You know how they say parents are neurotic about the first child and then ease up for the second? Yeah, not in this household.
For Benji, we were super chilled out, partly turned off by the hyperparenting around us and partly out of ignorance. Thus, I blithely planned the birth at a public hospital and while I knew it would be painful, I tried not to think about it that much. I would endure, I figured, because hadn’t legions of women before me? Let’s say I survived. But when Mimi’s turn came, the memory of what I went through was still so vivid, I wanted buy whatever it took to make myself more comfortable.
There’s a section in Caitlin Morgan’s How to be a Woman where she talks about how her second birth was so much better than the first because she was more prepared (that is, took classes, learnt how to breathe, gave birth in a pool). I wasn’t unprepared for Benji’s birth, I had read a lot although I didn’t take a class and I don’t think my breathing could have been better unless I had been actively practicing yoga for years. But I was unprepared for the brusqueness of the doctor, the intensity of the pain and the need for pain relief, and the reality of breastfeeding. For round two, I wanted to buy comfort and I pushed to go private even though one is paying a lot for frills. I decided I deserved the frills, be they a friendly doctor, privacy, more attention to my needs postpartum, and most importantly a guaranteed epidural. In the end, I delivered public again but I had a c-sec which was great in terms of being painless at the time (in retrospect, the pain of the c-section post-surgery doesn’t compare to the labour pain in my case) and I was less stressy about everything, including breastfeeding. But if things had worked as planned, I would have gone private for round two.
Hong Kong has a public healthcare system where you can get regular developmental checks done for your child in addition to vaccinations. V’s medical insurance covers our kids, so there’s no need to use the public healthcare system for vaccinations. For Benji, we got them done privately. But the pediatricians in our area are not that into developmental checks. The care they provide is largely symptomatic. I need to spot a potential problem and ask. By the time Mimi came around, I decided that she should register at the public centre and get the developmental checks, even if we still do the vaccinations privately. And so I registered Benji at the ripe old age of two as well, even though he had skipped many in between.
And now playschool. Benji will start kindergarten in August and till recently, we’ve not really been convinced of the need to send him for any extra classes. After he turned two, I felt he was getting restless and began to look out for something he could attend before he started school. I had also attended a few trial classes by then, and realised that while they weren’t rocket science, the kids did seem to enjoy them and a couple of days a week might not be a bad idea. I am really late to the game and most of the classes nearby were full. I found one in the local YWCA and Benji started going last week with my helper. He seems to enjoy them. A couple of days ago, V said: “We should find something for Mimi too.” I smiled and said I’d look around, as I’d been thinking the same thing. But I also noted that for Benji we had totally skipped classes until a whole year later.
In this, my parenting experience seems the opposite of the norm. For my first child, I was very laidback. But the journey with him taught me what’s important and what’s not. If there were things I could do over with him, I would. I can’t, but then there’s Mimi. She gets the benefit of the wisdom.