Editor’s note: April is Cesarean Awareness Month, an international observance designed to reduce unnecessary Cesareans, advocate for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) and help women heal from the sometimes-difficult emotions surrounding a Cesarean birth. Attachment Parenting International‘s First Principle of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting advocates for parents to research their options regarding childbirth choices. While API promotes choices with the least interventions possible, Cesareans are necessary in some situations. It’s important for mothers to fully process their experience, not only for their own emotional health but also for their bond with baby, so their Cesarean birth story can be beautifully retold, again and again:
I gather her in my arms and feel her head rest against my chest. “You were ready to run out!” I say, and she giggles as she always does. “I could feel your head right here by my heart and your feet were straight down and ready to go.”
“I wasn’t upside down like other babies,” she adds, looking into my eyes.
“No,” I reply, “you were special and so excited to come out and meet the world.”
“I was ready to run,” she repeats. “I’m a fast runner!”
“Yes, and that’s why you got to come out a special door in my tummy,” I say, putting my hand over the spot where my Cesarean scar is. My daughter puts her hand over mine and echoes, “a special door.”
“And when you were born,” I remember, “Daddy and I snuggled you and kissed you and said, ‘Welcome!'” My voice gets husky and tears spring to my eyes.
“Did you cry, Mommy?” my daughter asks.
“Yes, I did,” I reply. “A little, because I’d waited for so long to meet you, and because I was so happy to hold you in my arms.”
Then I got pregnant and was blindsided by terrible morning sickness. Then I had a miscarriage. Then I got pregnant again. Basically I threw up every day for a year. It was seriously not fun.
Now, I’m getting to ready to add a second child to our family, and my goals have changed. Last time, my only concern was a healthy pregnancy. Now, I also need to be a good parent to an active toddler while I’m pregnant.
While I’m worried about no longer being able to nap under my desk, I also feel like this time I have a better idea of what pregnancy is like. Here’s what I’m doing differently now that I know what to expect:
Before my first pregnancy, I had a regular yoga practice. Now, most of my exercise comes from chasing a toddler around.
While I’m trying to prioritize working out, a daily 90-minute yoga session is not in the cards. Instead, I’m focusing on specific muscle groups.
I’m using pilates to work my core and pelvic floor, which really take a beating during pregnancy.
I’m also working my shoulder muscles. I had a lot of shoulder pain with my first baby from constantly picking her up and holding her, so much so that I ended up in physical therapy. By working my shoulders with resistance bands, I’m strengthening my muscles to prevent overtaxing them later.
I’m still breastfeeding my 2 year old, so I’m trying to eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
Before my daughter was born, I never drank coffee. Now, I need a cup in the mornings to get going. Before my first pregnancy I would have obsessed over this. Now I’m letting it go, since the amount of caffeine is well within the range considered safe and I’ll be better able to parent my daughter with the extra energy.
The importance of prenatal vitamins is common knowledge, and I started taking them long before I got pregnant. But once I was pregnant, I threw up every time I took one. This time, I researched vitamins that minimize nausea.
I also researched supplements, like milk thistle, that may minimize morning sickness.
During my first pregnancy, I tried to minimize stress, which at the time was pretty easy. Now, my life has changed a lot — as a mom, I’m basically on-call all the time.
So I’m using my limited free time to multitask, doing things that will both relax me and hopefully prepare my body for an easier pregnancy. This includes chiropractic care, rolfing sessions and pilates classes to open my hips, correct my posture to help with back pain and get in better shape so I have more energy and endurance for my family.
I’m also spending more time stepping back and observing my daughter. It is such a joy to watch her play more independently as she gets older. And now she’ll be used to me lying on the couch while she plays!
Preparing for another pregnancy is definitely more complicated, because I have more than one child to consider. But knowing what pregnancy and the postpartum period are like have helped me target my efforts towards specific goals. Hopefully this will make the transition to a family of four easier for all of us.
How was your second pregnancy different from your first? Did you do anything different to prepare?
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Aug. 26, 2008, but it contains a sweet reminder for parents expecting a new baby and may be wondering how that will affect their older child.
When our second child was born, our oldest was only 2 years old. While she was very sweet with her new baby brother, she mostly just politely ignored him. I did catch her gently rocking and lifting her shirt to nurse her favorite stuffed duck occasionally.
When our third was born, she was 5 and was definitely more interested but still mostly preferred to “mother” her dolls, carrying them around in doll slings and such, than her real live baby brother.
This last time around, though, when our fourth was born, has been different. At 7, our oldest is interested and physically strong enough to care for her new baby sister. She helps with diaper changes, she confidently hikes baby Julia onto her hip and, just yesterday, asked to wear Julia on her back.
I reflexively said “no,” and then reconsidered. Why not? I would supervise and she had been asking me for several months to try. So she did, and I was tickled.
I guess before I had more than one child, it never occurred to me how much the baby gets from having older siblings. Everyone talks about the benefits to the older child. You are getting a playmate! You’ll be a big sister! But, wow, the baby benefits, too!
I mean, Julia positively glows when her big brothers and sister appear.
We call Julia “the luckiest baby” for having three older siblings. Her every sound and cute little motion is quickly responded to. She has a built-in audience when she notices the fan and starts moving her arm in a circle. Three little voices notice and start to encourage her.
I remember vaguely feeling a bit sorry for my firstborn when our second arrived, imagining the reduced amount of parental attention she would get, that she would somehow be sitting around pining for my attention when my hands would be full with a new baby.
While this was certainly somewhat true for the first few months, once the baby was a bit older, the tables turned a bit and she and her younger brother became inseparable and played together constantly — much more than I would have been able to manage, even with my best effort. I mean, my patience for playing tea and reading toddler books is, shall we say, definitely finite.
Heck, these days I have to fight for my time with my children: They are so self-sufficient with each other. I had completely underestimated this part of a growing family!
How about you? If you have more than one child, what have your experiences been like? Has the reality been what you expected?