4.23.07: On second-child syndrome
It has occurred to me more than once or twice that, while this blog is called The Charlie Chronicles, it is rarely, if ever, just about Charlie. The blog was originally intended to be about a year in the life of a new baby, yet in reality, it's more often than not been about the antics of a 2 1/2 year old. Charlie's big sister plays prominently into the mix. And that actually has been an apt reflection of Charlie's life so far—it's pretty much never been just about him.
Poor, neglected Charlie
When Julia was born, our lives centered around her. But, poor Charlie—he's often off to the side somewhere, stuck in his noisy, flashing bouncy seat (which our friend Margaret calls the "Neglect-o-Tron") or his exersaucer (which our friend Candis dubbed the "Ignorasaucer") while I make Julia's breakfast, or help Julia get dressed, or play a round of Go Fish with Julia. For a while, I was wearing Charlie around the house in the sling or the Baby Bjorn so he could be a part of the action. It felt nice to have him close while I had my hands free to do the things that needed doing. But, wearing this bowling ball of a boy became a bit back-breaking somewhere around the 17-pound mark. I sometimes chide myself about the fact that women have been wearing their babies on their backs for centuries, and here I am plopping mine down in a plastic exersaucer for what feels like a good chunk of the day. Then, I remember an exhibit that Will and I once saw at a museum here in Boston that showed centuries-old proof of the need for a safe place to plunk a baby down: it was a photo of a Chinese baby with his lower torso stuck in a wooden barrel—the ancient Chinese version of the exersaucer—as his mother washed clothes nearby. So, Charlie goes in his seat, with a sheepish "Sorry, buddy," and a pat on the head.
Our pediatrician assures us that he's plenty stimulated, and that he's just learning to be a more independent, more easy-going Type-B baby than a first baby (ahem) might (theoretically) be, and so far she's right. (What was that I said about not wanting to label these kids?) I know deep down that Charlie isn't the worse for wear (or lack of wearing), but I do still feel badly for him sometimes. Maybe it's the third-child in me empathizing with our second child. If you were to look around our house, you'd find no less than 20 framed photos of Julia displayed on the walls, the shelves, the mantelpiece, the fridge, the piano, and the dressers. And, err...not a single one of Charlie. It's not that we love him any less—it's just that we haven't had time to even think about framing a photo of him. It's like my family's home movies -- the reels and reels of my oldest brother toddling around...the single reel of my next brother (the second child)...the single shot of me (the third child)... and, well, we can only assume that the video camera broke by the time my younger sister came along.
When I was pregnant with Julia, we took regular belly photos to mark the progress of my pregnancy. With Charlie, it took a chance reading of an article on FitPregnancy.com to make me realize that we had maybe two photos of my pregnancy with him. Knowing that it could be my last time to experience, much less document, a pregnancy, I decided to hire a photographer to take some professional shots—in the nick of time. The photo you see here was taken just days before Charlie was born. It's the one that will end up framed in our house...someday...if we ever get around to it. This was my favorite picture of my pregnancy with Charlie—the one with Julia in it.
Julia is in it. She's been a part of Charlie's life from Day One. She was the one who helped me surprise Will with the news of this surprising pregnancy, with her "I'm a Big Sister" T-shirt. She talked to the baby growing in my belly the entire nine months. She helped welcome him into the world. And, ever since, she's been his constant companion. She's the one person in the world who never ceases to make his face light up in a smile, even as she's ripping a toy out of his hands. And I'm grateful for that—that they'll have each other, through thick and thin.
Sometimes I imagine what this blog would be like if I had written it during Julia's first year. No doubt, it would be focused on her every waking moment... her every milestone (umm—did I mention that Charlie got his first tooth? That he's rolling over? That he's starting to eat his first foods?)...focused on her every breath.
Don't get me wrong, we have had our special time with Charlie. I mean, there were those two days in the hospital, right? And, Charlie and I do have our late-night moments together, when the house is still, when the only sounds are the crickets outside our windows and the rising and falling of Will's and Julia's breath. That's when I get to focus on Charlie. And, during the day, when I have to put him down, or when I have to ignore his cries for a few minutes so I can help Julia with something, I remind myself that my life does hang on his every breath. And this is what has been the most surprising part of having a second baby for me: Somehow, I thought I would have gotten over this, since we have relaxed in so many other ways as no-longer-first-time parents, but every night...sometimes several times a night...I find myself creeping nervously into Charlie's room, with my very life hanging in the balance, to feel under his nose for his warm breath.
The big picture
Despite Charlie's #2 status in the birth order, he holds first place in my heart, along with his big sister. Perhaps she, in her infinite, innocent wisdom said it best when she told me: "Mama, I was your first baby, and Charlie is the twoest."
In the big picture of our family—the picture that began taking shape when Will and I first met...when we were married...when Julia was born—Charlie's photos may never be the most plentiful or the most prominent, but I know that if we ever do find the time to frame one, it will be the one that completes the picture.
In the meantime, I am thankful for the opportunity to write these Charlie Chronicles, because it gives me a little extra incentive to focus in on this time with Charlie. And Julia.
Join FitPregnancy.com's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she chronicles life with a new baby.
Photo: Tom Underwood Photography
Read the next entry: 4.30.07: An Intrauterine Toss of the Dice?