My husband tells me that I favour our middle child. What’s more, my mother agrees. They tell me he’s cheeky, whereas when I look into his big blue eyes I see a child utterly without guile. I kind of figured they were just wrong. After all, his nonna seems to agree with me. He’s a sweet little boy who rarely throws a tantrum and enjoys sitting with his mum or nonna…
… of course there is that time that he said, “Happy birthday, poo poo head,” to his opa. But what three year old doesn’t find that kind of thing funny? And yesterday he did run off with his sister’s Batgirl and try to put it in the washing machine. I guess he did smack his identical twin brother over the head with a giant fairy tale book this morning. And he does lie in wait for his dad and constantly leap out at him like a minature ninja… but he’s still a very sweet boy.
It’s not like his older sister and twin brother don’t have their moments. I seem to be constantly carrying one or other of those pair. I swear they were an Emperor and Empress in a past life. They still haven’t gotten the hang of walking on their own two feet. And the noise, oh the noises that come out of those pair. It is like living next door to an airport. So usually I’d just dismiss my husband and mother’s claims of favouritism. But this morning something happened to give me pause.
During the night my youngest child crawled quietly into my bed and went to sleep down the bottom of my bed. My daughter was already in the bed. It’s not unusual for me to end up with the pair of them in my bed, the only weird bit was that my youngest child didn’t come in screaming and then attempt to sleep on my head. Apart from that it was just your regular Monday night. Me, and my oldest and youngest children, just much quieter and less physically invasive than usual.
At about 5am my mini Empress woke me to escort her to the toilet. I obediently did so but insisted she be quiet as to not wake the baby of the family. There’s only a minute gap between my boys, but it still counts. She did her best to stay quiet but eventually the urge to chat took hold not long after we returned to bed. I reminded her again to be quiet because of the baby. The three year old baby. And then I took a closer look at the baby. It wasn’t my youngest child but my middle child. And suddenly I got filled with this sense of urgency that my daughter must be quiet and my little boy needed to sleep. My heart stuck in my throat and a feeling of panic began to well up.
It’s a feeling I recognise all to well. It’s a very similar feeling that I used to get when looking at my boys when they were first born, and more so for my middle child. He was the smaller twin. The weaker twin. The one that almost didn’t make it.
During my pregnancy with my boys everything was going perfectly until 30 weeks. All of a sudden everything changed. Twin B had dropped off in his growth rate, his heartbeat was getting harder to detect. At 31 weeks my waters broke and I was kept in hospital on antibiotics and receiving daily ultrasounds. Twin B continued to tapper off. One afternoon at 32 weeks they told me that I’d need a cesarean the following day as the growth was now to little and the heart rate too uneven to endure a labour. I didn’t care. I wanted a live baby, I wasn’t fussed if that meant no vaginal birth.
That night the nurses came in and hooked me up to a monitor, I could tell things weren’t great. Nobody yelled or screamed but they decided to start me on the IVs I’d need for the cesarean a bit early. They continued coming in and out and then decided they’d wheel me down for surgery early. And then they felt given we were already there why no nip into the emergency delivery theatre and just get on with it.
My boys came out and both cried. I cried with relief that they were alive. They took twin B out first because he was the most fragile. So twin B became twin 1 and my middle child. He was tiny. 1.7kgs. He was perfect. And he was tough. He and his brother only needed nose prongs and only spent 3 weeks in the NICU. It could have been so much worse. I witnessed so much worse for other parents in the NICU. But it was enough to make me thankful that they were alive. And fearful.
Most of my worries were around my middle child, being that he was the one that had the issues in utero, and was 400 grams smaller than his younger brother. He’s fine now. They both are. Perfectly little boys that play and laugh most of the day. But I guess I still have that anxiety. That worry that he’ll be gone. That he won’t make it. It’s irrational and buried, but it’s there.
So although they’re wrong that my middle child is my favourite, because I love all my kids equally, maybe they’re right that I treat him a little differently. Because maybe I’m just a little bit more grateful that he’s alive, because he nearly wasn’t.
Do think you have a “favourite” child?