I was pregnant with my first child, when I had a work meeting scheduled in a coffee shop one morning. My colleague was pregnant with her second child, so the conversation quickly turned to all things baby.
Her due date was a month before mine and she was getting close – so between sips of decaf cappuccino, I said “It’s so exciting now isn’t it? Not long to go!”
She smiled at me, but her eyes were sad.
“Yes,” she replied. “But your first is special. It’s never the same after that.”
It took me by surprise. I loved being pregnant – and as I got close to my due date, I was already looking forward to doing it all again. I didn’t want to believe that things would be different the second time round. I wanted it to feel this special with every following pregnancy.
I thought about her comment again afterwards, but soon in the fug of newborn craziness and cuddles, it disappeared from my mind.
Until I was pregnant with my second child, that is.
Her comment flashed through my mind several times during that second pregnancy. When I didn’t have time to sit and enjoy the kicks. When I forgot to log onto my app to count the weeks as they ticked past. When I announced my pregnancy to the world and got roughly half the excited comments that I did the first time (and a fair few read ‘are you mad?’). When he was born and I had to divide myself in half to be with both my babies.
He was special.
Just as special.
But the experience of being pregnant, giving birth, and the early days at home – well, it just wasn’t.
I realised with a heavy heart that she was right all along. Nothing could replicate the days at home with my first baby, cocooned together all day long in a never-ending cycle of feeding, watching crap box sets, occasionally plucking up the courage to venture outside, before returning to the sofa for more feeding, box sets, pumping, and attempting to sleep at some point in the 24 hours.
It’s anything but glamorous – but ‘special’ really is the perfect word.
But it’s impossible to replicate the second time. There’s no waking up late when you’ve had a hard night with the baby, because a toddler is prising your eyes open with his fingers. There’s no hanging around in sick-stained pyjamas when you have to get siblings to school or nursery. There’s no crap box sets when Thomas the Tank Engine is the new order of the day.
I noticed less excitement from everyone around us too. After all, I was already a Mummy. This baby was adding to our family – and not the child that made it.
I don’t blame friends and family in the slightest – after all, I have acted exactly the same when second and third babies have come along. There’s less excitement about seeing a bump when you’ve seen it all before. There’s a sense of understanding too – you know they need some space as a family, so you leave them to it. There’s a feeling of ‘they’ve got this!’.
But still, not a single person sent us flowers to the hospital the second time. We left with the ultimate prize and it didn’t even occur to us at the time – but in hindsight, a bunch of roses or a blue helium balloon might have been nice to carry out the doors of the hospital too.
And what about the third time?
For me, it does feel special – as I am pretty sure it’s the last time. But with two children at home, there is even less time to focus on the kicks in my belly, the boxes of clothes that I need to sort. There’s no nursery to decorate, because she’ll be giving up her room for visitors that come to stay so it needs to stay neutral. There’s no need to rush out and buy a stroller. There’s no need to attend antenatal classes with other excited parents-to-be – or go for blind coffee dates with strangers stroking their bumps.
The specialness of a first baby is something we can ever fully appreciate until it’s a memory.
But now, with the benefit of hindsight, precious memories, and hundreds of photographs that I still need to sort, I know my colleague was right on that morning back in 2012.
Every baby is special.
Just as special.
But the experience will be entirely different (again) to those beautiful, exhausting, but totally wonderful days with my first.