I only ever thought I’d have one child. When my daughter was born, seventeen years ago, I decided that I wouldn’t have any more babies. Not because it was an especially difficult birth (although these things are rarely as easy as they look on Friends) but because my maternal urge (for want of a better description) was satiated. And it stayed that way for around twelve years, even after I met my husband-to-be. I didn’t need another child, I told anyone who asked after we tied the knot – one was plenty.
Underneath my certainty, however, nature was laying her traps. So when my husband and daughter did a tag-team assault and started hinting that it might be quite nice to have another baby, I was caught unprepared by the reappearance of my maternal urge, like that uni acquaintance who pops up unexpectedly on Facebook demanding you meet for coffee. I was even more surprised to find myself saying yes to another baby. I’d raised one child, after all, the sly old MU pointed out; I was an old hand at this motherhood lark…
Fast forward a few years and I am now the proud mummy of a seventeen year old girl and a seven month old boy. People tend to goggle a bit at the age gap and ask if it’s different this time round. It is – I’m getting a lot less sleep, for one thing. My daughter slept through the night from around eight weeks old; my son thinks sleep is for the weak. I gave up breastfeeding my girl at three months but have continued with my son, and that’s brought its own set of challenges (who knew you could get milk blisters on your nipples, or that they hurt like red hot needles being poked into – well, you probably get the picture…). But by far the biggest difference this time around has been the existence of the Internet.
Back in 1995, I read a few baby books but mostly cared for my daughter on instinct. In 2012, I have a friend called Google, who offers advice about every little worry that occurs to me. Fretting about the contents of your baby’s nappy? Don’t worry, there are pictures of what baby poo should look like. And photos of Caesarean scars healing over time, in case you feel yours will never fade. Basically, everything you wanted to know, and quite a lot of stuff you didn’t, is yours for the asking, thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
The overall result of having this endless source of information is that I’m far more cautious and anxious with my son than I ever was with my daughter. I worry more, especially at three in the morning when I’m rocking the Ring Wraith look and wondering if I’ll ever sleep again. Google doesn’t need much sleep, either. That head-banging thing the baby does? It could be Asperger’s, Google whispers. Rubbish, I whisper back. Ah, but are you sure…?
So I’m not entirely convinced that I’m in a better position with all this knowledge at my fingertips. Still, at least the Internet allows me to compare notes with other parents, via websites like NetMums. That can only be a good thing, right?