Welcoming Your Second Baby: 5 Things You Need to Know
The day I found out I was pregnant with my older son was one of the happiest days of my life. A year and a half of trying, multiple fertility treatments and two miscarriages made for a heightened level of elation upon seeing the positive pregnancy test. I'll never forget walking into the bathroom, seeing the double lines and bursting into tears of indescribable joy.
The second time around was, well, a bit different...
It was right after Christmas, my older son was about a year and a half and had yet to sleep longer than a 2 hour stretch without waking up screaming. I was struggling to keep my head above water, drowning in a pool of anxiety about his atypical development. Desperate for some reprieve, I asked if my parents would stay the night with him so my husband and I could have a night away.
After a glorious night of uninterrupted sleep and a little, ahem, alone time, we woke the next morning feeling somewhat recharged. As we got up and got ready for the day, my husband said with enthusiasm, "we should do this more often!" Initially thinking he was referring to getting more sleep, I replied with equal enthusiasm, "Absolutely!" Then, realizing what he was actually referring to, I added jokingly, "I'll laugh if I'm pregnant!"
Four weeks later, and a few days before an appointment to have oral surgery, I realized I was late for my period. Just to be safe, since I was about to go under local anesthetic, I decided to take a pregnancy test.
I will never forget walking into the bathroom,seeing the double lines and bursting into tears of...complete shock. Like jaw-to-the-floor, out-of-body experience shock. Though I'd joked about it, given my difficulty getting pregnant with my first, there was no way in hell I thought I would get pregnant so easily.
We definitely wanted a second child, but I wasn't even close to being ready. In my sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden haze, I couldn't fathom going through another pregnancy. I walked into the kitchen, tears still streaming down my face, held the pregnancy test up to show my husband and cried, "so, apparently this is happening!" With a confused and bewildered expression, he exclaimed, "WHAT?! How is that possible?!"
So, yeah, a little different from my first. * makes a cringing face *
And so it goes with the second baby. Even though it's not your first rodeo, there are many unexpected feelings and experiences that go along with having a second. Just for the record- as soon as our shock passed, my husband and I were thrilled and incredibly grateful for what we deemed the "miracle pregnancy!"
To help make the transition less shocking for you, here are 5 things you should know about welcoming your second baby:
1. The closer you get to the birth, the more ambivalent you might feel. After the initial shock of the pregnancy waned, I was beyond excited. I couldn't believe that I basically blinked and got pregnant! I couldn't wait for our older son to have a sibling and went through the rest of the pregnancy feeling grateful and optimistic.
Then, about a month before my due date, I began to panic. I felt a surge of sadness and anxiety about the impending change in our family dynamic. Wait a minute! It's not just going to be the three of us! I fretted. How am I possibly going to love this baby as much as I love H? Whoa, whoa, whoa, I don't know if I can do this! We're finally in a groove (H had been sleeping through the night for 2 months) and now it's all going to change!
First the panic, then the guilt: What the hell is wrong with me? This poor little baby, he's already getting the short end of the stick! What kind of mom am I to be feeling this way?
Little did I know that this surge of panic and ambivalence is one hundred percent COMPLETELY NORMAL and to be expected. Of course we feel sad about our changing family dynamic. Of course we worry about how we'll be able to love another child as much. Of course we have anxiety about the transition. It's a big one! And transitions are hard!
So, when these feelings come (and they will), don't judge them. Acknowledge them, lend them some compassion and let them have their voice. There is a grieving process that goes along with any transition and these feelings are a very natural and normal part of it.
2. It's a bigger transition than you think it will be. Speaking of transitions... Remember when you were pregnant with your first and every parent you came across told you to "get some sleep while you still can," and you politely smiled and nodded, but you didn't fully grasp the gravity of their extremely annoying unsolicited advice until you were knee-deep in a "fourth trimester" sleep-deprived-stupor?
Well, not to be annoying, but the difficulty of the transition from having one kid to having two is exactly the same: You think you have an idea of how hard it's going to be, but you really don't, and you won't until you're in it.
Adopting the motto, Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, is your best bet here. Just sayin.
3. The baby will not be the difficult one. This one is very important. The new baby will be the least of your problems, it's child numero uno who will be your squeaky wheel.
For first born children, becoming a sibling is one of the biggest life transitions they'll ever go through. For their entire life, they've been the center of your universe, garnering all your attention and love and now, all of the sudden they have to share you with someone else? It's no wonder that the majority of first borns fall apart in the months before and after the birth. And by "fall apart," I mean completely lose their sh%t!
Be forewarned! Your first born child will likely experience some or all of the following:
- Sleep regression
- Behavior regression (baby talk, thumb-sucking, wanting to drink from a bottle)
- Increased tantrums and meltdowns
- A surge of separation anxiety
- Potty training regression
- Increased defiance
- Disinterest in the new baby
- Aggression (towards you and/or the baby)
Rest assured, these behaviors are completely normal and to be expected. Your job is to support your first born through whatever feelings he's experiencing- the good, the bad and the ugly! Letting him know that whatever he's feeling is ok will go a long way towards soothing his intense emotions. In my next post, I'll share specific ways you can support your first born through this rocky transition.
4. You WILL lose it. With my first son, I prided myself on my patience. Lose my cool? Yell? Moi?! Are you kidding, I was the picture of zen. Let's just say that after my second son was born, that little chip on my shoulder was put in its place. The demands of caring for your older child coupled with the demands of a newborn are enough to put even the most zen mama completely over the edge.
Don't judge yourself when you lose it; know that it's just par for the course. You're human, moreover, you're a MOM! There's only so many demands one person can handle. Your body has been and is still working incredibly hard, your hormones are all out of whack, you're exhausted, emotional and you have no idea when your life will start to feel "normal" again.
So, give yourself A LOT of grace. The first few months after having your second will be a roller coaster, but things WILL get easier. You WILL feel "normal-ish" again and yes, you WILL continue to lose it with your kids AND you'll still be an amazing mom.
5. You will experience a level of love you didn't know existed. Witnessing the bond that develops between your two children will result in a new level of love that's sure to leave you dumbfounded. In spite of all the turmoil this transition stirs up, you will expand and grow and be eternally grateful for the incredible little humans you created.
Even on your most difficult days, there will be moments of reprieve. When your baby smiles for the first time, or you see your older child give your baby a kiss when he didn't know you were watching, or your older child falls asleep, snuggled up to your husband, while your husband's in bed feeding the baby so you can get a few moments to yourself... in the end, it is all worth it and then some.
In my next post, I'll share specific ways you can support your older child through this transition. Stay tuned!
Are you about to welcome a second child? What are your fears, worries or concerns? Have you recently had your second child? How has the transition been? Leave your comments below, the Sensory Mom community and I would love to hear from you.