What I Wish I Had Known Before Having A Second Child
When I learned I was expecting my second child, I took an hour or two to myself before telling my husband. I basked in this secret, letting it trickle through my body. Slowly, it made its way to each and every limb – spreading a tingling sensation – awakening my entire body, and releasing endorphins I hadn’t felt since my early days of college, standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people, exposing my soul in theatrics.
I felt alive.
And then I felt sad. Very, very sad.
I remember looking at my son in those early moments after viewing that plus sign on the home pregnancy test. He was just a little over 1 year old. He was laughing about something with his daddy; his big doe eyes sparkling and full of innocent curiosity for the world around him, and then I started to cry. This was the end of his world as he knew it. In a few short months, he would no longer be my baby. He would no longer be an only child.
Would I be able to spread myself beyond him when there were days it seemed I could barely manage one? Would I be able to be there in the way I was now – 24/7 – and let every moment of every day revolve around him? Would it even be possible to love another child the way I loved him?
I wish I could go back to that moment and tell myself that it was going to be hard. There were going to be days where I felt like a failure. There were going to be moments that truly tested me. But it was all going to be OK.
Flash forward to present day: My first baby has just turned three. And his baby sister just celebrated her first birthday not so long ago. In this last year, as a mother of two, I have learned some things that I would like to share with you – a mother expecting her second baby – to let you know that it’s all going to be OK.
1. You have more love inside of your heart than you realize.
The night I delivered my daughter was the very first night in my son’s entire life that I spent away from him. I cried in that hospital room so hard that night. I felt like I was abandoning him for this tiny new little person I didn’t even know. I was so afraid I would resent her for this feeling. And then I felt bad for even thinking I might feel this way about a baby I had wanted so badly and waited for all this time. But, let me tell you, the moment I saw her for the first time, my heart opened up a door I never knew existed.
And the very next day, when my son came to visit us and meet his baby sister, it opened yet another door to an even bigger room filled with love and joy that I had no idea existed within me. She was two days old, and she filled a void in my heart and in our little family that we never knew was there. And every day after felt like no days existed in our lives before the day we met her.
2. That being said, there will be days (many days) where you have to choose.
This is the hardest part. My son was incredibly welcoming and adaptive to his sister’s arrival from the very start. And that made it difficult at times to remember that he was really still just a baby himself. I have always had enough love for both of them, but sometimes it’s really difficult to spread that love around. There are many days where they both need their Mama. And 9 times out of 10, I have to tell my son to wait. It’s difficult having a baby who wants only her Mama (and NO ONE else will suffice), and having a little boy who still needs his Mama during those times when the baby is being really consuming. My heart aches during those moments. Sometimes I hand the baby over to my husband and let her cry for me, because my son needs to come first every once in a while. He needs to know that the baby doesn’t always come first, and that he’s just as important to me as she is. He needs that reassurance that I will be there for him when he really needs me.
These are the moments that will really pull at your heartstrings and test your faith in yourself as a mother. When both of your babies are clinging to you and crying for you, and you feel as though you cannot be stretched any further, always remember: Your children are loved. They know they are loved. That is all that matters in the end.
3. You will never feel good enough.
In the age of all things “Pinterest,” and with Mommy Wars raging, it’s hard keeping up with the Joneses… and the Stewarts… and the Robinsons…. And with a toddler AND a baby, there will be days where you feel like you’ve accomplished a great deal if you manage to get everyone dressed and fed (hell, I feel that way every day!).
So often I find myself questioning my abilities as a mother of two. Most days are just so hectic in our house. My children never nap at the same time; and if they do, it’s for an approximately 10 minute overlap. I don’t get to spend quality time with my toddler, making crafts and building puzzles when the baby’s napping, because she doesn’t nap! And I don’t have the time to spend mentally storing every detail of her existence into my memory and making scrapbooks like I did when my son was a baby. I feel like they are each getting jipped. There’s not enough of me to go around. At the end of the day, most days, I feel incredibly exhausted but feel as though I have accomplished nothing.
I question everything.
Is he getting enough mental stimulation? Did I even remember to read a book with her today? Should I take him outside more? Sure- but who wants to drag a cranky baby outside too? I really should be playing with him while she naps, but I just want to sit on this couch for one second… never mind, she’s up!
There are no avoiding these feelings of inadequacy. But I can tell you that, at the end of the day, my children are happy, healthy, thriving little people. And while they might not have my attention, individually, 24/7, they do have each other. The bond siblings form at an early age is a true gift to mothers. Don’t feel guilty about it. Cherish it. Drink that cup of coffee and flip through that issue of US Weekly from last December while they play make-believe with each other and a couple of toy dinosaurs with Team Umi Zumi playing on the TV in the background.
Really. They’re OK.
4. Your second child will be raised more freely – no matter what you do.
Those of you who follow my posts might remember that I have OCD. Like, real, inhibiting OCD. While the birth of my son helped curb it greatly, it still came out in moments of motherhood madness in those early days. If his toys or pacifiers inched their way off of his playmate onto the carpeted living room floor, they were instantly sterilized. I spent hours researching toxins in baby items, and agonized over which ones to buy. (For this exact reason, we didn’t have a diaper bag until he was 7 months old.) Everything that went into his mouth was organic, unprocessed and all natural. His first food was an organic banana, and his very first bites of it were photographed and videotaped.
While I still do my very best to provide my children with a healthy, non-toxic lifestyle in every aspect, my daughter’s first year was a little different. Her non-toxic, eco teething rings are mixed in the toy bins with her brother’s matchbox cars and stale crumbs and remnants of snacks from who knows when. She plays with his “big boy” toys that I never would have let him touch when he was her age. And I’m 99% positive her first taste of real food was a piece of sliced deli ham that her brother gave her when I wasn’t looking.
It was always, and still is, my intention to raise my children in the healthiest environment, but as a mother of two, you really have to pick your battles. And let me tell you, there is no room for OCD in my life now. The biggest way to cure yourself from this inhibiting disease is to have a second child!
So, to all of the mothers out there expecting their second babies, please know that the sadness, anxiety and overwhelming need to spend every precious moment you still can alone with your first baby are all normal feelings. It definitely won’t always be easy. But you will discover that you are capable of so much more than you ever realized.
And it’s all going to be OK.
Photo Credit: With A Red Bird On My Shoulder
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