It’s funny how often after people have their first child, they get to a point where everything becomes manageable, sleep patterns are consistent and household routines run like clockwork, and then they decide to do it all again.
That’s where my wife, Natalie, and I are at. Our son, Gus, turns four next month, so it’s not as if we’ve been in a hurry to go around once more, but alas, here we are, expecting our second boy in March.
While that’s nothing unusual in itself as people have kids all the time – some might even say we’ve taken our time getting on with it – when you consider the struggles with sickness Natalie endured for nine months the first time around, plus a few other factors, we weren’t sure we’d ever be here.
“Never again,” vowed Natalie in the months after going through labour, still reeling from epidural failure in the delivery room and 40 weeks of vomiting.
Despite basking in the afterglow of our new arrival, the memories of omnipresent morning, afternoon and night sickness lingered. However, as life with a newborn turned into life with a toddler, reminders of how he got here faded away and then one morning, as if a switch had been flicked, Natalie announced she wanted baby number two.
The principle that women are biologically programmed to forget the pain of childbirth is largely a myth, but there is merit in the ‘halo effect’ theory, where many parents’ detailed recollections of the physical sting of childbirth diminish over time as cherished life with a healthy baby overrides it and new memories are formed.
Also, if couples didn’t move on from birth-related complications, the world would be full of only-children.
As we saddle up to bring another human into the world, not only have the memories of pregnancy nausea flooded back as Natalie is perpetually green, we’re doing it in the middle of a global pandemic.
It’s interesting hearing people talk about their COVID-19 lockdown experience of Netflix marathons, reading, jigsaws and newfound hobbies of gardening and crafts. I’m guessing those people don’t have young kids because parents with toddlers skipping child care, or kids who required home-schooling, were never busier.
The difficulties of trying to juggle work, a toddler at home every day requiring attention and running a household evaporated any spare time we had during lockdown. Throw in pregnancy and the constant urge to bring up lunch, and life at the moment remains pretty damn hard.
But enjoying how much Gus enriches our lives every day is why we’re back for round two.
It’s been interesting reflecting on the experience of expecting our first child back in 2017.
It wasn’t all sickness and slumping on the couch. There was nervousness, excitement, birthing classes and countless trips to Baby Bunting. But if that experience taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.
Gus was pretty comfortable in the womb as he went 10 days overdue and had to be induced to make his exit. Even then, it took another 24 hours for him to get moving.
Having been up all night at the hospital as Natalie experienced contractions, she was already knackered when we made it to the delivery room. She was given an epidural and told to get some rest as things were moving at glacial pace.
Feeling pretty tired myself, I was instructed by the midwife to also get some shut-eye before showtime.
Just 15 minutes into my kip, I was awoken by pandemonium in the room as the epidural had failed and Natalie was in agony. Unfortunately, I didn’t wake straight away so the nurse was in my face advising I get up fast as my wife was in a murderous mood.
For the next hour or so, the epidural machine made strange beeping sounds as the effects of the drug dropped in and out. By this stage, Natalie was in a world of hurt while the anaesthesiologist randomly pushed buttons on the machine like he was trying to figure out how to send a fax.
He partially got the machine working again – the issue wasn’t his fault, I might add, as he, our midwife and all the hospital staff were outstanding – so sometimes the drugs kicked in, and other times Natalie was left to feel everything.
Apart from one last vomit for old time’s sake, the rest of the birth experience was what you’d call conventional. By no means easy – far from it, actually – but with the result being a healthy baby in his mother’s arms.
However, even when we were back at the hospital ward, the unexpected moments weren’t finished. I ducked off to the car to get the rest of our bags for our stay, and in the darkness, while treading the hospital footpath, I almost stepped on a snake.
Imagine Natalie’s shock as she held our newborn baby if she received the news I was in emergency having been chomped by a snake in the car park.
Luckily that didn’t happen, but it taught me anything can.
Now, as we prepare to go through it all again, childbirth memories are returning to the fore, including the knowledge that my wife will do great.
I can’t wait.