There is only one thing more exciting, more educational and more frustrating than a first pregnancy, and that is explaining the second, third or fourth pregnancies to the end products of the previous ones.
There is, first of all, the classic, time honored method of making the big announcement to the other children. It usually goes something like this:
“Mommy and Daddy have a wonderful surprise for you. There is a baby in Mommy’s tummy!”, I told them with great enthusiasm. Rock, intent as any two-year-old in his Karo syrup based homemade play-doh, looks up and said, “Did you eat one?”.
Even though the logic was admirable, it occurred to me that somehow, I didn’t get the point across in the way I intended. What we had done was to open the proverbial Pandora’s Box and I was to find I’d be lucky if it was closed by the time the present tummy tenant was potty trained.
You can be sure that sometime during the course of the next nine months your typical, curious two-year old suddenly realizes that he, too, was once in the same place this one now occupies. And then the questions start.
“What did I eat?”
“How did I breathe?”
“Did I have any toys to play with?”
And about the time you think you’ve answered every possible question, he comes out with the real clincher.
“How did I get out?”
Your first reaction is one of deep anger at Dr. Spock for not including a chapter on this. However, fortunately for me, Rock assumed it was through the ear, and rather than muddle his head with unimportant details I decided to take the chicken’s way out by staring blankly at the wall until he changed the subject.
Then there is the oldest child, ready for the gentle truth. You actually look forward to and are prepared to explain the wondrous miracle of birth. You explain and are satisfied that he is satisfied and you even feel a little smug, thinking what a super, suave, open, honest new generation type woman you are.
Alas, lo and behold, the next day he talks to a friend who was delivered Cesarean and the friend assured him they cut open the mother’s stomach and take the baby out. That is absolutely and without a doubt the only way it can be done and that’s that! Needless to say, to a six-year old boy the second explanation has the first one beat hands down as far as excitement and intrigue go.
The months speed by at a snail’s pace and before you know it number four has made his scheduled appearance. You can hardly wait to call the other children from the hospital to give them the details on their bouncing baby brother. The first one on the phone is our one and only darling daughter, Lissa, who had hoped for a sister but I knew that deep inside she would be thrilled with another brother.
“Lissa, you have a new baby brother!”, I said, waiting for a reply. What I heard was hysterical screaming and then Ted, my husband, got on the phone.
“It’s all right, Susie, we’ve given a Lissa a sedative and I’m sure she’ll look at things differently when she wakes up.”
Then it’s Rocky’s turn.
“When does Deen come home?” he asked. How charming, I thought, he can hardly wait.
“Oh, we’ll be home in a couple of days, “I answer.
“Just as soon as they get the food and grease off of him, right?”, he said.
Stunned, I asked him what made him think the baby had food and grease on him?
“Well, if he’s been in your tummy…”, he replied.
I couldn’t decide which bothered me the most, his totally distorted concept of where Deen had been or the obvious slap at my cooking.
Next, I talked to Ted, Jr., He sounded pleased and the fact he wasn’t doing cartwheels for joy didn’t surprise me since he’s always been a silent, reserved type anyway.
Finally, Ted is on the phone and assures me all is well and he did have a pleasant chat with my parents at 3:00 in the morning at their farm 40 miles away. He had taken our oldest, Ted, to their farm for a well timed visit. They called to say Ted, Jr. was having an acute asthma attack and would he please come get the little sweetie. I thought to myself how marvelous it was that children can vent their suppressed feelings in a such a variety of ways.
Ted also tells me the nurse has arrived, a very prim and proper sexagenarian. He says she has taken hold beautifully. However, he said he did have a few tense moments when Lissa asked her in front of him if she was going to sleep with Daddy since Mommy was gone.
After hearing all this I told him through post-natal blues tears that Deen and I were fine but what did he care, since I knew he didn’t love me anymore and he needn’t bother to come see me again at the hospital since he was so uninterested in us anyway.
Ted, having been the target of new mother harassment three times before, asked what else was new, said he’d be up that evening. After putting the phone on the receiver, he picked up Rock and said, “Wasn’t that nice talking to Mommy?”
“Yes, Daddy, but when are you going to let her out of the phone?”
So much for the first phone call home.
Now the following is one of the great mysteries of life. Ever since the minute the baby is born you live for going home. Never have your other children looked so good. You picture the little darlings perched over the bassinet making goo-goo sounds to the new baby. You picture yourself in a beautiful satin bed jacket, resting in bed with the glow of new motherhood on your face. You picture the baby on a perfect four hour schedule, you know, the one he was on in the nursery. You absolutely cannot wait to get your hands on that perfect little creation that the nurses rave about so.
The time finally comes and its home you go. You are home for exactly 2 hours and 27 minutes and this adorable little bundle of joy, whom you could hardly keep awake in the hospital, shows his true colors. You realize something is fishy when you discover his own personal supply of sleeping potion, three pacifiers, a set of ear plugs and a note from the nurses, that says, “Good Luck, Sweetie,” in his hospital bag.
Then there are the other children’s reaction to the baby. Lissa, much to my relief, realized she was not getting just a miniature version of Rocky but an honest to goodness screaming, wetting, spitting up, diaper-dirtying baby. It goes without saying that Deen’s gain was Baby Alive’s loss.
Ted, Jr. remarked, yes, he was a neat baby but we weren’t having any more any time soon, were we?
Rocky was not only fascinated with the baby, but with the feeding procedure. With eyes as big as saucers, he witnessed the baby’s first, at home meal.
“I know,” he proudly proclaimed, “One is for milk and one is for orange juice!” I stared blankly at the wall.
Now I’ve been home for a couple of days and things are beginning to fall into place. I found it was just as well the nurse left, since Ted did resent giving up his place at the head of the table to her each evening and we really didn’t like her choice of TV shows anyway. Besides, the rusty key around the baby’s neck to keep away evil spirits really did go against my grain.
Just when I thought I had the bull by the horns and everyone is adjusting beautifully, and I’m relieved the initial novelty has worn off, Rock crawls into my lap and says, sweet as can be,
“Okay, Mom. You can take him back to the hospital now.”
Note about this post – was published Daily Oklahoman newspaper in the 70’s