Raising Richmond: Consider it raised

With Baby: The Sequel coming soon, the best way to get ready has not been to get the house set up or read books, but to learn from the one kid we already have.

This is Kelly’s last Raising Richmond column, y’all. She’s about to have this babe (fingers crossed everything goes well), and will be writing some other types of things for us instead. Give Kelly some slow claps for her year-plus of hard work! Next week, Raising Richmond will continue with Sam Davies and Hayley DeRoche as alternating authors! Hooray!

I took over writing Raising Richmond in January 2014 with some confessions about things my husband and I weren’t doing right with our three-year-old daughter. We let her watch TV every day, had given up on vegetables, and hadn’t signed her up for fencing lessons.

Now she’s four and a half, has nearly finished her first year of preschool, during which she’s learned and accomplished more than I thought someone her age could, and is about to be a big sister. I’ve been living in a hospital room that looks like a Microtel for the past 30 days waiting for my second child to be born. Since I’ve had the time, I’ve read pregnancy and baby magazines, finally flipped through a copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting, and read Bringing Up Bebe. I’ve thought about what to do differently with our second child, and here it is: I don’t know how we went off track with feeding our daughter what we eat for dinner, but I’m going to stick to only giving the new baby what we’re having. The new baby will eat spaghetti.

Otherwise, I don’t think we can plan to do anything different.

The parenting part of raising a second child isn’t as intimidating this time. As parents, my husband and I have set boundaries, have been mostly consistent, and we tend to not get upset too easily about anything (I hope). We figured out early that rough times (the ones that don’t require medical attention) eventually pass. Our daughter isn’t perfectly behaved and we aren’t perfect parents, but that’s not the point. She will surely have complaints about us, and I accept that,1 but she has support and security. Everything else she can use as fodder in her own columns when she’s of age.

I already understand why parents don’t document their subsequent kids as much as their firsts. I couldn’t tell you what size vegetable my unborn child is this week, whereas I probably posted it on Facebook every week with my daughter. Prior to being on bed rest, my weekly BabyCenter emails only reminded me “Hey, this is happening,” because otherwise the topics of “Talk to your partner about eating kale” or “Plan a babymoon” mean nothing when you already have a child.2

Even though our new baby has thrown life out of whack for now, once it’s home, there isn’t much flexibility for our life to change too much. We adapted our routine to our first child, but now the second one will fit in to what’s already set up.

I do think that a second child will be a new experience, though. I remember my uncle telling me that his second child was so different from their easygoing first that it was like they hadn’t learned anything about being parents. I recently told him and my aunt that I thought about that line a lot, and I was bracing myself for the second one to be more difficult than our daughter was. My aunt responded that when you face emergencies you don’t really think about it, you just deal with it. That’s good to remember.

While I have anxiety for when the second baby comes, I can’t worry too much. Worrying about things that haven’t happened isn’t the same as being prepared. You can only deal with what’s in front of you and just be aware of possibilities and options. It’s better to focus on the good things that could happen. For me, I think about being discharged from the hospital and an end-of-summer visit to the beach with a hopefully healthy newborn.

My daughter has been a source of comfort and a welcome distraction during the pregnancy. In preparing her to be a big sister, my husband and I have talked about what to expect with the baby, and also what things were like when she was a baby. She loves stories about herself, and I’ve had fun reading through old blog posts and going through photos from the first months of her life.

When we told her that she was going to be a big sister, she laughed at us. I was in my second trimester by then, but not showing yet. My husband contacted her school the next day to let them know our news because she has faked siblings before. She was excited. I have an illustrated handout of how the baby grows month-by-month, and she would look at the different gestation phases while eating. She has plans for how she can help the baby, from holding it up to the sink so he/she can brush teeth and dressing him/her every day. We took her to an older sibling class where she learned how to swaddle, feed, diaper, and hold a baby, in addition to some basic rules like “don’t actually try to do any of those things.”3

She’s even suggested some great baby names: Baby Jesus Nichole, Jesus, Cinderella, Lily, Rubella, Heaven, and Ninja Turtle. We have called the unborn baby both “Newbie” and “Nacho,” and sometimes she just calls it “my baby.”

My maternity leave4 with my daughter was a frazzled, sometimes bleak but increasingly more joyful ten weeks. One evening I set up an activity mat with dangling toys on my bed. She was dressed in tiny jeans with an elastic waistband and white socks instead of just a onesie. I pretended that she was getting something out of the experience, though she couldn’t see far enough to note the plastic fish in the rattling ball. I only wanted to feel like I had an engaged baby and not what an infant is–a human tadpole in tiny jeans. Sometimes I wonder what happened to that clear blue-eyed pud whose face I would accidentally leave burp cloths on when I put her down after a feeding, and then I remember that I still have her. I disassociate that baby with my daughter, who is definitely engaged and quickly grew a personality, and eventually played with the activity mat.

I would normally be worried (but I don’t do that anymore, remember?) that it will be strange being home again, but we’ll adjust to the changes together as we have been. It has to be tiresome for her and my husband to make it to the hospital up to twice a day, but they keep at it. She’s charmed the nurses. They let her take my temperature and blood pressure. She knows the key code to get into the unit’s kitchenette. I’m homesick, but she and my husband are what are making this stay bearable. That they have set up a home in a hospital room, barely spending any quality time at our house, means a lot. There has still been room for watching TV, playing games, eating dinner, reading books, fussing and getting fussed at, and being together long enough to forget that we’re in a hospital.

When the new baby is home, I don’t know how I will feel. I could be more together this time, or maybe adjusting to life with a preemie after weeks in a hospital will make the first weeks even harder. But I have a walking and talking reminder that we got through a newborn before and the results are an awesome kid and a close family. I know we’ll have another good kid.

She doesn’t get to name it, though.

Photo by: zanzibar

  1. With one exception: A minor complaint I’ve heard from my friends is that they didn’t like vegetables until they were adults because they weren’t served fresh or well-cooked vegetables as kids. If she ever gives that as a reason for her childhood disinterest in vegetables, I will hunt her down. Her dad and I can cook a vegetable, and she’s had access to the delicious, fresh produce. Clearly I haven’t come to terms with her being a picky eater. 
  2. I’m going to work on a second baby app that sends a weekly notification with the number of weeks pregnant and a monthly email with topics like, “How to finally convince your child to stop bumping into your stomach when you read books at bedtime,” and “Just don’t eat, like, the entire bag of Goldfish. Have some protein today.” 
  3. This class also was a refresher for me. I was the worst at swaddling. And I also forgot how to burp a baby. 
  4. I use this phrase because it’s shorter than explaining whatever combination of benefits I can scrape together to stay home. Maternity leave does not exist. 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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