When we announced my second pregnancy to our family and close friends, they were all completely thrilled. They understand our story and the reasons why Ruby was an only-child for so long (See my IVF Story here)
But I do find the reaction of strangers quite amusing when they learn that there’s a twelve year age gap between Ruby and Hugo (Less four months) Obviously, if they see all of us together, they can see the age difference, but when Ruby’s at school and I’m out with Hugo on my own, people chat to us, as they do, and always say, ‘Oh, is he your first?’ (Maybe I look like a complete amateur) When I tell them no, I have a twelve year old daughter too, the reaction is nearly always the same: sharp intakes of breath, raised eyebrows and ‘Ooooh’ noises, shortly followed by, ‘Oh, I bet that’s strange,’ ‘How are you finding that?’ and ‘Oh, that’s a big gap.’
Of course, I know it’s a big gap. It was one of the things which frightened me most when I found out I was pregnant. My sister and I are only fourteen months apart and so twelve years seemed like an abyss.
There’s a big difference in having a baby at age 25 and then at 38. I was worried about how I’d cope physically with a later pregnancy and also how I’d adjust to life with a baby and then a toddler again. I’d got quite used to Ruby being mostly self-sufficient and can remember feeling quite euphoric on the day I told her to go and have a shower and she did it with no help at all. I joked with friends that it was like playing Snakes and Ladders; I’d got to number ninety-nine and had to go all the way down the big snake back to square one.
It was quite silly really, thinking about it now. David and I both speak often about not being able to remember life without Hugo in it.
Of course, having a large gap in age has its obstacles to overcome. In writing this, I listed the positives and negatives of the twelve year gap. At this point, I can only think of two negatives:
Firstly, school mornings are just a little frantic. Hugo may wake before I get up with Ruby at 6:45am, in which case he’ll have a bottle and go back to sleep until 7:30 to 8ish. Other mornings, he’ll wake at 7:30 or later and completely misses Ruby (which she hates) and then there are other days when he wakes up right in the middle of Ruby getting ready for school, which means me having to shout reminders from our bed whilst feeding him. Where I used to have to turn off ‘Charlie and Lola’ so she ate her breakfast, I’ve now had to ban Ruby from using her mobile phone in the mornings; it’s just too much of a distraction. She’s also taken to spending more time on her appearance, including curling her hair before school, which adds another ‘Huuurrryyy up!’ element on those days.
Secondly, Ruby’s in Year 8 now and usually has up to two hours of homework each night. I’ve tried leaving her alone to do it, but without support, it turns into a meaningless task if she’s done it all wrong. I find this gives me a chance to re-connect with her too though and to catch up with her news from the day.
Hugo’s quite good at being left in his Jumperoo or on his playmat while I help Ruby and while I’m flitting back-and-forth to the dining table to oversee Ruby’s homework, I begin dinner prep and continue with this juggling act until David arrives home from work and takes over with Hugo.
I’ve found the benefits of having a twelve year age gap far outweigh the negatives.
For example, if Ruby has finished her homework, she’ll often come and help with Hugo in the bath; she loves this and he loves it too. I can’t leave her alone with him completely, but I can dash across the landing to grab a new babygro at least and this is so handy.
Ruby’s a great extra pair of hands in most situations. She’ll keep Hugo occupied by playing and jigging him around if I’m tied up with something else and I can leave him with her for a few minutes while I run upstairs to sort washing and get bath things ready.
From the day he was born, Ruby has offered to change nappies and while I was recovering from my c section, she was such a wonderful help, taking Hugo off for a jiggle and wander round the hospital ward and when we got home, the house and garden. In fact, when she’s carrying him in public, we get a few funny looks; I’m sure people think she’s a gym-slip Mum.
Ruby is also old enough to appreciate that Hugo’s needs are sometimes more important than her own, and she’s very patient and understanding as long as I explain why I can’t come right now and that I’ll be there as soon as I can. Because she’s that bit older, she can also sense when I’m getting stressed out and she’ll often offer to take Hugo for a walk in the garden or into another room if he’s fractious while I’m busy with dinner or other chores.
She also loves going to the local shop to buy milk and other essentials if we’ve run out. I couldn’t ask that of a three year old sibling. In this sense, I feel that having a baby brother has been of great benefit to Ruby; she’s becoming a responsible young lady and we’re so proud of the way she’s adapted to her new life.
In the future, when Hugo’s old enough to visit soft-play and other places such as the farm, which Ruby has grown out of, she’ll be only too happy to come along and join in. We were saying recently that we should take Hugo to a farm and she was so excited thinking that she’d be a part of it too. And if Ruby ever does get fed up and doesn’t want to come somewhere with us, she’s old enough to be left alone for a short while and so the situation is working out quite well.
I’m well aware that things may change; one thing I’m not looking forward to is having Ruby doing her GCSEs in the same year Hugo starts school. Talk about different ends of the spectrum! So, this may not be the last you hear of me on this matter, but for now, at least, our twelve year age gap is working out just fine.
One thing’s for sure, I know everything happens for a reason, and when you have no plan, it seems there was no need to worry, because there was already a plan for you. You just didn’t know it.
Having Hugo as a new little brother couldn’t have come at a better time for Ruby; she got a new little companion at the time she needed it most.
Thanks for popping by.