or swimming lessons. You look like you are six months pregnant by the time you walk out of the bedroom. You only stop yelling when you are asleep, and when you are asleep you snore.
You carry around Target bags to vomit into, and throw them out with the dirty diapers. You eat your main meal at morning tea, and snack on Ritz throughout the rest of the day. If your kids won’t eat vegetables or salad, why the hell should you? You don’t even bother trying to abstain from alcohol but it tastes like crap and instead drink a half gallon of chocolate milk every day. You take a box of pregnancy vitamins the day you find out you are pregnant and forget about it for the rest of the pregnancy. You are able to redefine ‘eternity’ based on the endless questioning from your pre-schooler about whether ‘the baby will come today?’.
No one even bothers offering you information and advice. People either think you are crazy or irresponsible. Everyone assumes it was an ‘accident’. Old women get huffy with you at Target when you are pushing around a cart with a screaming toddler, a pre-schooler, three bunches of bananas, and four tubs of ice cream. People feel compelled to tell you their horror stories about middle children who wind up being axe murderers. Or politicians. You see your obstetrician for the first time the day the baby arrives. You get a few looks of sympathy from friends and family, but no parties or cards.
People who have finished child-bearing return to work, lose weight and look glamorous and well-rested. They have nothing for you but pity. People are disgusted by you. You are disgusted by you. Everyone asks if it’s your first and when you say it’s your third, they laugh hysterically and walk away.
You have given your baby books away, and can’t afford magazine subscriptions any more. You read celebrity magazines at the checkout hoping to be inspired for another name. When you start considering Wednesday Apple, you realize you are seriously scraping the bottom of the barrel. You force your toddler out of the cot, take away their pacis and try and toilet train them in a weekend.When that backfires, you buy another crib, another change table and some locks for the doors. You start arguing with the pre-schooler about who is the ‘biggest big sister,’ because you know she really means ‘best’ big sister.
You drag out an open box of newborn diapers from under the stairs. The nursery is now done. You take all the harnesses, slings, and bouncers from your first baby, which are still in the box, and trade them for a wine fridge. You ask the older children to try and not kill the baby. There are no poisons under the sink because you haven’t cleaned the house in years. The medicines are next to the wine and spirits, in your bedside table.
You look at the crusty old baby clothes and figure that the baby can just be nude for its first few years of life. You buy three packets of dummies and pack them in the hospital bag. You install a TV in each of the kid’s rooms. They won’t get any piercings until they are at least twelve. You have bought shares in Dora and Disney and are the only reason you can afford the third child.
Your child will attend kindergarten.
You take a list of all the drugs you want when you are in hospital and look forward to your time in there because you won’t have to cook for anyone. You pack a family size box of chocolates and some ear plugs. You have new pajamas, but only because you haven’t done any washing in months.
This baby will come out eventually, it doesn’t matter how, or when. That bit was never important anyway.
This baby will make you realize how much love the human heart is capable of. You look at your older children with fresh eyes, and realize how painful it is to be away from them. You will look at your husband and be grateful for three precious gifts he has given you, and forgive him for (almost) everything else. Your life will be hectic and crazy and loud and full of shouting and frustration and love. You will have even more of those special experiences, even more of those breathtaking moments.
You will finally be complete.