Today is my son's 11th birthday. Seems like only yesterday that I was having the little guy. He was a bit of a surprise, a little too much fizz on my daughter's first birthday. I never dreamed I could get pregnant that easily. I wasn't happy about it at first. I come from a family with big gaps between the children. And so I thought I would probably have the same, not 20 months. I nearly cried at first. How would I ever cope with two small children? I suffered more with tiredness, sickness, and swollen ankles the second time.
The birth took me by surprise too. He was due on June 26. I wanted him to be late and be born in July because June is littered with birthdays in my family. But I had a chest infection and was coughing quite violently. I'm sure that's why he came early. I didn't even realise my water had broke but a friend suggested I go to the hospital to be sure. Once there they wouldn't let me go home because I'd been leaking amniotic fluid for a while. They put me on an oxytocin drip, and my neighbour, who'd taken me to the hospital while my husband put our daughter to bed, went home. I was by myself for a couple of hours while my husband tried to get things together for my bag. My mother was due to arrive later in the week. I sat in a rocking chair and felt very sorry for myself and started to cry. When my husband got to the hospital he wasn't much help because he had an ear infection. I refused an epidural because I'd had one during my daughter's birth and didn't like it. So it was gas and air, which was useless, and a pethidine injection for the last moments.
The cord had become wrapped round my son's neck. Not out of the ordinary, the midwives say. But that had happened to my brother too, and had cut off his oxygen supply temporarily. Then they detected a heart murmur in my son. Again, not out of the ordinary. They made me stay in over night to see if it would go away. It did, and we took our beautiful boy home. He was so placid those first two weeks, sleeping almost nonstop. I'd have to wake him to feed him. Then he met my mother-in-law and became a different baby. My husband was much more hands-on with our daughter, but because of the ear infection and sheer tiredness, he left most of the parenting, particularly at night, to me. At the same time our daughter, who'd been a very good sleeper, decided waking at night was a good idea. I remember staggering from one room to the next, breasts heavy with milk as I tried to interest my son in feeding. He still doesn't care too much for food.
What was easy with my daughter was a huge struggle with my son: feeding, potty training, school. My daughter has always been a social person, even as a baby. My son is quite happy with his own company or just me. We discovered his sense of humour on his second birthday as he took delight in amusing us all with rolling his eyes back in his head. He found he liked making people, especially me, laugh. He learned that if he made me laugh, he would be far less likely to get into trouble. He's quite the comedian at school too, and earns detention points as a result.
I mentioned my brother earlier. My son was actually born on my brother's birthday. This upset me to begin with. My brother and I weren't close growing up. He has learning problems, dyslexia certainly and possibly some others, which were never diagnosed when he was at school. I have worried over the years that my son would be the same. When he was in Year One, his teacher at first said he was Mr. Average. Six months later, she said he was struggling across the board. Remembering my brother's struggles, I immediately sent him to an education specialist for observation and to Kumon Maths. I should never have done that. It gave him the message that he was slow, thick. It knocked his confidence for years, and I'm to blame for that. What I've learned about my son over the years is that he does things in his own time, and you can't force him otherwise. He taught himself to ride a bike last year. He was ready for it. After years of refusing to play football, he finally joined a team and loves it. He passed the 11 plus despite all my fears. The day we got the results I was so ecstactic. I waited till he got home from school to tell him. His nonchalance upset me and I cried. "I thought you'd be happy about this," I said. "I am happy," he replied, crying with me.
He's quite a sensitive boy, hates being shouted at, will cry if someone does shout at him. My daughter thinks he's being manipulative because he knows I melt if he cries. Maybe he is, but I don't think so. He actually cares about my feelings. My daughter is in the throes of hormonal hell, thinking only of herself most of the time. But my son still thinks of me. The day I returned from Florida, I picked him up from school. I could see him walking towards the car. When he saw me, his face brightened and he started running. "I missed you!" he said as he gave me a great big hug.
All that pain 11 years ago was worth that.