Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Joys of Parenting "Round Two"

By Heather Pohlabel

It came as quite a surprise not only to myself and my husband, but to our family and friends as well when we found out that we were expecting our third child nine years after our last child. I was ecstatic. My husband was nervous. Our families were bewildered. They couldn't figure out WHY we would be having more children; the two we had at home were 13 and 9, my husband had a 14 year old son from a previous relationship, and both of us were about to be 33! We were supposed to be DONE having babies and start enjoying our lives.

The thought of adjusting to a newborn after 9 years seemed like it could be a major inconvenient task to me, and must have at first seemed absurd to my family and friends, but I was so happy that I did not care what obstacles or changes came up along the way; I was ready and willing for them, even if I had to do it alone. Initially, it did not seem as if I was going to receive much support from family or my surprised and nervous husband, but after the initial shock wore off, everyone was happy about the pregnancy and very supportive of our growing family! My husband even doted on me even more than my previous pregnancies because I was "older". I think that he realized what a blessing it was as well that we were starting "round two" of our already beautiful family.

Our two children at home were very shocked. Our son (age 13) was shocked simply because this meant that his parents "did it" and now all of his friends would know that we "did it" as well. "That's the only way they can make a baby, dude" they once told him. He was appalled by that fact and really, I don't think, thought much at all about the baby. He was stuck on that grosser than gross fact for quite some time. It wouldn't be until after the baby was born that he really understood the significance of a new life.

Our daughter had been the spoiled little daddy's girl for that past 9 years, and she was extremely mad when we told her, to the point of denial even. The "we're having a baby" conversation went something like this with our daughter:
Mom: Honey, we want to share some great news with you. We're going to have a new baby in the family!
Daughter: No we're not.
Mom: Yes, we are because I'm pregnant, so that means that we're going to have a baby join us.
Daughter: No you're not.
Mom: I sure am, honey, and it's a wonderful thing.
Daughter: No it's not.
Mom: Well, honey, we just wanted to let you know that you'll have a new little baby sister or brother in a few months.
Daughter: No I won't. You're NOT having a baby. La la la I can't hear you.
Mom: Well, I am pregnant, and I can't change that, so you are just going to have to accept it. You have time to work through your feelings, and I bet you will end up feeling very happy in the end.
Daughter: I won't let it in the house. I will lock it outside in the cold if you try to bring it here. MAKE IT GO AWAY!

Yes, it was that bad, but as my belly grew and we talked about babies and played more with baby dolls and reassured our daughter that she would always remain in our hearts the same way she always had, she grew a little more fond of the concept of a baby in the house. She felt less threatened as we continued to treat her as we always had and reassure her of our love for her and her place in our home and hearts.

When our new baby girl was finally born, I was more ready for her than I had been for anything else in my entire life. I was calm throughout the birthing process, so the birth went easier than either of the previous two births. I was even almost ready to go home from the hospital the very next day, but I stayed in the hospital to get a little bit of rest before going home to care for three children. I felt wonderful, though, and everyone who came to visit was so surprised at how "good" I looked.

The first two weeks were the hardest, getting used to getting up at two a.m., but I did fine. I had plenty of friends who pitched in to help entertain my two older children by taking them swimming at the country club or having them stay the night or taking them out to eat or for an ice cream. I did not feel like I needed to rest all the time; I was so in love with my new baby that I could not stay in bed; I took the baby to visit my children's friends' families so that they had a sense of pride about their baby sister, and secretly, I was so proud of this baby that I needed to show her off and share her.

I was very comfortable and knew the ins and outs of parenting pretty well. Even though each child is unique, I had more tricks up my sleeve this time and could assess my baby's needs pretty quickly. She never cried for long and seemed to be the luckiest baby in the world to have a mother so patient, understanding, and loving doting on her. If only my two older children had had that luxury! But thanks to them, I knew what to do this time around.

Many of my friends are past the baby making stage. They are either set in their ways financially and don't want to sacrifice their SUVs or beauty salon time to care for an infant. Others simply cannot have more children because they chose to have tubes tied or daddy snipped. Many of them regret that now after seeing and holding our new baby and re-experiencing the joy that babies bring.

I'm glad I didn't mess with mother nature. Having a child almost 10 years later has proven to be very therapeutic and wonderful for myself as well as my family. My husband says that our new baby saved our family, and in a way, I would have to say that she did.

We were beginning to take life for granted and to fall into the trends of the world more so than reaching within our own family unit for happiness and security. We were drifting apart a little bit. We never completely lost it, but we were not as close as we once were, and we so desperately needed that unity once again. The pregnancy brought us close, but the baby brought us even closer. We were all able to share in the joy of her and the miracles of life. This baby worked wonders not only for us, but for the extended family as well.

We were the only children with children on both sides of the family. Last year, my 24 year old brother and his girlfriend found out they were expecting, then we found out. Two weeks later, my brother-in-law announced that he and his wife were also expecting! This is the first time a child of ours will have cousins her own age. Our older children have only second cousins, friends, and each other. Our baby is going to be surrounded by children her own age as she grows, and this is unique and wonderful. Our niece and nephew has someone to share all the crazy things that children experience together, and that is a blessing!

Now we also have built-in help and babysitters (a bit down the road), not only for ourselves, but for the niece and nephew too! So far, both children have been extremely helpful, but we have tried extra hard not to infringe on their freedom or lifestyles. We don't ask them to change diapers or do laundry or dishes (chores we did not have them do before), but we do ask a few things from time to time like "could you grab that diaper for me", or "can you get the pacifier" or "watch the baby for a minute while I go to the bathroom, please". They have been happy to oblige, especially our daughter, who we were afraid was not going to let us come in the house when we got home from the hospital.

She has surprised herself even, I think, with how much she loves this baby and wants to be around her and hold her and help out. It surprised her how much love she could feel from her baby sister and how when she was feeling bad or sad that just holding the baby could make her feel better. She has become quite the mother hen, and had a hard time going back to school when it was time.

Our older son has also discovered the meaning of true love, as I've heard him whispering to the baby that he loved her so much that he would die for her. He now knows how we feel toward him, and as he enters his teenage years, this has come in handy to remind him to be careful to take care of himself and to not make bad decisions because people love him as much as he loves the baby, and if anything happened to him, he can actually feel what that might feel like to his parents. He is a little more responsible for himself now that the baby is here.

When questioned by friends as to why we would possibly want to start over, I say "why not?" What else was I going to be doing with my life that could possibly be any better than this? To this they nod in approval and say, "well, if you can do it, go for it" and then they melt over the baby I am holding and everything about them changes as their eyes light up and they start to coo.

Yes, we've started round two of our parenting and this is only the beginning. We couldn't be more prepared and we couldn't be more happy.

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