When I was expecting my first child I worried about a lot of things. What kind of mother would I be? What would childbirth be like? Would breastfeeding work?
When I was expecting my second child, most of those questions had been answered. My children are 3 1/2 years apart, so by the time I was pregnant again I had some experience. I had honed a parenting philosophy and spent my time in the trenches. I still worried, of course, but I worried about different things.
This time my worries were about how I would meet the needs of a my preschool-aged daughter Hannah, my newborn and – dare I dream? – myself. Sometimes, when I was big and pregnant and my daughter wouldn’t sleep I panicked. How would I handle this with two little ones? I feared I would never sleep again.
The good news is that second babies are almost always easier. At least it was that way for me. When baby Jacob arrived I had more perspective, and more experience in infant care. I didn’t sweat the newborn fussiness as much because I knew it would pass. After successfully breastfeeding one child I was able to avoid many of the struggles I’d encountered on my first go-around. I think many second-time parents share my experience.
Of course there were challenges that came with expanding our family from 3 to 4. It turns out I wasn’t up to pulling the night shift with two children. Thankfully, my husband stepped in to take over nighttime duties with my preschooler so that I only had to be up at 4am with one child. While Hannah’s adjustment was reasonably smooth, it still took some time for her to get used to the realities of life with a baby brother. I had to work hard to make time and space for her.
The most vital piece of wisdom that I received when Jacob arrived was that only one of my children would remember this time. While my infant son had a strong need for my presence, he didn’t necessarily have a strong need for my attention. He was happy to nap in a baby carrier while I took my daughter to the playground or did a puzzle with her. Once I had recovered from the birth and established breastfeeding, I incorporated my new baby into the life and routine I’d already established with my daughter. It wasn’t always seamless, but it mostly worked.
Now my daughter is 5 and my son is 19 months. He’s no longer a portable newborn, happy to sleep on me while I watch my daughter’s gymnastics class. Things are adjusting again. But they’re getting better, too, because my children are interacting more. They’re playing together and developing a relationship of their own. As my toddler gets a little older I’m getting little pockets of time to myself . It’s not always easy, but we figure it out as we go. And, really, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What about you? How did you find the adjustment from one child to two? Or, are you just contemplating it and feeling some of the panic that I did? Please share!
You can catch up with Amber’s regular adventures on her blog at Strocel.com.