Posted by: thatjen | May 16, 2008

Second Child Syndrome

I wanted to start this post by comparing the number of times the word “Harpo” appears in the archives versus the number of times “Carbo” does, but I couldn’t find a tool that would do it for me (if you know of one, do let me know as I am curious). Eventually, I ran a word cloud analysis and suffice to say, Harpo showed up in a pretty decent font size and Carbo… did not.

Poor Carbo. Doomed already to a life with less attention, lots of hand-me-downs, and an older sibling who is likely to alternate hugs and kisses with pokes and smacks*. Unlike some parents anticipating the arrival of a second child, I have NO fears about being able to love this child as much as I do Natalie, but I do worry that this child is not going to get the undivided attention that has been heaped upon Natalie from moms, grandparents, and relatives galore. I know this isn’t all bad, and second children tend to be more laid back and social than their often stressed-out firstborn siblings, but it’s hard to ignore.

A few weeks ago Liza was giving me a good-natured hard time about my approach to this pregnancy, because not only do I have to stop and think for a moment to determine the exact gestational age of the baby, I also don’t know any of the stats I could have quoted to you about then-Harpo at this point (date of my next MW appointment, estimated weight at the Level II u/s, umm… I hate to confess this but, cough my exact EDD**, etc.).

This baby is no less wanted than Natalie, not at all, but I just don’t focus on the pregnancy in the same way that I did. For one thing, I am tired all the time, more so than in the middle of gestating Natalie. And the pregnancy experience isn’t new, either, so my thoughts tend to be, “Ahh, I remember this,” or, more likely, “Ecch, I remember this,” or, “Huh, that’s different,” but there’s less belly-gazing in confusion, wonder, and curiosity. (Except for the movement. THAT still gets all my attention. I love it.) Probably the biggest factor, though, is that Natalie takes up a huge portion of my time, thoughts, and energy, and wee Carbo gets what’s left.

Here’s another example. Our short list of names for this child is VERY short:

Yup – nada. I guess being named, ” ” would be a conversation starter, and make things easier for the kid when learning to spell, but boy would the bureaucracy have trouble with it. We’ve had two conversations about names since the pregnancy was confirmed and we got to a point where we felt a live baby was a fairly likely outcome, and neither discussion resulted in much more than a handful of names about which one mom felt somewhat lukewarm and the other mother slightly more enthusiasm.

The truth of the matter is, I probably think about Carbo as much as I did about Harpo in utero — but the thoughts themselves are very different***. For one thing, a lot of the wondering one does about an unborn child has a different tenor in a subsequent pregnancy. Instead of wondering, “Will this baby be active?” or “Will s/he sleep well?”, inevitably the wondering becomes more comparative: “Will s/he be as big as Natalie?” and “Will this baby talk as much as Natalie?” (And I KNOW you’re not supposed to compare children… but is there anyone who DOESN’T???) Then there’s all the worrying about managing two kids and giving appropriate amounts of attention to each of them. And worrying about sibling rivalry. And thinking about dragging the poor second kid along wherever the first needs to go, as opposed to being slavishly devoted to The Baby’s Schedule.

I repeat, this child is wanted and loved as much as Natalie (and Coqui) ever was, and we are eagerly anticipating his or her birth and the growth of our family. I daresay by the birth, we’ll even have some names picked out (lest we leave the task up to Natalie who has named two of her dolls “Other Baby” and “Aaa”). But the second verse… it really isn’t the same as the first.

*She already does, in fact. She will sweetly talk to my belly and then moments later swat it saying, “I hit baby.” The gentle and loving interest is far more frequent than the experimental mistreatment (she often tries to share various treats with the baby by holding them to my belly) but the harbinger of challenges to come is there indeed.
**I do actually know it but I’ve learned my lesson from last time and when people ask when I am due I tell them “Mid-September”. And I have said this so often that I now think of it in those terms, and the actual EDD is not at the forefront of my brain. By August, I guarantee you it will be.
***Except the worries about something being wrong with the baby. Those are pretty much identical.


  1. And I KNOW you’re not supposed to compare children… but is there anyone who DOESN’T??

    A very wise person set me straight on this when I also was caught in this mode.

    She told me I WASN’T comparing my children, I was acknowledging their differences.
    And it floored me because Damn! That was exactly it.So simple and true.

    Acknowledging that kind of “freed” me and thereafter I was able to smile when I observed the differences in each pregnacy and child.

    So smile and enjoy! This is such a wonderful thing.

  2. Hey, what a coincidence! Jo has a bear named “Aaa.” (We said, “what’s his name?” and he said “Aaaa.”)

    One advantage Carbo will have is Natalie!! That’s not to be minimized.

  3. This is such a great post– Carbo is one lucky kid. I can’t wait to read about all the adventures to come!

  4. Regarding the whole attention thing, I say Lucky Carbo. He/She will have the benefit of two parents who’ve been around the block already with this baby thing. Yes, Natalie has had your undivided attention, but she’s also probably had to wade through some stressful moments as you and Cait were figuring this thing called parenting. Carbo will, in all likelihood, not have many of those moments. Case in point, when Evelyn was struggling to nurse and dropping way too much weight that first week home, I was a very different parent then I would have been had she been my first born. I was able to stay calm and work through it with a great deal of confidence from the experience I’d had with Julian.

    And while you won’t be able to heap on all the same kind of attention that Natalie has received, don’t worry because Carbo will have not 2, but 3 people to entertain him/her. There is nothing more precious than watching your older child make your younger child smile and coo.

    As a mom of 2 kids, I promise there will be loads of special moments with just you, Cait and Carbo. And there will be even more as a family of 4.

    Natalie and Carbo will each have their own experiences as embryos/babies/toddlers. One won’t be better than the other’s–just different.

    Can’t wait to meet the wee one whenever he/she arrives and whatever his/her name is. πŸ™‚

  5. I was going to say what Jean said… the moments where the older child and the younger child interact are so joyful and precious that any sense of ‘does he get enough attention from me/us’ has faded for me now…also you do get moments together the three of you which is lovely (you know at 1am!) and we have actually ended up finding more balance now with the whole draging Al where Thomas needs to be…just as often Thomas has to wait so Al can have a sleep or whatever…

    S/he is a lucky thing to have you

  6. Everything you write here is completely natural. I felt the same way. We didn’t have any names at all when our disaster hit, in fact. (Luckily we had 5 weeks in the hospital to figure it out.) The movement was still thrilling, but the rest less awe-inducing. However, the thrill of the baby himself is just as great this time, but more enjoyable I would say, because we have less fears, even in the context of a second NICU experience.
    Anyway, just agreeing with you on all points.

  7. I think a big part of the difference is that Everything seems blogable when it’s never happened to you before. Plus you have more time to blog!

    Carbo will know that s/he was a very much wanted child by the time s/he is old enough to understand what that means.

    We’re also nowhere with names — occasionally one or the other of us will look up and say, “What about Schadenfreud?” And the other will reply, “Um. No. Absolutely not.”

    Happy 24 weeks! πŸ™‚

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