There is very little in this world that will prepare you for the arrival of your first child. Ante-natal classes, the copious amounts of advice that everyone imparts on you – some don’t even need to actually have children to throw in their two cents.
While some of the advice may be helpful – in hindsight – very little will help an expectant mother with no idea of what’s on the horizon.
Waiting for the arrival of my first baby I had equal measures trepidation about what was to come and adamant certainty about exactly how I would parent my impending arrival. I will openly admit that almost none of these certainties panned out.
This, however, isn’t about all the craziness that ensues when you become a mother for the first time – this is about the sequel. I have learned that the only thing that really and truly prepares you for the arrival of a baby, is the arrival of a baby. Don’t misunderstand me, the arrival of a second child into the family comes with its very own unique set of challenges but it doesn’t carry all of the same uncertainties and terrors that you may have had with your first baby.
Here are a few things that were different for me, second time around:
1. I knew pregnancy wouldn’t be a walk in the park. After months of sickness the first time I had no illusions that the second time would be any different. Wait, that’s a lie – there was a small part of me that thought maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t spend weeks upon weeks heaving back up every morsel of food I attempted to eat. Turns out the only difference was it lasted longer the second time… But still, at least it didn’t completely catch me off guard.
2. Labour. OK, this one doesn’t really get easier because every labour is different and presents its own challenges but at least the fear of the unknown is somewhat lessened.
3. The first feeding. For breastfeeding the first latch and all that it involves is much easier – which makes sense because it’s literally something you would have never done before your first baby.
4. That first night. There is nothing that can prepare you for when everyone leaves you alone with your firstborn. When my husband went home that first night and the midwives left me to my own devices there was this moment of complete and utter terror. It was just me and my baby and I had no idea if I was going to be good enough for her if I was going to be everything she needed. I didn’t even know if I would be able to feed her? Changer her nappy? Put her to sleep? That first night alone with my baby girl is still one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. With my second baby, I was able to enjoy our first night together, staring into her little face, drinking her in and making all the promises mothers make without all the fear – well with less of the fear, at least.
5. Going home. With my first baby, I’d have happily stayed in the hospital until they kicked me out. How was I ever going to figure everything out when there wasn’t an experienced midwife at the end of the magic summoning button? The second time around I was desperate to get home – to get back to my first born and to get my second born settled in her new home – and to get away from the stifling heat of the maternity ward.
6. Putting the baby in the car seat. My husband took care of this both times but he assured me it was so much less terrifying the second time around.
7. Driving home. Both times my husband drove. The first time we were terrified – everyone on the road was a danger and should be locked up for our safety. It was the most nerve-destroying, tedious journey of our lives and we went straight home. The second time we detoured to the McDonald’s drive-through.
8. Settling in at home. The first time around this was tough. Finding our bearings, figuring out where the baby fit into everything, making sure we did everything right. The second time it was exciting without the worry – well with different worries. The second time was more about making sure there was a place and time for both the baby and the firstborn. We easily settled into the rhythm of feeds, nappy changes and naps the second time around – all with the eager assistance of a two-year-old.
9. Night time feeds and nappy changes. This isn’t so much as a shock to the system the second time around. I’ve learned that there’s a huge difference between being told to expect tiredness and having actually experienced the tiredness that comes with a newborn baby.
What did you find different the second time around?