For the nine months George was pregnant with Edie I was wired with nerves and excitement. I would often lie awake with a beaming smile as I considered the joy that was on the horizon but also worrying about everything that entered my head concerning a newborn. Whether it was finances or storage space (but mainly, just how the hell do you bring up a baby?), our bedroom was often illuminated by a 2am Google search to settle my concerns and persistent insomnia. I spent my time researching the logistics and what we should be buying, plus exhausting every baby name book under the sun. I even read bits and bobs from ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’. Basically, expecting a baby took over my life, which was actually good preparation because from the moment Edie arrived, my life was indeed taken over.
Second time round has been a lot calmer. No insomnia, no real anxiety and no excessive shopping trips for things the baby won’t need for six months. But as we get closer and closer to our due date, I’m left with feelings that are difficult to articulate. Was there a page missing from ‘What To Expect…’ that detailed these peculiar feelings?
That peculiar feeling? Guilt.
It creeps up on me every time I consider the lack of consideration and planning this unborn is receiving compared to Edie. But should I feel such unease?
I’ve heard other parents talking about similar emotions. A mum I meet for play dates has two very young children and has mentioned how she felt exactly the same during her second pregnancy. With a toddler already filling her days there just wasn't the time to have every minute detail excruciatingly planned for baby number 2. With her second child now a few months old, he is experiencing a completely different start to life than baby number one – he doesn’t get the same attention, he shares a room with his brother, he is carted around whilst she fulfils toddler classes and play dates for her eldest. Anguish is also felt for her first child as he's now getting less attention and he has to share mum and dad (and his toys!) with this supposed intruder. A dad I see during nursery pick-up has also hinted at the same sense of awkward emotions – baby two is getting an entirely different upbringing whilst baby one isn’t getting their full and undivided devotion. The extreme of this was a mother George knows who eight months into her second pregnancy started questioning if they’d done the right thing having a second child – bit late now love, but her concern was based around the impact on their first child. A first child is the centre of your world – through day and night. First time round every pre-born kick is celebrated whilst every whimpering demand is leaped upon from the moment they pop their tiny little heads into the world.
When I get 10 seconds to take stock and think about the changes to our lives, I’m filled with an excitement that is like no other – I really, really, really can’t wait to be a dad again. The other morning I woke up at 6am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I was lying awake thinking about our next baby and my belly started twitching with nervous excitement. Two minutes later Edie woke up and was demanding we go downstairs to put cartoons on. That’s the difference this time. Edie (rightly so) takes up our time and thoughts and my opportunities to consider much else are pretty limited. But in 8 weeks time, she’ll have to share our attention - and that's life.
As I consider my feelings and the shared emotions of the other parents I’ve talked to, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t feel guilty, I probably just feel normal. I'm a realist and know deep down that this is what happens in life. If you want a large family, everyone adapts but that doesn't mean any child suffers because of these changes. Such feelings are perfectly normal and the changes that will impact Edie and baby 2 come November are again, perfectly typical. I am stupidly excited about what’s to come but the truth of the matter is, right now my life is spent running around after Edie. I’ve never for one nanosecond thought we’re doing anything that impacts Edie’s upbringing negatively though – she’s going to have a brother or sister for God’s sake, how amazing is that?! No, my feelings are hindered by the time I personally have to consider the changes we’re about to experience.
But in a few weeks time such tugs at my conscience will be long forgotten as my love swells between two beautiful children.