Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Part Three: The Snitch

I call him the blond sheep of the family. Apart from his tow head, he has many other ways of distinguishing himself from the brunettes in our family. He's the sassiest by far, the most self-assured, the least ingratiating. He doesn't need the attention and validation that Owen yearns for. He mastered self-care abilities (getting dressed, pouring drinks, bathing himself, putting on socks and shoes) at a startlingly young age. Mitch faces the world with bravado, and I have no doubt that he will plant his flag wherever he pleases.

His was my only planned pregnancy (yeah, we're just careless like that), but he wasn't conceived at exactly the ideal time. We'd hoped for a summer birth to avoid the messiness of turning my courses over to a substitute, but gosh damn we're fertile, and Mitch was made on our first try. So he was a March baby. Two months shy of the goal. Troublemaker from the start.

His birth was enormously different from Owen's, whose arrival was somewhat violent and traumatic. My c-section with Mitch was planned, but I went into labor 2 days before the scheduled date (troublemaker--see?). Still, his birth was very calm and controlled. I went to the hospital; they slowed my contractions; the doctor came; they prepped me for surgery; out came Mitch. I felt in charge from start to finish. I knew what to expect. All went smoothly. I even got to hold him in recovery. When I remember Mitch's birth, the salient feeling is peacefulness.

Going from one child to two didn't phase me much. I expected to feel overwhelmed and manic, bleary and helpless, but Mitch (rather misleadingly) was a very agreeable newborn. He fell asleep easily, took long naps, ate well. I joyfully witnessed the brotherhood unfolding between him and Owen, who accepted the role of big brother with aplomb and never fretted much about the sudden appearance of his fuzzy-headed rival.

I experienced the second-child honeymoon, a confidence and calm that I hadn't felt with Owen, an ability to trust myself and my baby, the wisdom to see that the best thing to do is simply the thing that will work best in that moment. The greatest advantage to being a second-time mom is knowing that all the difficult phases will pass. With Owen, I felt mired in every wrong turn. If he went through a spell of waking more frequently or refusing to nurse, I was sure I'd messed him up forever. With Mitch, I knew that there would be bad weeks and good weeks. (Well...good days. I'm not sure I've ever actually experience a whole week of goodness.)

Like many second-time moms, though I wasn't consumed with him, wasn't spilling over with the love and devotion of a new mother, I enjoyed Mitch's infancy more. It ebbed and flowed, a gentle tide instead of a tsunami.

In some ways, being a mother of two felt like my true initiation into parenthood. I don't mean that mothers of one are lesser parents, but as someone from a family of six, raising children meant juggling, mediating, stretching myself and my resources. When I took on the challenge of nurturing more than one and succeeded, I felt like I'd arrived. I loved having two. I relished their interactions; I was moved to the core by their brotherly bond. Our family felt whole and balanced. I proclaimed myself finished with childbearing.

Then, one afternoon in February of 2006, with Mitch one month from 2 years old and weaned for more than a year, I felt the sensation of let down when a book I was carrying brushed against my breast. And I spoke aloud to an empty room. And I said, "Oh shit."


Aliki2006 said...


I can't wait to read more...and I love the descriptions of your kids.

Bon said...

lol...what a great post, with such a literary cliffhanger of an ending! snort.

as someone very tempted right now to try for another, i ate up your description of the joys of Mitch's babyhood like it was tasty pudding. can you tell me where you bought that nice feeling, so i can get in line too?