Monday, July 21, 2014

The Second Child Experience

Three and a half months since my last post, I make my triumphant return to Man-vs-Baby! At this point in the Jackson baby experience, I had written a shade over 12,400 words about it. So I suppose it’s only fair that I mark the one month birthday of my new child by typing out a few hundred words to summarize the Baby #2 experience.

I was trying to think of a good analogy for how the pregnancy of a second child differs from the first, and the best I could come up with was that of a new roller coaster. The first time you ride a new roller coaster, it’s exciting and scary. You are paying attention to every second of going up that first hill. You’re nervous, wondering what’s going to happen next, and holding your breath waiting for the peak. Since you have no idea what’s coming up, you’re observing everything around you and taking in every second – knowing that any moment could be your last.

With a second child, it’s like riding that same roller coaster again. This time, you know what’s coming. You’re chatting with your friends as you creep up that first hill, cognizant of the heights you are reaching, but not having the same apprehensive fear of the unknown. The hill that seemed to take hours to climb the first time suddenly takes only seconds – and before you know it, you’re hurtling down the hill for another ride.

It’s not that the ride is any less fun the second time, it’s just that the hill is less noteworthy. No one ever talks about a roller coaster having a great hill. They talk about everything that comes afterwards. Babies are the same way.

Having said that, let me highlight some of the major differences between Baby #1 and Baby #2.

Breaking the News. With the first baby, you try to get creative with the reveal to family and friends. For Jackson, it involved choreographed wrapped presents and iPhones with secret pictures of ultrasounds. With the second baby, we did what about 90% of the world does – and put our first child into a “Big Brother” T-shirt before family came around. It’s also hilarious to see that the shirt means nothing to males (who either don’t read t-shirts, or assume that the child is just a fan of the CBS reality show), but females pick up on it right away.

Registration.  The good news about the second baby is that you are spared from the grueling hours spent registering for baby items. You get a chance to bust out all the stuff from your attic / basement and attempt to remember how to use it. I thought back to assembling Jackson’s things for the first time. Cautiously following the directions word-for-word, tightening screws and seat belts as hard as humanly possible, and doing everything I could to ensure these devices wouldn’t kill my child. Contrast to that to Baby #2, where I assembled them on memory and shook them once to ensure they wouldn’t fall apart before calling it “good enough”. On the down side, this attitude nearly prevented us from taking Baby #2 home from the hospital, but more on those illegal shenanigans later.

The Name Game.  With Baby #1, we had a boy and girl name decided upon six months before Jackson’s birth. There was never any doubt about the names, and we had plenty of time to develop nicknames for our unborn child using the initials of our names (thus, Baby EJ). With Baby #2, twelve hours before the birth, KB turned to me and said “we need new names”. Here’s the problem – you pick the absolute best names available with your first child. In the process, you find fault with almost every other name in the world to justify your decision. Therefore, when you go back to these names two years later, it’s impossible to find one that you love the same way you loved the names for Baby #1. Kate and I went on a babymoon a few months before the birth of Baby #2 with the sole goal of coming up with a baby name. Instead of reading books on the beach, we read lists of names. THOUSANDS of names. Just when I thought we had accomplished our goal, KB wavered… fearful of names being too popular, worried that we didn’t have a “good story” of where the name came from, or concerned it didn’t “go with” Jackson. So we debated for the next few months – hitting numerous roadblocks, giving up countless times, and reading even more baby books and blogs. But we were unable to reach a true consensus. One of the first things I said after the birth of Baby #2 was so… are we good on names? In the end, the name was the one I picked on that beach months prior – so KB either finally conceded that it was a good name… or realized that she couldn’t post a Facebook announcement without a name, so she had to just accept it and move on.

The Room.  Jackson’s room was fully assembled, painted, and ready for its close up pictures at least a month before his birth. Baby #2’s room received its first pictures to hang on the walls this week – just before the one month anniversary of the birth. I chalk this up to being realistic. We recognize that the kid isn’t going to be sleeping in that room for at least a few weeks. Given that we aren’t sitting around with extra free time, this “just in time” delivery only made sense.

So there you have it, the summary of the nine months leading up to the birth in just under a thousand words. I’m getting more efficient in my old age!

The Birth. As for the birth itself, it’s funny how leading up to it, Kate and I asked ourselves the following questions:

 What are we going to do in the hospital for a day after this kid is born?
Are we going to be bored?
 No Jackson and nurses to take care of our baby. Is this going to be like a vacation?

Packing a hospital bag for Jackson, we were ready for a week in the hospital, weather conditions ranging from blizzard to heat wave, and had enough gadgets in our bag of tricks to deal with any potential labor pains or challenges. Packing a hospital bag this time, I seriously debated if I could just go with the clothes on my back and put a cell phone charger and toothbrush in my pocket.

On the other hand, we entered the final months of pregnancy with a heightened state of awareness. Once Kate went into labor with Jackson, he came out relatively fast. With him, I was at work in a meeting at 11:00 am when I received a phone call that she was feeling bad. I rushed home, we went to the doctor, who sent us to the hospital, and at 6:00 pm, he was born. Truth be told, had the doctors been on time at the hospital, he probably would have been born at 4:30 pm.

So with Baby #2, when KB first started to feel “weird” at 8:00 am, I stayed home from work, we went to the doctor immediately, and were at the hospital at 10:00 am. Since it wasn’t our first rodeo, we spent our little time in the hospital doing things like taking pictures to post on Facebook and setting up a tripod to video tape our faces during the birth. An hour and a half later with a solid five minutes of pushing, and Baby #2 was born!

Say hello to Evan:

We left the hospital about 24 hours after he was born… but not without a little drama. Remember the shoddy re-assembly of baby items referenced earlier? It turns out we forgot a critical piece of padding for the baby car seat – you know, the piece that makes it actually snug for a newborn. So when we attempted to leave, the nurses were like “uh, that’s a little loose – tighten it up.” I jerry-rigged a loop in the belt behind the seat to trick them and snuck out before they could retain our child and arrest us for endangerment. Booyah. One nervous car ride later, we found the missing padding from the attic and returned to our standing as “mediocre parents”.

One month after his birth, what are my musings?

Babies are Easy. Honestly, I think back to 2012 Brian and wonder what the hell he was complaining about. Kate feeds him. You set him down and he doesn’t go anywhere. He sleeps for like 18 hours a day. One week of paternity leave was basically “Game of Thrones” leave because we spent so much time sitting around inside our house watching TV.

The level of effort for a second child (to this point) is far less than double one child. Yes – I know this is going to change dramatically once Evan is more mobile and opinionated. But for now, it still feels like Jackson creates all the work – we just have to do it now carrying around a 10 pound sack of potatoes that cries periodically. I’ve told numerous people, “Once you’re staying at home on Friday night and waking up on Saturday morning at 6:30 am, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing it with one kid or two” – which I think sums it up pretty well.

You absolutely forget what babies are like. I guess Jackson used to cry and wake us up in the middle of the night, but now I can only remember him sleeping through the night and doing fun and hilarious things. I think in hindsight, your first child is always an angel. Numerous times, I’ve said “man, Jackson never did this” only to be corrected by KB that he did “this” all the time, and did it much worse than Evan.

Babies are for girls, and toddlers are for boys. I’ve always said this, and think Evan has only confirmed my theory. At the end of the day, babies still pretty much lay around, eat, sleep, and poop. They don’t necessarily NEED me for any of that. On the other hand, Jackson runs around, builds forts, and plays hide and seek. Doing that stuff on your own is far less fun than doing it with Dad. So when push comes to shove, I find myself spending disproportionately more time with him than Evan. But I also think he’s getting more return on the investment of my time than Evan would at this stage in life – so it’s simple finance math.

I have no idea who Evan will become. Kate has often said that she’s waiting to see what Evan is going to “be like”. When Jackson was one month old, we had no idea he would become a crazy man without fear (except leaves) who loves construction equipment and farm animals. At this time, we have no idea what Evan is going to be like. We’re in no hurry for him to grow up, but I can’t help but be excited to see how he turns out.

Back to the roller coaster analogy. Like I said, a pregnancy is like going up that first hill. It’s all anticipation and excitement for the rush that follows. It’s crazy and exciting and exhausting – but before you can catch your breath a baby becomes a toddler – and any preconceived notions you had about “free time” or “being busy” are thrown out the window. But it’s a wild ride – even though I think I know what lies ahead, like any good roller coaster I’m guessing there are enough twists and turns to keep me guessing about what’s coming next… and give me plenty of fodder for the Blog.

Round two!