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6 Reasons It's Easier to Go From One to Two Kids

I had a very difficult time adjusting to life as a new mom after I had my first son. I remember a friend telling me it took her three months until she felt like herself again: for me, it was more like a year. I'm happy to say though that after having my second child, I feel much happier, more capable and less exhausted than I did after my first. Here are a few reasons why:

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A better labor:

Delivering my first kid was pretty much the most traumatic thing that had ever happened to me, and that affected me physically and emotionally longer after I left the hospital. For months, despite my exhaustion, I wasn't able to get to sleep until I had recounted every step it had taken to have my first son, from admittance to discharge. While there were some similarities between my two delivery experiences (I was induced early both times and given a cervical ripening balloon), the second was much faster and relatively free of pain and discomfort. The worst part was the 9 hours I spent in triage waiting for a room to open up, because it was boring and my tailbone hurt. Since I've been home I haven't had a single labor flashback and I felt much readier to move around than I did last time.

A toddler at home:

If parenting is like exercise, I feel like having a toddler is akin to very intensive core work: it strengthens everything else you do. I love my three-year-old but he can be exhausting, between his mood swings, his running around and his nonstop talking. So in comparison, the relatively basic needs of a newborn seem sweetly simple in comparison.

Now, I know, for better and for worse, everything that's to come: the smiling and laughing and food-throwing and teething and first haircut and crawling and walking and running and falling down and on and on.

We know what we're doing

It felt like so much of my first time with our first son was trying to come up with a system or a plan—as much as can be done with a baby, anyway. Just dealing with the bottles and formula, for instance, was its own mini drama: how are we washing them and where are they getting dried and when are we doing this so that we will always have bottles available and what will the situation be at nighttime and what about when we go out and how about daycare? Now multiply that times everything else and that's how intimidating having a new baby can be. This time, though, we have experience on our side: just knowing right off the bat what our sleeping arrangement will be saved us a lot of angst. I've taken this new baby places I would have been too scared to the first time around, too, which helps. Not being terrified to go to the grocery store or even to get a manicure means I'm not stuck at home pondering my own existence.

I can enjoy a newborn more

I had zero perspective with my first son. I could never imagine that he'd be anything other than the squalling, fussy little thing that he was. Now, I know, for better and for worse, everything that's to come: the smiling and laughing and food-throwing and teething and first haircut and crawling and walking and running and falling down and on and on. Knowing how temporary this all is makes me appreciate having a new baby more: both for the good (the snuggles, the not-talking back) and the bad (the barfing, the constant pooping.)

One to two is easier than zero to one
I sometimes describe first-time parenthood as the process of adapting to—not recovering from—a brain injury. With a new baby, life is fundamentally different in a way that's completely impossible to prepare for. Unsympathetic people frequently say things like "How did you not know that having a baby will be hard?" But knowing and experiencing are two very different things. There's simply no way to really prepare for the change your body, your relationships, your energy, your home, your entire life goes through when a child enters the scene. With a second, though, the adjustments have been smaller. Make no mistake about it: I haven't figured out how to handle it gracefully when both children and my husband need something from me at once, and it still stresses me out when we all go someplace, but behind that all there's a sense of capability that I didn't have the first time. It might be unpleasant or stressful but I know I'll make it.

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I'm taking care of myself physically and emotionally

After my first son was born and I struggled to find my way, I consoled myself a good deal with both food and liquor. Friends brought comforting meals, or we'd order in, and I figured if I had nine months to put all the weight on, I had nine months to take it all off (actually, try twelve.) On top of that, with little to do during the day and so much company coming over, I took a favorable view towards the 11a.m. glass of white wine.

In retrospect, indulging myself so much probably contributed a bit to my slow mood recovery: I was probably constantly hungover and feeling sluggish in addition to everything else. This time, I'm watching what I eat and drink more, in part because I sense that if I take too long to lose the weight, I may never lose it. More importantly, I'm on top of my mental health. I started seeing a psychiatrist this year when it became apparent that I had the baby blues before the baby was even here. The day after my second child was born, I started a low dose of Zoloft and have been in regular touch with my therapist. I'm not sure exactly what the Zoloft is doing for me right now but just knowing that I'm keeping an eye on my mood—and that I have backup—makes me feel like I'm taking care of myself where it matters.

Put this all together and confidence begets confidence. Feeling like I can do it means I can do it! It almost makes me wonder how much more capable I'd feel having a third child. Almost.

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