Monday, January 11, 2010

Having Baby #2

It is such a joy to watch my couples from my childbirth education classes families grow. I usually do have a few couples in class that have had previous children, so I try to address a couple of issues that parents are typically concerned with when have that second baby. Most do not voice these concerns, but once we get to talking, nearly everyone has them.

Think back to being pregnant with the first baby: the excitement (hopefully!) of seeing that pee- stick tell you that you were going to have a baby, picking a doctor or (hopefully!) a midwife, reading all the books, listening to countless birth stories and wondering what your own birth would be like. That first time around is just magical. Feeling the baby move, laughing at your baby's hiccups, thinking that Braxton-Hicks contractions were the baby doing a major somersault.

The first time you tried to breastfeed, all the worrying about if you were doing things right. What kind of mother you'd be. You watched your baby's every move. Recorded all the firsts. There are a million pictures on your computer of your baby doing everything from sleeping to smiling to crawling to eating solid food. It was all so new and amazing to watch this little person grow. He had your undivided attention, often much to dad's dismay!

When you found out you were pregnant with baby #2, you probably felt excited that you'd get to do this again. This time, you promise yourself that you'll remember what it feels like to have a baby inside you move their little feet. Hopefully you won't be sick, whether you were or were not the first time around. Being sick with a little one in tow is quite different that being sick by yourself! So, no guilt when your child watches Sesame Street over and over! Survival mode might kick in! And that is okay. It's all for a good cause.

A lot of second time parents don't read for a couple of reasons: 1) they think they already know what they are doing (this is even more true with the 3rd baby), or 2) they just don't have the time now. For me, I wanted a different birth, so I read like crazy and got a babysitter for the weeks of childbirth classes. I see this a lot with my couples that already have children. It's about commitment.

You may or may not remember the first time you felt the baby #2 move and even if she moved very much. You are mostly dealing with the baby you already have!

In the back of most parents' heads at this point is, "Can I love another baby as much as I love this one?" It's so hard to imagine. A lot of parents have expressed that if the baby is a different sex, it will be easier for them to be excited -- to feel like it's something new. More worry if it's another boy, or another girl. More comparing.

Parents typically are much more confident in taking care of the second baby. The other child has survived somehow, so we must be doing something right! Once the baby is actually here, the parents find out that, yes, I can love this baby just as much as the first baby. Oddly, it seems to only occur with baby #2, this worry. You'll find yourself protecting baby #2 from baby #1 and trying to help him understand why he has to be quiet when the baby is sleeping or why he can't throw balls in the house.

There is often guilt in those early months, as baby #1 wants -- and has been used to -- your undivided attention. I always put my babies in the sling and they became almost invisible to the other kiddos. Baby was happy, mama was happy, and other children were happy. Win, win, win. It's ok that your older child is having to learn patience. You have given him a playmate and while they can't play yet, in just a few short months, they will. Let's face it, as great a playmate as I'm sure you were, another child is so much better! They will learn negotiation, sharing, fun, and hopefully will get a best friend out of the deal. That guilt you initially feel will hopefully be very short-lived.

Shortly after Vena (my #2) was born, I remember David had been at work one night, and I must have been feeling adventurous and decided to bathe both children at once. We were in a tiny BYU apartment at the time. Daymon (#1), 2 1/2, was in the big bathtub and Vena was in the baby bathtub on the floor. I don't remember all that transpired in those few moments, but I do remember that David came home to find us all three crying, the two kids on my lap, on the bathroom floor. He looked in, and just turned back around and shut the door! There were days when I was convinced that this was a huge mistake to have another baby!

Vena was an interesting baby, and still, my most interesting child. She would smile at me and David, but no one else. Everywhere we went, people would talk to her in the sling and tell her how beautiful she is. My dad used to say that she could stare a hole through you. No expression. The only person that could ever make her laugh was her big brother. I am not exaggerating. Eleven years later, this is the sister that he is most bonded with.

In fact, going from 2 to 3 kids, for me, was much easier because #1 and #2 would play together while I dealt with #3. My words of caution with #3 is to not be cocky or over-confident -- with the pregnancy, and especially the labor and birth. I've talked with midwives who say that 3rd babies make them the most nervous. Not just the labors, but the parents. They tend to have a know-it-all attitude and do not prepare themselves appropriately. This was definitely our case. Stay humble!

Middle child is a tough place to be. I'm a middle child. I always felt that my mom's favorite was my brother, being her firstborn. He was also 8 1/2 when I was born, so they had been together for a long time before I came along. And my dad's favorite was my sister, two years younger than I. All those pictures of #1, and you swear that you won't be like your parents. You will record all those firsts and have equal amounts of pictures of all your kids. Impossible! I'm just like they were.

My experience with #2 is that it has been very easy to ignore her. #1 demands so much attention because they are used to it. Second babies tend to entertain themselves easier, or be entertained by big brother or sister instead of mom or dad. I have often used the phrase, and everyone has heard it, "The squeaky wheel gets the oil." The children that don't squeak as much need just as much attention as the squeaky ones. Vena has had a lot of issues -- self-soothing issues, I'll call them -- that I think could have been avoided had I not relied on Daymon to entertain so much. Pay attention to those non-squeakers!

Love those babies. I can hardly hold my baby anymore. She's almost 5. They will grow. No matter how many babies you choose to have, you'll be amazed at how much love you'll have in your heart. Try to remember every single sweet moment, even though you know you won't!


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post!!! We will be welcoming girl #2 in March and I have been struggling with so many of those feelings. I already feel guilty because our first child is 20 months and needs so much that I have been unable to sit back and enjoy this pregnancy as much as I did the first. -Randy

Allison said...

You are so right! I was really unprepared for the guilt I felt after #2--I really missed just caring for #1. And he was barely 2 so really I had TWO babies to take care of (and that's A LOT of diapers). I'm sad that I do not remember much of #2's infanthood and that some of what I do remember are not my happiest memories. So I promised myself that I would enjoy #3as a newborn and I really have! It helps that he is one of the most content babies I've ever met :), and it also helps that #2 is old enough to be my big helper. It has really hit me just how fast they grow up and are out of your arms!

Jessica said...

Donna, this is a beautiful post. I loved reading it. I'll have to be sure and come back and read it one day when we have another one. =)

rachel said...

Thanks for this. We're about to start trying for #2 and it does scare me! My son is 3.5 and it took me this long to even consider it. Here goes nothing... :)

Jessi said...

So true! Especially the part about the kids being better playmates for each other than me. I'm so thankful my kids have each other and are only 2-3 years apart.

Now tell me about #4...just saw the two lines yesterday... :)

Banned From Baby Showers said...

Jessi, congratulations!! Four isn't much different, just a lot of kids!

Kati said...

WOW!! I needed this! We are excepting #2 in June. #1 will be 3.5 yr and he is already a handful, but a sweet child. I live this human being and I know my heart will only grow, but I still worry about #1 getting the attention he needs. I know I WILL do things better with #2 and I feel bad b/c I didn't know better with #1. My hubs said that you live and your learn, but I still feel guilty.

NatĂĽrelMama said...

Love this. I had number 2 almost a year ago and I have REALLY struggled. I wish many days that I had just one child, because I feel now neither child is getting the attention they deserve. But seeing them play together, hearing their joint giggling (like I am right now) is worth it. I think... more on this when they're in high school...