To Liz, On Having her Second Baby

Many families in my day care program have had babies over the years (and then I automatically get new customers!). But I didn’t have a blog then. So Liz, you’re the lucky one who gets to hear this lecture. I look forward to the arrival of your new baby with love and excitement! (And I know you can’t wait to get it the heck out.)

I remember expecting my Younger Son. I was thrilled and excited and so much more confident than I had been the first time around.

But I was also consumed with the thought that I was ruining his older brother’s life. Towards the end of the pregnancy my belly was so big that I could barely even hold him in my lap, and it killed me that I couldn’t give him the attention that he craved. That child who had been the center of my universe was going to have to adjust – big-time – and I thought he would hate me for it.

It was probably mother nature preparing us all for the baby who would be in my lap nursing for hours. And Older would have to cuddle next to me, instead of right on my lap. I knew the transition would be hard for him, but it was hard for everybody.

Well, when is having a baby NOT hard?

And when the baby was done nursing and tucked away in his bouncy seat, Older could have me all he wanted. Life would go on, and we would find new ways to enjoy each other’s company.

The best thing I heard while expecting Younger was that when you have your second child, “the hardest part is giving yourself over to parenting.” I thought, what have I been doing for the past three years of spending 24/7 at the beck and call of this child? Was that not giving myself over? Was that not going to be ENOUGH?

But if you have two babies, you might as well have ten, because that’s how big the difference is (I’m sorry to put that so bluntly – don’t be afraid). There is never a time when you are not needed by someone. The laundry and dishes multiply tenfold. It’s much harder to enjoy a quiet naptime (because even if your first is young enough to still nap, they’ll never do it at the same time). Even sneaking away for a few hours gets more difficult. Plenty of friends are willing to hang out with your one child. But a toddler and a baby? Not so much.

There’s the fear – as long as the baby was in my belly I knew he was safe. But as soon as he was out, and I was saddled with him in a car seat or stroller or nursing, and my toddler went running off into the woods, what would I do? How would I keep both of them safe? Just keeping one alive was hard and stressful enough.

Then I had the thoughts of, will it be my last baby? My day care provider at the time had two boys, it’s all she wanted, she was done and happy and so sure of herself. I was jealous of her confidence and always torn about making a commitment to another child. Then Younger got to be about three years old and I said yeah – that ship has sailed. But you’ll know when you know, it’s as simple as that. If times were different I’d have five kids, but this is what my lifestyle fits. And I am more than blessed and eternally grateful to have two fabulous, healthy, kind, caring boys who were meant just for me.

In fact just the other night I had a dream that I was nursing a baby and I woke up with a shudder. I told Dave and he said, “That’s disgusting.” (We’re joking, Leche League.)

Oh, and some good practical advice is to try to minimize how much the baby needs you when your older child does too. Of course that sounds impossible but you don’t want to bring home this squirmy, loud, smelly thing who’s getting all the love and attention while your older child mopes, and then to top it off keep reminding them that they can’t have you anymore because now you belong to the baby.

The best trick I found for doing that is saying something like “My hands are busy right now. I’ll help you in just a minute I promise.” Try to avoid “I’m busy with THE BABY.” Your child is going to be so sick of that damn baby – try not to point out that you’re neglecting them to play with the one who they think is replacing them.

Let her come to her own opinion about the baby. Don’t force her to play with it or say how much she loves it or help you change diapers – yet. The time will come when she’s interested (and maybe that will be right away, who knows), but let her set the pace.

And read Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, it will save your life I guarantee. It’s also probably a good idea to stock up on “The new baby is coming!” books from the library so you can talk to her about this in a non-in-your-face way.

I remember the first night in the hospital with Younger. Everyone had gone (remember the first baby, when Daddy’s hovering over you every moment? By the second one he’s home sleeping before the nurses tell you lights out) and it was just me and this beautiful, scrawny, pruney, stunning, perfect baby. I grabbed him out of his cradle and scared him to death – I was used to handling a wild 2-1/2 year old toddler boy.

I held him tight and told him, “We’re going to be great friends.” I felt a warmth I hadn’t had with Older, because for that poor boy I was just in a slightly constant state of panic and confusion. For this one I knew exactly what I was doing and it made the ride all the more precious.

When I look at my boys now, the unit, the inseparable pair, the brothers who have a bond I can’t even fathom, I know any worry I had was a waste of time. They have that sibling relationship that is so vital through life. You may love or hate your sibling, but there is no one else in the world who shares the same experiences and history as you. And as my friend once told me, “Everybody needs a sibling to gang up on your parents with.”

My second child was a gift to my entire family, one that I probably still don’t quite understand the magnitude of. I can’t remember what life was like before he came. I know I wondered how I could love another baby as much as I loved my first, and then I found out that my own heart had depths I couldn’t have imagined.

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11 thoughts on “To Liz, On Having her Second Baby

  1. Part of the reason we have so much “concern” is that we have so much choice in the matter, whereas most the generations before did not. Also, one of the best things about having a second is that it expanded my notion of love, teaching me daily how loving one does not mean being unable to love another, Duh, Rosie, love is inifinite!

    Although on a show (on NPR) recently they were interviewing this guy who just wrote a book (or article?) about research that shows we do, in fact, have favorites when it comes to our children. That shocked me. Am I in denial? I don’t think so, but wonder what others think.

    • “Love is infinite.” I need a t-shirt of that. And a mug. And a hand-stitched couch pillow, and… Thanks Rose ALWAYS for your beautiful insight. It’s true we are much more fixated nowadays on our babies and kids. Perhaps a wee bit more than is healthy… And even if I could say yes I have a favorite I could never admit it to anyone – because I would never want to crush the heart of my other one! Even if I loved him infinitely…it would still be just that much less than his brother. Ouch. I hope some others respond to that question too! Miss you, be well.

  2. Amy, you’re so lovely. That was beautiful. The other thing someone told me about helping the older when the younger needs you is to say loudly to the BABY, I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait, your older sister/brother needs help right now. It worked wonders in our world and really helped our eldest realize we were still there for her (and the twins didn’t know the difference)! We can’t wait to meet her Liz!

    • I LOVE that idea. Thanks for sharing – I’ll try to keep it in my repertoire! And aren’t we still saying it to our growing children…and our husbands…all the time…. 🙂 Thanks for the kind words sweetness.

  3. I have read this four times already and I have a feeling I will a few dozen more before baby comes. Amy, this is well written and your advice and comments and all are just what I need right now. I’m so afraid and excited and nervous and sad and concerned and all in between about how Miss G will handle new baby and how me and T will as well. It’s really been a complete eye opener this pregnancy. And I hope you are prepared Amy because since you know Miss G so well, you can anticipate baby to be somewhat the same, lol. And you can bet I’ll be calling you for advice so I hope you’re up at the two am feedings!

    Again Amy, t and I feel really lucky to have you as a part of our daughters life and ours as well. You have made such a positive influence on Miss G and we couldn’t be happier with it. You are an amazing woman! Thank you Amy!

    • Maybe the same as Miss G – unless it’s a BOY! But I called her “she” last week so who knows? I’m so glad to have you guys too and I’m thrilled to see Miss G grow. Thanks so much for your appreciation and kind words. It means a lot to a tired old day care provider! XO

  4. Amy, this is beautiful, and so true! I remember sobbing when Rosie was two weeks old, telling Peter, “We ruined Otis’s life!” And now Otis can’t even remember (or imagine) life without Rosie. My brother, who has four kids, would agree with you that if you have 2 kids you might as well have ten. In his opuinion the toughest transition was not 3 to 4 kids, or even 2 to 3 kids, but rather 1 to 2 kids (and then after that the toughest for he and his wife was 0 to 1). Good luck to your daycare mom and family expecting number 2!

    • Thanks Stephanie! It’s so funny that you picked up on that 1-to-2 transition comment and I’m glad you agreed. When I wrote it I thought, maybe I should ask a person with 10 children before I make that claim… but most of my friends who’ve had more than 2 confirm it’s true!! I’m glad to hear from you and hope you’re all well!

  5. Such a beautifully written post and so true. The ramping up of parenting work with the second is more than two fold and I remember how shocked I was to realize this! I also want to confirm that the sibling book you recommend is brilliant, as is their other book, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen… If only we all got more parenting preparation!

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