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Contemplating Birth Order January 8, 2008

Filed under: Naval Gazing — booksunread @ 4:52 pm

OR: The Oops, The Golden Child and the Failed IUD

So I’ve been thinking a little bit about family dynamics now that I’m pregnant. Specifically, my mom’s sort of underwhelmed reaction over Christmas to the news of another grandchild pending relative to her unending fascinating with her other grandchildren (my brother’s kids).

Miguel was very put out with what he saw as my mom’s lack of interest once the news was out.  Sure she teared up at the announcement and expressed appropriate congrats, but after that, there were not a lot follow-up questions, and instead there were many stories about the cute thing grandson or granddaughter did the other day.  I think the final straw for Miguel was when instead of inquiring Christmas morning how I was feeling, how the baby was doing, my mom’s first musings were “I wonder what time grandson’s helicopter took off this morning?”

I think I was less bothered by it than he is for a lot of reasons.  One, Salsera and I have complained for years about how my brother is the favorite, so no big surprise with the doting on his kids (more on that below).  Two, my mom is just more private and reserved in general than his family; she was not going to ask a lot of questions that she felt like would be intrusive.  This is probably compounded by the fact that at our last visit in October, I kind of let her have it about her seeming (to me) assumption that we weren’t going to be having kids, and then I had to bail out early for an appointment (pre-insem ultrasound) on a Sunday, so she knows something was going on in that arena that I wasn’t sharing any detail with her on.  (Which, I feel like she should have been figure out on her own before now…3 years since we lost a tried for and wanted pregnancy + still no baby=having trouble there, obviously.) I’m sure that made her tread more lightly around the subject.

Third and finally, since she wasn’t filling the conversation time with all those pesky follow up questions, she had to fill it with something else, and the other grandkids are the most happening thing in her life.   They live close by and she sees them a few times a week usually.  In contrast, we live 6 hours away. I’m sure after a visit to our house, my brother gets an earful about our house, our dog and us-we’re just not there to hear it.  She’s just making conversation.

To circle back to the title of the post though, sorting all this out in my head did also lead me to think a bit more about our family dynamic and the perceived “favorite”–especially in terms of how we all came to be.

Now, no one has ever used the word “mistake” when describing Salsera’s arrival. However, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that her arriving 14 months after they were married, while my dad was still finishing school and they were living in a trailer, was a product of two Catholic school kids believing the rhythm method actually worked.  (And while she may have been unplanned, my aunt assures me that Salsera was never the less very much wanted and loved when she did arrive.)

Subsequently, it appears that my parents found a more reliable form of birth control, because my brother did not arrive until almost 5 years later, when my parents were more established.  Clearly, his arrival seems to have been a timed event-planned for and wanted.

I learned a few years ago that my arrival just 14 months after my brother can be squarely blamed on a failed IUD.  Nice, right?  Again, in context, I wasn’t told this out of any malicious intent; we were having a convo some years ago about how I’d been thinking once baby making time was over that I would switch to an IUD for long term birth control, when my mom countered with the fact that IUDs weren’t 100% effective-and I was the proof.  Innocent convo, still why would you tell your kid that they were anything less than hoped for and wanted with all your heart?

And as I was thinking about this more the other day, I realized that an IUD is not a short-term birth control method. It is a “I am done having kids/I don’t want to think about having a kid for 5+ years” method.  Considering that my parents already had two kids five years apart, the odds that they were planning on going for three five years down the line are pretty slim.  It’s logical to assume that they had decided not to have any more kids after my brother.  While Salsera can complain she was the kid they didn’t want-YET, it dawned on me that I was the kid they didn’t want-EVER.

Okay, and I’m not trying to get all melodramatic here, all “Wah, my parents didn’t want me, they didn’t love me, wah,” because it wasn’t like they were all “you were a mistake, we wish you’d never been born.”  I had a totally normal (all be it a little strict and somewhat less emotionally expressive) childhood.  My parents raised us with good values and work ethic, gave us opportunities for extra-curriculars like music and sports, made sure we did well in school, supported us through college (as long as we pulled acceptable grades) and have given financial support when needed.  I have a good relationship with my parents as an adult, we visit home and they come to see us several times a year and we enjoy each other’s company (you know, within reason :)).  Specifically, while I may not have been planned for, I have been doted on as the baby of the family and I don’t doubt that my parents love me and are proud of my achievements.

So why the big belly button lint inspecting post here, then? I dunno, it was just sort of a weird thing to realize, I guess.  It makes me wish I could be a fly on the wall back then and see what it was like for my mom when she found out she was pregnant again.  Was she dismayed for a while before getting used to the idea? Was she immediately excited because even though they’d decided to cut it off at two for practical financial reasons (something my parent’s would TOTALLY do-planners and savers!), she was really happy for another baby?  Was she reluctantly resigned until I got here and she got to know me?  None of the above because you just didn’t think like that back then and she was busy wrangling a precocious preschooler and a newborn?

I suppose I could just, you know, ask.  But we don’t talk about that stuff in my family.

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