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     Volume 4 Issue 41 | April 8, 2005 |

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Slice of Life

The Second Fiddle

Richa Jha

O second baby, aren't you here yet?
Within a week of learning that we had a second baby coming, the rest of the world had been called up, emailed, or accosted at parks and restaurants and shared the wonderful news with. The flip side of that, it is such stale news now that people expect the minikid to have tumbled out, to have been weaned off the bottle and to have been readied for the playschool interview. Public memory is short; patience with other people's lives unless there is some juicy tidbits to munch on, even shorter. And I don't blame them. After all, you can't expect them to keep asking the same 'So how is it coming along? How much more time to go?' forever.

O second baby, be prepared to come into this world unsung.

When the wonderful news spread around the respective families back home, the jubilations notwithstanding, the mood was in no way as exultant as it had been with a similar news four years ago. Feel the difference between, "O you wonderful children! God bless you! The best gift you could have given to us old people now! Now be careful and don't you tell anyone yet…" and "That's great news. Take care, and you know what to do"? If you can't, you probably haven't had a second child yet.

At times, the sheer feeling of neglect can be depressing. Look at my friends: the first time round, I used to receive frequent emails from my friends wanting to get updates. The lull this time after the initial round of congratulatory messages speaks of the hours they themselves would be spending on changing diapers and bringing their own children back from karate classes or painting lessons. My own parents discuss everything else going on in the world before doing the perfunctory "all's well on the baby front?" before disconnecting the phone line!

O second baby, it's not just the others who do this with you…

But why blame the others: the initial news having sunk in, what immediately raced through my mind were the not-so-elegant images of labour, pain, the countless sleepless nights, and the inevitability of it all!

The amount of joyous anticipation and preparation that usually goes into getting the first child into this world is something parents cherish for life. In our case, I used to maintain meticulous records for my scrap albums: everything from the small chits carrying the list of questions to ask the doctor on each visit, to an embarrassingly high frequency of pictures clicked by the father of his beloved wife's progress, to even weekly monitoring of weight, food, and mood.

In this case, during the earlier months (before the massive blows had started, that is), I would forget on several occasions that I was carrying. The mind would be too preoccupied fretting over the first one not eating, not sleeping, or not behaving. The father reluctantly pulled out the camera upon repeated reminders from me that soon this pregnancy would be over without even one photograph of mine in this state. That too, when he realised that the fungus-coated film loaded in the camera (we haven't gone digital yet) for ages needed to be pulled out quickly, or else some precious photographs clicked earlier would be lost forever.

O second baby, even Dr. Spock forgets educating us about you.

There is an abysmal shortage of literature on 'second pregnancies'. Somehow, it is assumed that as a veteran, you don't need to refer to those valuable bits of information that come in handy in the face of a barrage of untested old grandmother's advice. My Google search for 'second pregnancies' yielded seven useless results, after which the search engine got tired and reverted to the tried and tested 'did you mean first pregnancies?'

O second baby, you shall not crave the NEW. Nothing new was ever made keeping you in mind.

My son is already putting away all his broken toys for the minikid. Any piece of junk or once-favourite clothes that have lost their appeal to him are automatically being shoved into this big carton that he calls the chhotu baby box. So much for big brotherly affection! And don't you charge the first-borns (I have had the privilege of being one) with 'foul play'; they always keep the interest of the subsequent siblings paramount in mind, but are still misunderstood for it.

O second baby, the curse of comparisons will never leave you…

And one doesn't have to wait for the baby to be born for the inevitable comparisons with the older child to happen. Already, people around me have heard it enough number of times how this minikid behaves differently than the first one when he was in. But O second baby, do not despair. We promise we will love you…just the same as the earlier one (hate to write that minikiddy, but there will be no stand-alone situations for you…). Or we will certainly do our best.

O second baby, we know you will be a survivor; and you will do it on your own…

To begin with, your mother will make sure you don't cling to her dupatta in public. Soon enough, you'll learn to fend for yourself. Which also means learning to grab a fair share of the ice cream that your big brother may be unwilling to share. Life is unfair, and this unfairness starts at home…but you will survive.

O second baby, there's no point kidding. Let's face it. If you had had a choice, you would not have willingly been a second baby!

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