7 Things You Need to Know Before Having a Second Baby
If there’s one thing I’ve been asked repeatedly over the last year, it’s about how to open your heart (and keep your sanity) while welcoming a second child.
I’m here, barely sane, but telling you not to fear.
Mama, I know you probably have doubts. I know you aren’t sure how much more love your heart can hold for another baby, or how you can bear to divert any attention from your beautiful first-born. I know, it’s hard.
Please, let me give you some hope, some excitement, and some raw perspective. No, it won’t be perfect. But I promise you, it will be beautiful.
I’m afraid I won’t love this baby as much as my first.
When you became a mother, did your heart burst wide open? Letting in a love like you’ve never known before? Get ready, because that will happen again. You don’t know it yet, but there are even more colors on that spectrum that you haven’t even seen -- but you will! I promise.
I don’t remember how to take care of a newborn.
Lean on your village, mama, because that fourth trimester is always a blur. Yes, it’s easy to forget about the intricacies of newborn care, but remember that you have so much support. Your child’s pediatrician will remind you of the basics, quite a bit of it will come back naturally, and Google the rest! You got this!
Between potty training, sleep training and everything else -- will my older child suddenly regress?
Truthfully, they might. But the foundation you’ve laid with them is STRONG. And they’ll be back to themselves in no time. Guide them with firm and loving boundaries. Lean into all the cool “big girl” and “big boy” things they can do, reminding them that baby sister or brother isn’t big or strong or cool enough to do them yet.
They’re likely to relish in the superior role and rise to the occasion. Firstborn kiddos just love to lead!
Will my older child (and I?!) resent the baby for diverting my attention away from them?
There will be times that your first baby needs their mama -- and they’ll let you know, big time! But consider this a huge opportunity for your child to learn how many other loving arms they can lean on. My daughter was and is the ultimate Mama’s girl, and even she quickly adapted to (and even thrived on) her new special breakfast dates with Daddy. While I spent precious hours caring for and resting with our new baby, my daughter was gifted with a new perspective and experience with her father -- and he, uninterrupted time with her, and the opportunity to learn about and meet her needs. In turn, the time I spent with her became more special, precious and appreciated.
Let’s not forget: Your heart will absolutely melt as your oldest shows love and affection to their new sibling. What a gift you’ve given them, dear mama, to learn about caring for a tiny new human; and for a new best friend to travel through life with.
I won’t lie, those early days were a tough adjustment for us all. Suddenly I had another baby to love and care for, but no additional hours in the day. Day would turn to night and I’d sit there feeling like it hadn’t been enough. Did I spend enough time with Everly today? Am I meeting all of Colton’s needs? As I kissed her goodnight, I felt robbed of the quality time we used to share each day. She and I had been each other’s world, now suddenly there were new planets in our orbit, pulling us with their own gravity.
Days came and went, and the toddler’s demands began to pale in comparison to the newborn’s needs. As I laid down in bed next to his bassinet, I yearned to devote the same time and attention to him that I had when his sister was born. How cruel, I thought, that he only gets half a mother. How unfair, it continued, that I’m missing out on newborn cuddles while taming toddler tantrums.
He deserves all of me, but I don’t have any more to give.
Time moved on. Naps and feedings evolved. I realized that all I had to give was enough. It was enough for both of them. And they each filled and depleted my cup in their own respective ways -- but always balanced out by bedtime.
I seem to always find myself bouncing between their needs with every waking moment, savoring quality time with each of them, and succumbing to the chaos when their tiny, loud voices spiral out of my control. Allowing the madness to pass and wash over me like a wave. Because it always passes. I tune into each of them individually at least once a day while doing my best to foster our time together with meals and play. We are a unit, and every member of our team brings something special to our days.
I let go of the things I simply can no longer do. It’s a new day, and expectations will need to be adjusted accordingly.
I am afraid I won’t have any time for myself anymore.
Me time hasn’t been my forte this year.
Between the pandemic, a new baby and two under three, it’s been a lot. While I used to rely heavily on Everly’s nap and bedtime for a break, I quickly found that I could no longer count on either of those with any level of certainty. Even car rides to and from the park or errands were suddenly off the table with Covid quarantines.
Give yourself grace, mama, because it will take time to find your new rhythm. Some days are a glorious dual nap situation allowing for a full three hours alone during the day! Time to rest, time to clean, time to focus my brain on aspirations that keep me moving. But most days, I’m bouncing like a ping-pong ball between one or both kids, one waking up as soon as the other goes down. The house is a mess, my brain is mush, and it’s all I can do to keep them alive and fed without collapsing. Some days I melt into the floor like a zombie. Some days I cry. Some days I throw my hands up and just laugh right through it. I'm running 100 mph with no brakes or breaks in sight. I've learned to embrace it and accept controlling only what is within my power to do on any given day.
I become most frustrated when I’m unable to complete tasks set for myself. So, I stopped giving myself a to-do list (at least not a time sensitive one). I’ve talked to my husband about how to balance the work of keeping our home, and we’ve come to agreements about outsourcing the things that we need to. Takeout a few times a week; House cleaning service twice a month. In between, forgiveness and understanding when our meals are microwaved, the kitchen’s a wreck and we’re tripping over toys in the dark.
I tell myself over and over again: It’s a season… and someday I’ll miss this chaos.
I’m scared I’ll have a favorite child.
When Colton was born, Everly had absolutely no interest in him. It quickly became clear that she actually felt pretty averse to being around him. It was then I began to panic about sibling rivalry.
The book that helped me develop a healthy perspective about fostering their relationship now and in the future was “Siblings Without Rivalry.” What has really stuck with me as a parent is how they suggest tackling the inevitable questions from all kids: “Who is your favorite?”
In a nutshell, they challenge you not to proclaim to love them all equally, but to reassure them that they each have individual characteristics that are special, unique, and precious to you -- without comparing them to each other.
It’s not hard to see all the wonderful things about your children. As parents, we are hardwired to be their biggest cheerleaders! Every day, as these little personalities develop and emerge, I encourage myself to tap into and take mental notes about what I love about each of them - Everly’s sense of humor, eagerness to learn, and empathetic nature. Colton’s hugs, resilience, and joie de vivre. To me, they are equally beautiful, huggable, kissable and lovable - but I always try to celebrate all the wonderful things that make them different.
I truly, honestly and deeply love them each in their own special “Everly” and “Colton” ways.
(And my “favorite child” depends on what they’re doing that day, hour and minute. ;) )
Will everything change?
Yes, Mama… but in the best way.
It can be easy to dwell on the bumps that lie ahead, but trust me when I say that everything will be brighter with that new, sweet little soul in your life. They will be just as precious to you as the firstborn you love more than anything.
Just as you navigated motherhood for the first time, found your new normal and loved your baby like crazy… you’ll adjust everything again. You’ll captain through the rough seas, and you’ll find the way home to a new normal -- as will every other member of your family.
You. Got. This.
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