Last year around this time, I wrote a post that has been one of my most popular posts to date called 7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My First Baby.
Having a baby was a tough adjustment for me, and I wanted to share some of the things I learned with mommies-to-be so that they might be more prepared than I was if/when the postpartum period wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine like some women make it appear to be.
I had my second baby a year ago Saturday, and although it was easier in a lot of ways (the birth was better, I didn’t struggle to bond with him, and I had a new confidence that I didn’t have the first time), it was still a challenge transitioning from one child to two. And like most transitions, especially for someone who doesn’t like change, it definitely had its rough moments.
But over the past year, I’ve had time to reflect and learn from those first few (sometimes difficult) months. And just like after my first baby, I made a list of lessons I would love to pass along to moms expecting their second child.
So in honor of Andrew’s first birthday this past weekend, here are 7 things I wish I had known before my second baby:
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7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My Second Baby
The juggling act is harder, but you will get it down.
Obviously, I knew that taking care of two little ones was going to be more work than taking care of one, but I didn’t realize the feats of strength, endurance, and yes, actual juggling, that it was going to require.
Finagling a car seat or baby in one arm, diaper bag with another, and a toddler’s hand in one of them is physically taxing. And simple errands, such as grocery shopping, required a carefully orchestrated routine that had to be done in just the right order.
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Yes, a second child definitely added a new degree of difficulty to the juggling act (and I can only imagine what it’ll be like when my kids outnumber my hands! I smell material for a third installment … when that day comes), and for a while I muddled through with a lot more sweat than grace.
But as the baby got older and I became more experienced, it became less and less of an ordeal. We have our systems and our routines down pat by now, and now it actually seems quite natural to juggle multiple bags, a baby, and a crying toddler (not that THAT ever happens …).
There are some perks to having another child.
On the other hand, there are also some perks to having another child, especially if your older child is old enough to actually be helpful. Aidan was 2 1/2 when Andrew was born, so he wasn’t quite as helpful as some other older children I’ve seen, but there have been a few things he can do.
He helps me throw away diapers, grab things I’ve dropped, put things away, give Andrew more food, and … my favorite perk … entertain him!! As much as having two kids to look after is harder than one, there are times that it actually makes things easier, such as when they want someone to play with them.
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There may be a grieving period. It’s okay.
By the time I was pregnant with Andrew, we had had two wonderful years of devoting all our attention and focus on Aidan. The summer before Andrew’s birth was full of special memory-making experiences as we anticipated Andrew’s arrival and soaked up those last few days as parents of an only child. I loved all the one-on-one attention I was able to devote to Aidan, and our bond grew so much over that summer.
As excited as I was about welcoming a second child into our family, I also dreaded having say good-bye to Aidan’s only child status. The idea of not being able to give him my full and undivided attention actually made me sad.
And those feelings didn’t just disappear with Andrew’s birth, either. During our hospital stay, I was captivated by our new little bundle of joy. And when Aidan came to see his new little brother, I was thrilled by their meeting. But when we got home, and for weeks after, I mourned that one-on-one time with Aidan.
As much as I loved Andrew, I wrestled with feeling that he was intruding on my relationship with Aidan somehow. I know it must sound strange, and maybe I’m abnormal, but I really did have to move through a grieving process as I ended the “mother of one” chapter in my life and began my new “mother of two” chapter.
Now, a year later, I can’t imagine our family without Andrew, and watching the two brothers play together brings me a whole new level of joy I didn’t even know was possible. I still look back fondly at that special summer with Aidan, but it doesn’t bring me sadness anymore, because now I have new, even better, memories with both of my children.
However, I first had to give myself grace to move through that grieving period. If you find yourself in the same boat, give it time and know that it will pass.
You will love the second child as much as the first … even if it doesn’t happen right away.
One of my biggest fears before having Andrew was that I wouldn’t love him as much as I loved Aidan. I knew that it wasn’t an uncommon fear, and many moms assured me that it was possible to love the second child as much as the first (and I really wanted to believe them, given that I’m the second child in my family, haha!). But I just couldn’t imagine loving another child as much as I loved Aidan. It didn’t seem possible to have that much love.
But it is, and I do. I now know what all those moms tried to assure me – your love as a mother doesn’t get divided when you have another child; it is multiplied. Not only do I love Andrew as much as I love Aidan, but I think my capacity to love has actually grown as I watch the two of them together.
However, I’m going to be honest and vulnerable enough with you to tell you that it didn’t happen right away. I may not have had the same struggles to bond with Andrew after his birth that I did with Aidan, but I did wrestle with my feelings after we got home.
Much to my dismay, though I loved Andrew with a sacrificial, motherly kind of love … I didn’t have the same feelings of love towards him that I did for Aidan. My fears were being realized – I loved Aidan more! And that broke my heart. I thought I was finally going to be the one exception to the rule. I was wracked with guilt.
But my wise husband (who is always the voice of reason in my emotions) reminded me that we had had more time to fall in love with Aidan. Just as with any relationship, we felt differently about Aidan because we knew him better, had spent more time with him, had bonded with him.
Levon encouraged me to give it time and assured me that the feelings would come. And they did, and now I can honestly say that everyone is right – you can love the second child as much as the first.
Time moves much quicker.
Just to warn you – time moves much more quickly with the second child, so hold on to your hats (and your promises to take pictures, journal, scrapbook, etc.)!
I distinctly remember the day as a child that I found, tucked away in some boxes in the attic, my (older) sister’s baby book. I rushed downstairs to show my mom what I had found, and I eagerly asked, “Where’s mine?” The response I received was something along the lines of, “Umm … well ….” That very day, I vowed that if I ever had more than one child, every single one of them would have a baby book. And just as many pictures by him/herself.
Yeah … about that …
I totally get it now. Time slips away faster than you even realize, and before you know it, you have a half-completed (or never-even-started) baby book, and nearly all the pictures you have of the second child also include his/her older sibling. Sorry, Andrew. I know all too well the disappointment you will one day experience when you see how much more documentation your brother has of his first year, but … well … Mommy’s doing the best she can.
You’ll be more confident … but don’t get too cocky.
I was amazed at the difference between Aidan’s first week and Andrew’s first week at home. When we brought Aidan home from the hospital, I was almost in zombie-land. I was scared, I was unsure, and looking back now, I’m pretty sure I had a little bit of PPD.
Andrew’s first few weeks were a completely different story. I was more relaxed, I was more self-assured, and I was 100x more competent! It was amazing how much more confident I felt the second time around. “I’ve done this before; this will be no problem!” I thought to myself.
Heh. Heh heh. Yes, taking care of a baby the second time around was easier, and yes, I definitely felt more at ease. But I also learned not to get too cocky, because every baby is different. Struggles that we had with Aidan (such as refusal to take a bottle) were a non-issue with Andrew, and things we never had to worry about with Aidan (putting things in his mouth, for one) were a constant battle with Andrew.
For a while I was frustrated, but now I really enjoy watching their differences emerge. Even though you’ve done this baby thing before, prepare to still be schooled. And then sit back and enjoy the ride!
You will settle into a whole new routine, just like last time.
One of my lessons from last year’s post was that you will once again settle into a routine, albeit a completely different one. Well, I am ending this year’s list with the same piece of reassurance.
After Andrew was born, I felt the same uncomfortable, at times overwhelming, upheaval of my routine. And I didn’t always handle it very well. But this time I had the advantage of past experience, and I was hopeful that life would, once again, settle into a “new normal.”
It took some time, but we have found a comfortable routine once again. I’m going to be straight with you – my productivity has taken a huge hit that it most likely won’t recover from for at least another 18 years. But the more I come to terms with the reality that I can’t do as much as I used to, the more comfortable that new routine becomes. As long as I resist the temptation to allow my to-do list to determine my mood and self-worth, my new life with two children actually feels twice as accomplished and twice as fulfilling.
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There are many things, before each and every new baby you bring into your family, that you can’t fully understand until you have actually experienced it.
But I’m sharing these seven things in the hopes that it might prepare a soon-to-be-mommy-of-two for the challenges (and joys!) she is about to face. Or, at the very least, assure her that she is not alone in facing some of these issues.
The transition can be tough, at times, and the last thing any mom needs is guilt, so let me assure you, if yours is not all rainbows and sunshine at first, give it time and give yourself some grace. It will get better.
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