Blessed Again

Having a second baby taught this dad things he never knew about himself.

Feb 06, 2013

I admit it: When my wife told me we were having another baby, I wasn't big on kids at the moment. We were on our first vacation with our 13-month-old — or as I refer to it now, that time I spent $2,700 to watch other people know joy. But soon a soothing thought came over me: I'll be a pro this time around.


I was a wreck. Far worse than the first time. The first pregnancy had been marked by a cheerful cluelessness — we did whatever the doctor told us. Now, we second-guessed every decision. Our OB sighed every time we opened our mouths. Nan and I had a million questions — and not just for him. We interrogated other doctors, sent e-mails to parent groups, and spent evenings anxiously comparing Internet information. Nan decided to have an amnio; then, worried about the risk of miscarriage, decided not to; then gave it the go-ahead; then changed her mind again — on the table!


As I made my (in)decisions, I wondered: Why was this second time, when I knew better, so difficult? Had the stress of raising a toddler left me mentally impaired? No, the reason was that I really did know better. I got an education the first time, discovering everything you have to go through, learning about the things that can go wrong — the tests that have real, if small, risks; the complications that could prove disastrous. Thinking back on the night eight and a half months into our first pregnancy when Nan felt "off" and a trip to the hospital showed our daughter's heart rate dropping kept me on edge. The OB that night was a real pro — he had Ella out in 10 minutes.


When our second daughter, Camilla, was born, I figured our doctor would be off without a word. But when I ran into him later in the hospital, he smiled and pumped my hand enthusiastically. My first thought was that he wanted something from me. But what? A tip? I'd have to ask my health insurance about that.


That's when it hit me: Dealing with crazed dads is routine for doctors. How could it be otherwise? We're going through a life-defining event, and we've got too much and too little information at the same time. After my first daughter was born, I read that I should cut my wife some slack on the mood swings, because new moms can get nutty. Well, we dads get nutty, too. Knowing that, maybe next time around (number 3?), I'll go easier on myself. Maybe.

Raising Kids