How about baby number two

Three is company

 Are you having another one?

You know what that means when someone asks you that soon after you’ve had your first child. When is the second one coming? It’s as though it’s a given. Make one, and you are on auto-pilot to make the second. The funny thing is, anyone can ask you that. Anyone. Known. Unknown. Family. Friends. Strangers.  If people were politically correct in not asking you the first time, now it’s free for all. You’ve got the meter ticking. You did it once. You may as well do it again.

The first time it hit me is when the ob-gyn asked me that on my customary 40 day visit. What?  He couldn’t be serious, I thought. I have barely recovered. But then I figured, he has to get on with the program; the more babies made, the more he stays in business.

We were in Goa last month, lounging on hammocks, enjoying the sea, sun and sand when the owner of the resort got chatty. All it takes to chat with people with kids is people with kids. So he goes, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but try and have the second one as soon as possible. It’s better to finish it all off in one go.

Finish?

“My son is two years and my daughter is two months,” he said proudly.  “Now we are set.” He was thrilled he had managed his family logistics so well.

My yoga buddy Shraddha said, “Don’t waste time. Just have the second one quickly.  Within a few years, you will be done with both, and they will look after each other.”

Is one ever done?

It is as though the second baby is going to grant you an exemption from certain duties. Almost like a ‘buy one get one free.’

Never say never, said one.

Best to finish with diapers in one go, said another.

When they grow old, they will have each other, said a third.

Yes, but friends are the new family, right? I said.

It’s never the same, they said.

Two seems like a picture perfect household. Two of you, two kids, two bedrooms, two cars…it sort of balances it out. Creates symmetry. Makes good pictures.

I have had many friends who bore the ‘only child’ tag, but are perfectly warm, affectionate and caring people. I have also known enough people with siblings who are mean and spiteful. So that theory doesn’t work for me. Merely having multiple kids does not ensure you make good human beings.

I laud women who have two and three and four babies. It’s just that I know I won’t be one of them. I don’t think I’ll be ready for another child for at least four years, and by then it will be too late, so I am willing to let that go.

I get it. It’s logistics. Things can be handed down. Baby cots, car seats, baby clothes, prams, baby monitors, Baby Bjorns are expensive. If you’ve invested in stuff, it might as well live its money’s worth. My friend Sheetal said (I hope in jest), “Well if I have three, may be it will be worth it.”

Then people say, “Oh, they will just play with each other and leave you alone. You can do more holidays, outings, they will look out for each other in school…they can share books, toys, everything.”

Most of the mommies I know who are just about grappling with the first one are planning No. 2. They think they are in the zone, so they might as well, and besides, time will run out.

Another friend who had a baby when her first one was just 18 months old explained how she managed. “I just look after the older one. The younger one manages somehow. All they need is to be fed and changed anyway.”  

I just didn’t think it worked that way.

Then there is the sibling=sharing angle. The husband’s best friend (who incidentally doesn’t have kids), said, “What do you mean you won’t have another one? You must, for his sake. Siblings are really important. You learn the value of sharing, caring, compassion, so many things. My sister was my best friend.”

It was the first time I learnt he had a sister.

He also made the ‘only child’ sound like a convoluted human being, devoid of social skills, compassion, kindness.

I am the eldest of three and the husband is the third-born of four. We both dig our siblings (for the most part) and can’t imagine our lives without them. But that doesn’t mean I believe that the only way a child can learn compassion or sharing is through siblings. I have just one cousin, K, who is an only child (the rest are in twos and threes), and he is one of the most balanced, loving and centred people I know.  Every time I think of Re turning into a loner, I think of him.

I get that look. The look that says, “How can she be so self-centred? What about the child?”

When I had Re, we already had two cats. Technically, Nadia was the first born and Bravo, the second born. Which makes Re at 18 months, the youngest of three siblings. So  every advantage that one can have from siblings, he has it. They play together.  They chase and trip each other. They look after each other. They play pranks. They kiss, cuddle. They share toys, space, us.  They communicate. They compete. The only thing they don’t do is go on holidays together. Or wear hand-me-downs.

It works for me. It works for the husband. It works for Re. It works for the cats.

Yes, I have one child, but we are a family of five, as the husband says.  We have a full-house and are currently fighting to share our quilt.

To each, her own.

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25 thoughts on “How about baby number two

  1. Hey!
    I have two boys, two years apart…
    Our second one was unplanned (an “oops baby”, as we like to call him). Yet, he’s turned out to be the best mistake we ever made.
    Looking back, we keep thinking that if we would have actually sat down and thought about having a second baby, we would have chickened out. There was no way, at the time that our older one was only 15 months old, that we would would have thought we’d ever have another.
    The first six months after the second one was born, were the toughest days in my life…. But three years on, I feel it has been “worth it”!

    I have a few friends who are an “only child” and you’re right, they are some of the most fun people I know. My cousin, an only child, has been through a very tough childhood, but has, on the way, developed some great friendships. She is such a wonderful person… And we’re almost as close as real sisters can be. I think, since she’s had all her space to herself as a kid, she respects everyone else’s own space too. That is rare to find in our society.

    Don’t know what I’m trying to say here, really. It does eventually boil down to what you want for your family… given a choice, that is!! 😉

    Cheers! 🙂

  2. Nothing personal concerning you or me. But I wonder: people who can afford to properly bring up more children, settle for one or two. People who can not afford, bring forth many. So as a people, we are constantly degrading the quality of our populace. On a personal note: I had 5 siblings n my wife had 7. Today we have a large extended family around us and they are a great emotional/social security net.

    • H Raj, it’s totally personal. One or none or ten. What is annoying is that you are made to look like an insensitive parent if you choose to have just one. Yes, our parents had multiple siblings (by default) and we too have extended families (who only meet at weddings). Yes, family is a huge source of emotional security, but it is not the only source.

  3. I have only one child and he is 12 years old now. Can you believe I still get the “what about a second one?” question thrown at me by “well-meaning” neighbours and friends. Oh please, I want to say, I am so totally out of nappy changing and colicky nights. My son is one of the most caring, sensitive and compassionate beings in my family. I think it is all about the personality and upbringing of the child, and it has nothing to do with the mother having two babies or ten. But then, in India anybody, just about anybody can ask you why you are chicken about going for the second! And it’s almost never the man who is asked that question.

    • Yes Sudha, it’s annoying when they look at you like you have unfinished business. First it’s about when are u having a baby. Then, it’s when are u having another one. It never ends, does it?

    • I know of two families who had the first child grown to age 15-16, when they consciously planned n gave birth to 2nd child. And they are in seventh heaven! Both are on my facebook.

  4. I know what you mean exactly! It’s most annoying to be asked and for me an invasion of my space. People who didn’t dare ask before we had the first one think ah now its kosher to do so! 😦
    Like you I enjoy my own sibling but don’t think my daughter will be a badly adjusted human being without one. Also today when there are so many only-children, she won’t even be the only one in her school class who doesn’t have a sibling.
    If I was altruistic I would have another one for her but my having a baby was something I did for myself not for the world and I’m really enjoying her and this time. But after this, two, three, four years from now I want to travel with her, read with her, talk with her, go to art shows with her and another baby wouldn’t let do that! And oh yes I want to do my own work and spend time with myself too and another baby would definitely mean the end of that!
    So I know what you mean!

    • Welcome here Surya. You are so right. You are having a baby for yourself, not because the world thinks it’s the right thing to do. Why then should you have the second just because it is the right thing for the first one? I am all for multiple kids, but only if that makes ME happy, not because that’s the way it should be.

  5. Its like–The ‘Society’ has all the rights to ask you. Their business or not…but they will ask…As if they get a feeling of superiority when you fumble with the reply…

  6. It feels like you literally wrote what I had been intending to for a while but kept it in drafts because a few of the offenders read my blog…

    I get so tired of people not letting it go when I tell them that I am happy with one. It is as if they want me to have two. I am happy and we are happy who are they to comment on it or give me attitudes or ideas!

    Good one!

    • Ha ha, if i think about offenders, i would have never started this blog. Next time someone asks me why don’t you have another one, I am going to say why don’t you, since you seem more keen?

  7. Hey Sanika here…

    I’ve been an only child and my parents keep worrying about who’ll look after me. I don’t think siblings necessarily look after each other. I have seen siblings baying for each others’ blood as grown-ups and it saddens me that their parents who thought they’d look after each other must be so disappointed wherever they are and how painful it must be for them to see their children fighting like that? Somehow, even if it doesn’t apply to everyone, I’m happy I don’t have siblings. And frankly, we aren’t loners… we like our own space but we’re perfectly social human beings who love interaction with fellow human beings, otherwise we would not have existed. As much as I’d like to believe friends are the new family, I don’t, they come very close, some of them do go to become foster brothers / sisters and you’re even adopted by some and you adopt some (I have some wonderful equations with some of my friends myself). But, somewhere I like calling parents family – extended family doesn’t quite come into the family mould.

    I think your son has a huge advantage, having cats for siblings instead of human beings. I believe animals deserve more love and affection than human beings (at least cats and dogs) do. Also, from my own experience, only children learn things much more quickly, not a personal experience just that there’s an equal chance of them going on to become as nice people as children with siblings.

    • Brilliantly put Sanika. Yes, i took a good call on the growing up with animals thing. It just equalises the energy and besides, they have such a calming and nurturing effect on him (and us)

  8. Hi…

    Commenting here for the first time…hav a 4 year old son n a six month old baby. jus wanted to tell u how much the li’l one means to my elder one. I wud give anything to see the way they cuddle n sleep. my elder one has really changed once the lil one was born. Cats n other pets u can buy from anywhere at any point of time…a sibling can never be compared to that…

    • Hi Tinu, I am happy for you and I am not making a case for single child vs multiple. All I am saying is that it is really a personal choice, and I have chosen one, so let me be. The world has no right to decide or question what is right or correct for my child. If I had the luxury to space my kids 4-5 years like you have, i would too. I however don’t see the point of having them back-to-back just because it is convenient.

  9. Nice post!
    could’nt resist posting a comment on a term ‘oops baby’ used somewhere in the responses. Very uncool. Not the one to be judgmental usually but some comments require feedback.

  10. I know wut u mean! I’m an only child and I think i’ve turned out jus fine (hopefully lol).. but it’s been drilled into me dat since i wz technically “alone” or “lonely” (whichever sounds scarier), i shdnt put my daughter thru d same… and although she’s growing up with Rudolph (our cat) and Coco (our dog), she def needs a sibling sooner or later.. 🙂

    • I think she has the best of both worlds, animal and people.. and will turn out fabulous! And how cool that she gets to be with a cat and a dog.. and that they get to be with her!

  11. hi lalita…
    I read this post when it had just been posted, even composed a reply, but couldnt hit send…. i hav forgotten why exactly, but my son was only a few months old at that time…this post absolutely touched me…

    I have a 15 year old daughter, who was an ‘only child’ till 13 years of age, and she is a wonderful human being …..Bringing her up was so pleasurable experience that, once she entered her teens, we started missing her childhood! Again, when she was younger, we were very much undecided as to having another child, since we thought we could afford only one child at the time..and yes I used to get a lot of ‘when r u planning for another one’ at that time..

    When things turned favourable, we decided to go in for that second baby…Now we get to hear unbelievable amount of crap.People say ‘there is a huge gap’ as though we didnt know that… They expect us to justify or explain (and i dont know what to do at such times, cos I am not answerable to them or anybody, at the same time, I am not ashamed of the long gap) I just say ‘its a planned baby’ and they mumble something and change the topic.

    I really dont know how people have come up with that ideal number of 2 children..(I was perfectly happy when I had only one child… I am equally happy now) nor that you should have children by 30, max 35.(there may be a scientific reason for this, but our older generations used have children well in their forties ….and most of all why the ideal gap of 2-5 years between the children…
    What amuses me is people cant comprehend why we are so happy, and not at all apologetic about “the gap”..

    This is a rather long post…. but I have been wanting to connect with you for such a long time..and also my son is asleep now..

    bye

    • I am very touched by your reply. There are two lovely examples in my family of kids being 10-12 years apart and i think they make for the best siblings. I always thought that if i have another one (although i am content with one) i would want at least a 6-8 year gap, as i need to recover emotionally from one child to be recharged for another, and so the back-to-back, although logistically correct, never worked for me, whatever age you are. As for age, it is just a number. If i had been frightened by my biological clock, i would have never had Re. When he was born, i was 41, and had less trouble with my pregnancy and after than women in their twenties.

  12. Hey Lalitha,

    I am a second born and my brother is seven years older than I am. Mom and Dad got married in their late twenties back then when all their pals had already thought of their third or fourth offspring. Never ever did they plan to have me just to ensure that my brother gets a new playmate or they had no one to give the stuff that my brother had used. It was a need to have one out of compassion or whatever feeling perhaps. Contrary to what people believe, the second child can definitely not look after itself and if you rely upon the older to look after the younger completely, what’s the bloody use of being a parent. And no, my folks could never take a peaceful vacation, with or without us. I know for sure that Re is happy with Nadia and Bravo 🙂 and is blessed with a wonderful mom like you 🙂

    My kisses to your little one

    Rashmi

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