For years, my husband and I mulled over the prospect of having another child. Each year, the prospect seemed more distant. Some moms say their families are complete with so much certainty. I didn’t feel that way about our little family of three, but I didn’t feel we were incomplete either. So, the baby subject felt like one big question mark.
Then more years passed and after experiencing an early loss, I came to think our one child might be our only. But then it happened: I was pregnant—and stayed pregnant!
After the initial halo of joy, I realized, “OMG, WE’RE HAVING A BABY?!”
With a 5-year-old, the newborn phase was so far behind us. And yet, now rapidly approaching again. I braced for the sleepless nights to come and the challenges of parenting two children. I expected it to be hard because everyone says it’s hard.
What I didn’t expect, though, was how much sweeter motherhood was the second time around.
People say you fall in love all over again, and it’s true! As soon I held my new baby girl, a wave of tenderness and love washed over me. I felt buoyed by my years of motherhood, too. I knew what I was doing.
“She seems so relaxed,” our first visitors remarked.
Without the fog of first-time mama anxiety I had with my first, I’m fully enjoying the idyllic newborn moments
They were talking about the baby, but I felt a deep calm, too. It had been quite a different scene five years ago. Back then you would have found me gritting my teeth through my struggle to breastfeed and my husband at my side, typing “How to get rid of baby hiccups” into Google.
Without the fog of first-time mama anxiety I had with my first, I’m fully enjoying the idyllic newborn moments: her littleness, her sighs as she settles against me before she drifts off, her gummy smiles. THIS is why people say things like “enjoy it because it goes by so soon!” Not exactly comforting words during the 3 a.m. feed when you’re a first-time mom, but I get it now. These lovey-dovey months together have been wonderful.
Something about a second baby makes you extra cognizant of the fleeting nature of these years. I want time to slow down, so I purposely slow down. Let me soak in Saturday mornings with my nursing, bouncy baby. Let her sleep in my arms. Let me enjoy her baby giggles so that I might remember them forever. This baby makes me slow down with my eldest too. Yes, let’s play with dolls. Yes, I’ll tell you one more bedtime story. Yes, let’s bake cupcakes while Dad holds the baby. Time is our most precious resource. A baby reminds you of this.
I know my experience as a mom, honed over years, helped me be a happier second-time mom, if only because we avoided some missteps. Whereas both my husband and I handled all the newborn care of our first daughter together, for our second baby we knew we needed to take turns so the other could get sleep whenever possible. Sleeplessness exacerbates anxiety, so getting that crucial rest when you can is one of the best things you can do as a new mom.
There are other examples. The second time around, I brought my own breastfeeding pillow, nipple balm and nursing loungewear to the hospital to make breastfeeding as pleasant as possible. It definitely helped! I was so nervous about my first baby getting sick that we stayed indoors for nearly three months. But for my second? Once I was well enough to go on a walk, I took the baby out in the stroller so that I could get fresh air and I felt great. One big lesson I learned the hard way with my first was how important it was to make mealtimes easy. So before our second was born, I made sure that we’d have plenty of ready-made meals so that our first few weeks could go by smoothly. Another thing I didn’t have to stress over? We still had a lot of baby gear and clothes. No frantic shopping or gift registries.
I’m not naive. You could say I’m so happy, in part, because everything that could have gone wrong didn’t. We had a complication-free birth. Our baby was healthy. I had access to healthcare. I have a supportive spouse. I’m grateful for all of this.
Here’s the biggest difference between baby one and two: I already know who I am as a mother. I don’t second-guess myself when a well-meaning relative offers advice. I know when the advice is wrong! This isn’t my first rodeo.
I believe all this together helped set the stage for a calmer, happier mama. I now know each baby is its own experience of motherhood. I became a mama again and life is so sweet.