GROWING PAINS: Learning With First, Enjoying With Second

My daughter, Dasha, will celebrate her first birthday in a couple of days, and I am surprised how less difficult and more joyful her first year was in comparison with the first year of my son, Yegor.

Things have changed greatly since 1991, when Yegor was born. The situation in this country was quite different then, and my husband and I were younger, less experienced. It was a time when, even with a prestigious education and a job at a state organization, we couldn't afford to rent a flat of our own, so we lived with my husband's mother and grandmother.

Four generations were sometimes too many for a small, two-room flat. When Yegor cried at nights, one babushka rushed to our bedroom to check on him, and the other, older one wept in her room because she could no longer hear a baby cry.

With three women jockeying for position in fulfilling the child's every wish, the father was not eager to join the race. My husband was somewhat afraid of Yegor until our son was about 4; he first watched child-raising from the sidelines.

It was also much harder to take care of a child without diapers; the first batches of those goods that are so vital to parents - not to mention the children - appeared on the market only a year after Yegor was born. A friend of mine who was living in Finland at the time gave us an open package of diapers, with 10 left. We husbanded them so diligently, using them only for the most important occasions - visits to the doctor, very long walks - that, once Yegor got older and became potty-trained, we still had some left.

But I don't think life has been easier with our second baby just because of newly available domestic conveniences.

By the time Yegor was born, we had been living together for two years, and the baby was much welcome. But we weren't quite ready to be parents, still depending too much on the opinions of our parents and authors of books on child-rearing. When Yegor was born, we saw parenting primarily as a huge responsibility; now we see it as a joy as well.

I have painful memories of Yegor's first months: sleepless nights, constant panic that I would do something wrong. We believed the books that said it was absolutely wrong to take a baby into the parents' bed, that instead we should sit at his bed for hours when he was afraid or lonely.

Dasha hasn't liked her bed since I brought her home from the maternity hospital, and now she probably thinks it exists only as a nocturnal shelter for her stuffed animals. She sleeps well - but with us. We sleep well. And the world hasn't come to an end because of it.

I only hope that our first parental experiments had no irreversible consequences on Yegor's fate and that we'll manage to raise both our son and daughter to be healthy and happy.