Historians will be pleased to know that I kept a record of events leading up to the birth of our first two children in the form of a baby diary that I used to publish on a long forgotten family website. As these were written seven and five years ago respectively, reading them again gave me a chance to see how I viewed the difference between first and second born and how that compares with now as I await the birth of number three.
A quick word of explanation is needed: our eldest child is Josiah or Jo for short and his bump was called Pedro; our youngest is Robin and was called Minty pre-birth. Pedro was the name of a Spanish waiter my wife had a fling with during a holiday in Italy although I am legally required to point out that this all took place during a dream I had. Minty came from my unfortunate mispronunciation of the name Benedict during a discussion of possible nomenclatures. So far bump number three is nameless although I am leaning towards Boojum…
The first set of entries show someone who is trying to make sense of what he knows is going to be a life changing event; someone who is at the same time totally excited and totally scared. Every entry was focused on what was happening to Pedro or how my wife was feeling or how the house was changing. There were one or two surprises: I had forgotten about bursting into tears when I was given an 8 week old baby to hold or the argument about a hearse on the way to the antenatal classes. Interestingly there were a few entries about not having much to do during the pregnancy itself: I never really bonded with Pedro – certainly didn’t talk to it much. At the time, I put it like this:
“You see at the moment, there isn’t much of a role for me so there isn’t a lot to talk about. It’s a bit like when the Grand Prix drivers pull into the pits: they just have to sit there and watching everyone else rush around like headless chickens, albeit chickens dressed in fire retardant material. And so in the pregnancy race, I’m sitting there waiting to get my hand crushed so hard that the bones turn to dust; waiting to become really well acquainted with what 2am looks like; waiting to say yes to Sarah wanting to buy the next thing she needs to buy; waiting…waiting..”
By comparison, the second set of entries is more about other things than the arrival of child number two. There are lots of things about getting our first child ready for the birth of his new sister/brother; about sorting out the house again so that the spare room turns into a nursery. There were still surprises in reading them again five years later – apparently we were going to call him Timothy not Robin – but the general theme seems to be around just getting on with it and almost ignoring the pregnancy. Victoria Wood does a great gag about her first child having all these wonderful height charts that she diligently filled in but if she wanted to know how tall her second was she looked at the snot mark on her jacket. I put it less amusingly like this:
“Sarah made an interesting comment the other day when Minty gave her the sort of kick that even I got to feel. She said that with Pedro every kick, every wiggle, every slight passing of wind was a major event worthy of pause and celebration. But with Minty, it’s almost ignored as we have to get on with life.”
So in a way as we start on the journey to our third child, the above once again becomes the central theme. You can’t focus exclusively on the child you have yet to have because you have to focus on the children you already have. The preparations are about memory rather than Mothercare – where did we put the Moses’ basket, the maternity clothes, the reusable nappies and so on. As my wife is an antenatal teacher, I have an in-house expert who can remind me about the difference between first and second trimester so I don’t have the level of nervousness of before.
My wife seems very calm and in control of things too – she can engage with the midwifery team at a higher level of expertise than I think they are used to, she is aware of what the changes in her body are and what they will be. I know she is still desperate for a home-birth and in some sense this is her last chance to get that so one difference I suppose is a level of determination that perhaps was missing in previous pregnancies.
However one thing that I know will be the same will be the amount of love we will have for our third child. I never once doubted that we would love our children although perhaps I didn’t display any signs of that love in the run up to the birth – I refer my right honourable friend to the Grand Prix comment made some moments ago – and I know that I will love my third child just as much. I know some parents who are expecting another child worry about that but within the pages of nonsense that made up my baby diaries I found something that, even though I wrote it, seems quite profound:
“I have a theory about that: women apparently have a pudding stomach: it doesn’t matter how many starters they eat or how much of their main course they scoff – there’s always room for pudding. This is because the body automatically creates an extra stomach specifically for the storage, digestion and ultimately excretion of the sticky toffee pudding, double chocolate gateau, lemon cheesecake or whatever artery-thickening sweet they choose. Well I believe that there is also a love gland. This is a new gland that produces the love hormone in abundance. When Jo was born, another gland was instantly created which was why this sudden rush of love appeared. I am convinced that when Minty is born, yet another one will appear so that our second child will not miss out one iota of the affection and love we have for our number one son.”
So despite me being 41 not 33 and thus older, greyer and more tired, despite my job having reached new levels of stress in the last few months and the thought of a new arrival making that a tad worse, despite all the trepidation about midnight feeds and supporting a breastfeeding wife, I can’t wait to hold child number three and once again say for the very first time, “Hello. I’m your Dad.”
Iain Gilmour is husband to Sarah and father to Josiah and Robin. He loves all things musical, is a keen but hopeless player of golf and overexcited about his recent acquisition of an allotment. When he’s not dealing with the after effects of any of the aforementioned things, he is headteacher of a junior school which only serves to confirm his suspicions about parents and children. To read more about his view of the world, visit his blog