Thursday, 26 March 2015

The difference between baby number one and baby number two

I hesitated about writing this post, because I didn't want to worry anyone who has had baby number one, and who is now considering baby number two. 

I know that the way I will write this will make it seem like my little boy is somehow less important or less loved than his sister. For those that have more than one child, you'll all know that that isn't true. Even though I was actually scared that I would feel that way. That I would, in some strange way, love our first baby more than the second. 

I'm not going to wax lyrical about how amazing it was with your first pregnancy and how it was all rainbows and unicorns and everything went perfect, because obviously it didn't. Life isn't perfect and having a child that you are totally responsible for is a daunting prospect and a complete minefield. A day doesn't go by when I don't wonder if I've made the wrong decision for either one of my children (and more often than not, both of them at the same time). 

I think when you get pregnant the first time, there is a wonder there, a mystery, and it seems to carry you through the nausea and the vomiting and the getting bigger (fatter in my case) and the insomnia and the aches and pains and the really painful kicks that punch you in certain areas best not discussed. 

But that mystery and the wonder, it's all rubbish. Because you sit in the rainbows and unicorns camp, waiting for this miracle baby to appear that you will instantly fall in love with and want to fiercely protect like some lioness. 

Life is much more complicated than that, and babies are so much more complicated than that, that it makes my head spin just thinking about it. I know I sound rather condescending when I say it, but until I actually had our first baby to look after, I didn't have a ruddy clue. 

I had no idea about the sleepless nights, and how hard they actually are once you get past the first few months of adrenaline fuelled night feeds. I had no idea about the total overwhelming fear that comes with having this tiny bundle of joy, who will die without your intervention, once you realise that you really have no clue what you are doing. 

I also had no idea about how cute it would be when your baby smiled for the first time, or giggled at something you did, or rolled over and then looked at you like "applause please". Or how the idea of anything happening to them suddenly punches you in the face at 3am one morning and you spend the rest of the day in a raging temper at the idea of anyone hurting your baby (this was something I was genuinely worried that I would never feel). 

So when it came to baby number two, I was definitely more prepared, but I was also a little short on rainbows and unicorns. I was much more methodical when it came to the days passing, and in truth I spent most of the time ignoring the fact that I was pregnant. 

Because the scary thing is that I was even more worried about baby number two than I had been about baby number one. With our daughter I spent my days sending Gary images that represented the size of our baby this week "oh look he/she is the size of a pea!". I spent so much time dreaming up names and wondering whether we were having a girl or a boy, whether they'd have my eyes or Gary's eyelashes (they are both fortunate enough to have both). 

But with our son, I knew how much I loved our daughter. I knew that that pea would turn into a baby, a fully fledged baby, that would then turn into a toddler, jam packed with personality. I was already lost in the images of my daughter playing with her brother or sister.... and trying to push those images away. 

We all know that not every pregnancy ends with a baby. You know it with your first baby, just as much as you know it for your second. But to me, it felt so different. I knew that something could go wrong, but it didn't really occupy much space in my head. I was swept away with the romance of a baby, and I didn't really leave space for anything to go wrong. 

Perhaps it's different if you have a more difficult time conceiving baby number one. We were lucky enough to have a pretty easy time of it. 

For the first twelve weeks I played a waiting game. I tried not to get too carried away with the idea of our daughter having a sibling, or names or faces or eye colour. I tried to get through without thinking much at all, because I already knew I had gone too far down the road of connecting with our second child, even before we had any idea if everything was going to be alright. 

I couldn't help it. All I could see was a sibling, another mini me, another branch of our family. And the idea of that not coming to fruition was much more painful this time. Maybe because I was much more aware, had a much better understanding of what we could lose. I already imagined this pea sized blob into a baby, a toddler, a personality, and I already loved in a tangible way. 

So when we had our screening at 12 weeks, I was almost not surprised when the doctor told me that we were high risk for Trisomy 13. We had a 1:25 chance of our baby having a genetic condition which was essentially a death sentence. 95% of babies with Trisomy 13 are miscarried or stillborn. Only 5% of those born alive make it to their first birthday. 

Even though I had almost been ready for this proclamation of doom, it floored me. Took my breath away. Those images that I had tried not to think, dance in my head. 

Being thorough, I had already researched the options for further testing, should we come back as high risk for any of the trisomy syndromes, and I sat in silence as the doctor took us through the options that I already knew all about. 

I think the doctor though I didn't understand it, and though I was about to have a hysterical breakdown. For us, it was simple, we opted for, and paid for the genetic screening from my blood samples, rather than the invasive amniocentesis. 

Those three weeks were the longest three weeks of my life. We had to provide a second sample because the first didn't contain enough of the baby's DNA for a true test to be completed. All the while, I was starting to show, and I didn't want to even think about it. Our lives were completely on hold, and we could do nothing but wait. 

I already knew what our options were, if this test came back positive. I'd done rather too much research, and I wished I could take it back, not know what I knew. 

The day that they called and told us that the test was negative, that our baby did not have trisomy 13, I didn't really know what to say. As time was against us (I was fairly obviously pregnant by that stage) we called all of our family and close friends to let them know the news, and we posted our joy to Facebook. 

I think it took me three days to thaw out. To get some feeling back. To feel pregnant again. Those three weeks had numbed me, frozen me against thinking about it, against feeling it. 

I'm so grateful that we were blessed with a healthy and beautiful son. That everything worked out in the end. We were lucky. We were at risk, but we escaped. I cannot express how amazed I feel that I have two happy and healthy children, and how much I now understand how valuable they are. 

During those three weeks, I didn't feel like I'd be able to continue. I didn't think I could put myself through another pregnancy, another 12 week wait, another screening test, if our genetic test had come back positive. 

So I'm grateful for our luck, that we were not one of those with a positive genetic test, that we were not one of those who had awful decisions to make, because it not only gave us our son, but it gave me back my sense of self. And that small sense of wonder that we grew two children, from teeny tiny little eggs, and they are here, crawling, walking and even talking.