i know that you’ve done this before and you feel informed and competent. good.
you might also anticipate that it will be different this time around. great.
you aren’t prepared for just how different it’s gonna be though. sorry, but how could you be? like every other aspect of parenting, you just can’t know until you know.
simply put, everything with your second will be completely different. likely even from the moment of conception. isn’t that exciting?! alright, perhaps not, maybe you wanted to draw on all you’ve familiarized yourself with (and maybe even mastered). perhaps knowing that it won’t be the same is terrifying for you.
i hear you. becoming confident the first time was journey enough and no one really wants to go back to those days full to the brim with self-doubt and anxiety. rest assured, it won’t be like that. there are, however, hurdles awaiting you… the very fact that there’s already a child in the mix means that there are more variables to consider. adjustment will be different this time around.
don’t worry too much about your biggest, though. kids are adaptable. a little sensitivity and lots of extra TLC goes a long way with those wee ones. what i would recommend is that you prepare YOURSELF.
below is what i wish i’d known going in, complete with pep talks for your benefit- just in case you could use one (or 20). you can thank me later.
the truth about two
1. the pregnancy.
your body will experience this baby uniquely. it’s not just older, after all, it’s completely changed. i mean, obviously, you’ve been pregnant once before. you’ll feel twinges more, movements earlier, pain faster. you will also feel big faster. tired faster. you will feel ready faster.
the pep talk: remember how fast it went by last time? right. it will fly by this time too. you know now that you can never get those pregnancy moments back and that your baby is as close to you now as they will ever be. so breathe, be present, be mindful. be accepting, be tolerant, and be patient.
2. the anticipation.
you would think that it would be worse the first time around. you know, when you’re walking around like a ticking time bomb, waiting for the big green light to shine on what you think labour might feel like.
fair enough, those were some high strung times. the truth is somewhere in the middle, i’m sure, but i would wager that the waiting is more challenging the second time. because you’re no longer ignorant to what’s coming down the pike, eagerly waiting for labour might now feel more like dread.
the pep talk: the fact that you’ve signed up for round two of primal pain fest is behind door number one day. it’s gonna happen ready-or-not so don’t make it harder on yourself re-living all the back labour, skin tearing, big head gushing gore from the first time. oops, never mind that. you’ve done this before and you can do it again. your body is infinitely powerful, capable, and resilient. also, breathe some more. fear ain’t gonna help with nothing.
3. the birth.
news flash: you forget. you’ve been worried about the big bang (see above) and you’re sure that birth is gonna be beyond your wildest dreams hard. in theory, you remember. you tell the stories, you make the faces and you shake your head being reminded; recalling the ‘wow’ factor. but… you can’t actually retrieve those sensations, your mind won’t let you.
the pep talk: psych yourself up, honey. now.
4. the wonder and awe.
it will show up for you. birth is an absurd and miraculous event and it always will be. a new baby is as tremendous as ever. the way they feel on your chest for the first time remains as humbling and terrifying and inspiring. when they look at you and register you as their mother your heart will implode. the first time they suckle and you know they are at home, exactly where they should be, you become more of a mother for them. they arrive, and then you arrive too.
the pep talk: do not look away or rush these moments. they are few and far between with your second. gaze at them for as long as you possibly can while no one else is around. soon, there will always be someone around.
5. the first few days / weeks / months.
this is all about managing your expectations. i know you have the best intentions. i know you have carefully considered how you will support your eldest adjust. i know you have plans to meet your neighbour at gym drop-in the week following your baby’s arrival- just to keep things “normal” for them. i know you think you can create a quiet time for your eldest that will allow you to indulge in the baby, uninterrupted. i know that you are a capable and committed parent and that you plan on rolling it all out like you do now. after all, you have your rhythm, the days flow, meals and bedtime now go off without a hitch.
well, here’s what. a baby is coming. a lovely, incredible, amazing, unpredictable, and demanding baby. this is outstanding and amazing but it will also throw you. all of you. it’s about to go down… initially, you might not be as good of a mom to your baby as you were to your first. you certainly won’t be as good to your eldest, either.
the pep talk: it will be different from how it was. it will be different from how you wanted. it will be different in every way because you’re not the same, life is not the same, and your baby is not the same baby your first was. that’s okay. it’s more than okay. in fact, in the end of your adjustment, when you have all found your feet, it will be even better then before. i can promise you this.
6. baby weight.
i am well aware that you think you will get your figure back quickly by attending your beloved workout class (they gym even offers child minding!). but… it will come off slower. yup, sad but true. when do you work out with two? let’s just say you don’t for the first while.
the pep talk: you will make time for you again. you will find the sun again. you will feel renewed and healthy and fit again. for now, take solace knowing that this is not about anything you can do better. you can’t make time for you at this moment because you now have two dependents. your eldest, who was recently quite self assured, will be needier. your new baby doesn’t get as much dreamy-wonder-cuddle time as your first and he relies on you to hold him for in a carrier for cozy bonding time. you can’t run / swim / kick-box or do yoga with an ergo held baby. that’s just the way it is. your baby needs you to hold him close against your body. your body that is perfect and miraculous, just the way it is.
7. your partnership.
remember how disinterested you were in anything but sleep after your first? double it. at the end of the day you’ll be taxed out, tapped out, and tuned out. notice that i didn’t say you’d be turned on?
it doesn’t mean that you won’t survive. it doesn’t mean that you don’t love him. it doesn’t mean that you won’t want to jump his bones again (one day- far, far from now- after he’s had his vasectomy).
the pep talk: don’t force it. focus on you. focus on your recovery, your health, your rest, and your sleep. focus on what your soul needs to be fed. when you feel whole again you might feel capable of sharing.
the elusive sleep. napping when the baby naps isn’t an option when you have another who either doesn’t nap or that does but also leaves potential choking hazards everywhere, requiring attention when they are both asleep. plus, even if you have a good sleeper we all know night feedings are exhausting (and magical and special) no matter how much day sleep you can get.
the difference this time is that your eldest has expectations. engage me, entertain me, recreate with me, create with me, talk with me, share this with me, learn with me, teach me, notice me, notice me, notice me, love me! sound familiar? turn up the volume on that.
this is the pep talk: respond even if you are exhausted. endure. survive. thrive.
9. role dynamics.
it’s not just your eldest that will feel jealous. you will too. jealous of your spouse for getting some 1:1 time with your first. jealous that you may no longer be the favorite.
it’s hard but it’s a fact: your eldest will seek meaningful interaction from people who aren’t distracted or half present. they will try to find someone who can make them feel like the priority. you think you’ve made enough space for them but trying to get to know, love, feed, change, and protect the new baby takes away from all that they were used to. it’s fair, and part of the process, but it hurts… no one tells you how much you might miss someone even when they are sitting next to you on the couch.
pep talk: change is hard on everyone. know this and accept that it’s a process. the good news is that as your family realigns itself and re-defines itself it will grow- and not just in size.
10. surprising feelings.
you might also resent your eldest. it’s scary and uncomfortable to feel this way but it’s also common. you might wish you could attend to the baby uninterrupted. you might wish you could cuddle the baby or sleep with the baby without having to consider anyone’s feelings. you might be breastfeeding the baby and your eldest might be climbing on you and you might want her to get the hell off so you can not be double touched 100% of the time. it’s weird.
the pep talk: be gentle. pause, dig deep, and be the parent you aspire to be. you can do this. with commitment and effort you are capable of greatness. also, be gentle with your self and your guilt. we can’t be perfect all the time and, dude, we all have our limits.
it’s all clear now: baby led weaning is not a parenting philosophy. it’s a practical reality.
the pep talk: do what works for you. always. the easy path is not lazy. easy is often so because it’s intuitive for you. that’s smart. survival is smart.
12. the learning.
as above, we interpret information in new ways across time. we also sometimes need to learn old information again. i know you mastered that latch, that soothing technique, and that sleep inducing miracle equation in the past but it’s been awhile and, even then, this baby’s gonna go about things their own way. or, you know, you may find that what felt intuitive then may not now. you may need help in ways you previously did not.
certainly you will be informed by your previous experiences and will have many successes to draw upon. but, you might also may have gaps in knowledge- ones you can’t predict because you don’t know this baby yet!
the pep talk: be brave, and don’t let this turn in to a confidence crisis. the process of getting familiar with your baby, for all the reasons they are wonderfully just like them, is actually the beauty of all this. also, humble up and ask for support. help exists and no one will judge you if you need some.
13. “the seconds”.
there are still many firsts…. your first VBAC. your first time nursing successfully. your first boy, or girl. the first time your baby is held by your eldest. kissed by the eldest. the first time your baby smiles at his sibling. the first time your baby chooses you for company over their sibling.
the pep talk: if you witness your own underwhelmed reactions at the traditional firsts, don’t judge or “should” yourself. many, many special firsts await you. you will become silly-giddy and squeal just like you did before. you will have your eyes brim with tears. you don’t know what will provoke you this time but, rest assured, your baby will help you discover a whole new world of “firsts”.
14. the “lasts”.
in those first few months as a new parent, there is no reference point. when the hard days (and nights!) feel like forever you have no perspective on how brief this stage actually is. pregnant with your second, you know now just how fast our babies age… you know that time is fleeting. you can truly appreciate how precious the brief moments of infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool-hood are. the milestones fly by, and we lose sight of what it was like before they were achieved.
with your second, if it is your last child, you may be surprised that you mourn the passing of these milestones as opposed to celebrate them. the first time they sleep though the night? no more warm skin to skin cuddles. their first steps? the last time you witness that amazing feat.
the pep talk: get your feet on the ground. be ready for how much faster it will go by this time. and please, i beg you, don’t rush what you can never get back.
15. the questions.
you think you’ve heard the end of intrusive questions; intimate questions related to your values that no stranger should have the right to ask- even if you do share common circumstance (i.e. mom-land). well, you haven’t. “which ones your favorite?”, for example. “do you wish you’d had a boy/girl, instead”. “no, really. i kid you not.
pep talk: don’t bite. you need to be a good example for your eldest, after all. did you hear me woman? i know you have no patience for this but don’t let ‘em get you down. you’ll have enough reasons to get riled up. like…
remember how long it took you to get out of the house those first few weeks and months with baby number one? that’s funny.
pep talk: do it anyway.
you won’t be the same parent to your second and you will break all your own rules. that’s okay. in fact, it’s probably better. you know how you learnt to get over yourself when you first became a mother? that. but more. there’s no way you can replicate who you were then. or now, even. time moves, we move, it all moves. it’s a popular myth that two children were raised the same way. the mere fact that there are more variables makes this impossible. it’s all an illusion.
the pep talk: frankly, i’m still processing this one. just sit with that a bit.
you won’t play with your kids as much. it’s true and weird and i’m still coming to terms with it. it’s not because you are lazy, or busy even. it’s because you don’t have to: they have each other. interesting shift, right? you will need to be danger police and a referee but that’s got nothing on being someone’s full time playmate.
the pep talk: embrace this. delight in this. marvel at your two creatures interacting with one another. consider making dinner, cleaning, or whatever else so that during nap time you can actually chill. or, spend time daydreaming about what kind of awesome you and crew are going to try on next. the point is: recognize this as an opportunity- it is one.
19. the house.
you know how you (rightfully) lowered your expectations with regard to cleanliness? do that more. a lot more. in fact, admit defeat. it was possible to contain the mess created by one. having two is like having hurricanes of fun and energy exploding all over the place. also, as they grow, there will be more art than you can acknowledge / manage / organize. initially, this may be a source of moral distress.
the pep talk: get over yourself. there is no shame in hiring a cleaning lady so long as you pay her well. also, chuck shit. your kids won’t want it when they’re older, anyways. (yes, it’s true, i no longer keep everything that my kids make with their own mucky hands. it’s AWESOME).
20. the love (in the end, it’s always about the love).
you might be worried that you won’t be able to love another child as much as your first. i get it. as enamored as i was, it certainly took me time to fall in love with my second.
the pep talk: if this is true for you when you get there, don’t worry. you will fall in love with your second in so many ways and so hard that you will wonder how life could ever have been complete without them. also, know this: you will relate to this new life differently and therefore you will love them differently too. the “same” amount, of course, but not in the same way. if you look to feel similarly, that’s where you’ll get tripped up and you might not recognize the love growing in you. the truth is, they’re different from each other and you’re different than the mother you were then, too. the love you generate in this time and place will be unique and, even more to point, the love you have for each child cannot be replicated. it’s customized to them. trust me though, you’ll get to know them (and your love) and it will be divine.
good luck soldier, and don’t worry too much.
we bumped and rolled and crashed into life as a family of four and we came out the other side happy, solid and strong. plus, kids don’t really form long- term memories until about age 3, so you have at least that long to figure it all out.
in solidarity, hh.