by Mike Todd

“I can’t get him to turn the right way,” the nurse said as she slid the wand across my wife Kara’s gooped-up belly. I glanced at Kara to see if she’d picked up on what the nurse had just told us.

An older brother (and the parents) may be less than thrilled at the presence of an interloper who threatens to get the attention that formerly all went to the “only child.”

Three years ago, when I accompanied Kara to the ultrasound for her first pregnancy, the nurse made a big deal out of telling us the baby’s gender. “Are you sure you want to know?” she asked. We both nodded, leaning in.

“It’s a boy!” she said with a big smile. Balloons and confetti fell from the ceiling, and Kelly Clarkson walked slowly into the room singing “A Moment Like This.”

For the second pregnancy, though, the nurse didn’t bother with the big reveal. If I’d understood correctly, she had just informed us by a choice of pronouns.

“Everything checks out with HIM! You have a healthy baby,” she said as she put the wand away and snapped off her gloves.

I raised my hand. A dude in a gynecologist’s office needs to be careful not to speak out of turn.

“You’ve said ‘him’ several times. How sure are you that it’s a boy?” I asked, after she called on me.

“It’s still early to tell, but I’m 90 percent sure,” the nurse replied.

Kara and I had been careful not to have a preference about the gender, since our preferences would have little influence over the outcome, kind of like watching an Eagles game this season. Still, now that we knew we were having another boy, I started to get nervous. Our debut boy had been such a success, had we set ourselves up for a sophomore slump?

“We’ll be fine,” Kara said.

But already, by the time we got home, the slacking off began. With Evan’s ultrasound three years ago, we scanned it immediately and emailed the grainy images to our parents, plus anyone else who would look at them and probably several strangers who wouldn’t. You couldn’t tell whether you were looking at an image of a baby or a satellite map of East Mt. Airy, but during those first few weeks, we were second only to Ken Burns in making people look at black-and-white photos.

This time, though, a couple weeks after the appointment, Kara said, “Oh, we never scanned the ultrasound pictures.”

“Yeah, the scanner’s not plugged in. Too much hassle,” I replied.

This is how it begins. The firstborn gets a hand-embroidered birth announcement, a scrapbook detailing every moment of his first year, season tickets to the Phillies and Flyers and enough photos that would take a year to go through. The next child has to search through newspaper archives to find proof that he was born.

We’ve heard from many parents who say they simply didn’t have time to focus on taking pictures or doing arts and crafts once they had that second child. There is only so much time in the day. The historical record stops upon the second child’s birth, leaving future archaeologists scrambling to piece together any information about a second child.

Kara and I have vowed not to let this happen to us, but it’s already happening. Last time, we painted our first son’s nursery several months in advance, agonizing over the color choices, straining our eyes to see the difference between Polar Sky, Morning Glory and Cloudy Day. Paint companies could spare us all a lot of hassle by just having four colors to choose from, calling them: Kitchen, Living Room, Bedroom and Apartment/Ceiling.

To get the second nursery ready, we’re just arranging a pile of old clothes, leaves and mud into a nest in the corner of the garage.

No, actually, we’re already looking at swatches again. And hoping that his older brother will help our second son prepare for the fact that he will basically be neglected and overlooked until he earns his  medical or dental degree.