By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein
You’ve finally gotten the hang of it. Your once colicky baby is now sleeping through the night, feeding herself, walking all around your apartment, and she’s even uttered a few semi-understandable words! You’ve all but forgotten those sleepless nights and seemingly endless bouts of crankiness (and not just the baby’s). It’s time to start procreating again! And regardless of whether it takes a while to get pregnant or not, that positive pregnancy test will still somehow send you down the same emotional roller coaster as it did the first time around.
Having a second child is exciting and wonderful but it can also be scary and overwhelming – and not just for you. Rachel, mother of a one-year-old and a 3-year-old says, “When I was pregnant, I started to feel guilty because I was basically upsetting my son’s entire universe. He was the center of mine for less than 2 years before his whole world got turned upside down when his sister arrived. It was helpful when a good friend told me that giving my son a sibling is one of the best things I could ever do for him. He’ll learn valuable lessons on life having a baby sister as well as a life-long friend. I understand that sentiment and believe it to be true more and more each day.”
It’s obviously hard to plan the exact timing, but you might want to consider what age difference works best for your family. No age difference is perfect and there are advantages and disadvantages with all of them. From living space to school cut-off dates, there are a variety of factors at play. Jill, who is now living the ‘2-under-2’ phenomenon, says, “We knew it was a possibility that it could happen, but my second pregnancy still came as quite a shock. Chasing around my 13-month old son was a challenge to say the least when I was nauseous all day. And it only got harder the bigger I got, the more active my son got and the hotter it got outside. All I can say is ‘hire a babysitter!’
Having an extra set of hands around while you’re pregnant can be beneficial for having a healthy pregnancy and it can also help your first child get used to the idea of not having your undivided attention at all times. And though taking care of 2 children with little or no help is totally doable not to mention incredibly rewarding and enjoyable (most of the time), hiring a full-time or part-time babysitter or enlisting the help of the grandparents can be helpful in a variety of ways. Laura says, “Hiring a babysitter so that I could spend time with just the older one is so important. My son and I look forward to “our time” each week (whether we go to the playground, a walk around the block, the train store or just for ice cream). It’s special “mommy and son time” which we both love.”
Obviously, everyone experiences the transition to two children differently. Mothers are often more relaxed and more likely to accept help the second time around and find that being a mother of two is actually easier than being a first-time mom. But in general, how it goes depends in large part to the temperament of the new baby. Second babies are known for being more flexible and for learning early on how to be self-sufficient, but that’s not always the case. Jessica says, “My second son basically nursed every two hours until he was 2 years old! And for the first few months, he had reflux and had to sleep on top of me all the time. My first son was the same exact way but there was only one of him at the time!”
The older sibling might also act out once the baby arrives. Sometimes, the child might be very nurturing with other people’s babies, but might not take to his own sibling as easily. Talking to your child and reading a ‘big brother/sister” book to your older child both before and after the baby is born can often be helpful. Also, allowing the older sibling to help take care of the baby (i.e. get diapers ready, sing lullabies, put an empty bottle in the sink, etc.) can help alleviate resentment. Allison says, “Now my kids are the best of friends but it wasn’t always like that. My older daughter regressed a bit in the beginning and seemed to deliberately make demands at the most inopportune times. It stressed me out emotionally and physically. Fortunately, after a few months, she got used to the change and really embraced the role of big sister. She’s actually quite helpful now!”
Laura says, “The best is when they start to actually play together. My husband and I just love watching them! At only 9.5 months, my daughter and almost three-year-old son laugh so hard together while playing at times; it’s just amazing to watch!!!”
Often the biggest challenge in raising two children is finding balance. Erica says, “My older child probably doesn’t see it this way, but my second baby often gets the short end of the stick. Fewer classes, fewer playdates, etc. She is literally along for the ride in many cases. I’d say for every mommy-friend I have for my second child, I have about 6 for my first”. Of course, second babies are benefiting immensely from watching and interacting with their older sibling (and their sibling’s friends), so don’t feel too bad when your day seems to get dictated by your older child’s activities. On the other hand, “we’re all slaves to the younger one’s nap schedule and bedtime routine. If we veer off schedule too much, all hell breaks loose,” remarks Hallie, stay-at-home mom of a 5-month-old and a 2.5 year old.
Bringing a second baby into the world is an incredible, life-altering experience for everyone. Sure, it can be exhausting at times, but as all of us second-time moms will tell you, we just wouldn’t have it any other way. And it might take a few months to get the hang of things, but it won’t be long before you might just find yourself saying, “Hmmm, maybe it’s time to have a third!”