Before I gave birth to Anna I talked to as many women as possible about their experience becoming a mom. I wanted to know everything, and so I asked things like:
How will I know I’m in labor? and When did your water break? and Where did you register and what did you register for? Will I need an Ergo or a Moby? What should I pack in my hospital bag? And so on, and so forth.
When I become pregnant with Owen, I was surprised I still had so many questions.
Will my pregnancy be harder or easier? How will I hold a toddler with a huge belly? Should I plan to have them share a room or will the baby wake her up? Will I go into labor early again, or will he be late? Will my labor be a lot faster this time around?
One of the most wonderful parts about bringing a new life into the world is that no matter how much experience you have, and no matter how much you think you know, every baby comes with their own bit of mystery and magic. There’s no other way to describe it than that. A woman can prepare and clean and organize and take classes but there will still be surprises with every new baby.
Here are five things that surprised me immediately after Owen’s birth:
I really did love him as much as I loved Anna.
Everyone told me I’d love my new baby as much as I loved my first, but it was still hard to believe. And yet, as soon as they placed Owen’s sweet face on my chest I became a mother all over again. Jonathan’s grandma, a mother to nine, used to say that each baby brings its own love…and I believe it. While I didn’t find pregnancy quite as magical the second time around, I did find the birth experience and his arrival to be just as special and life changing.
Afterbirth pains are really, really painful after a second baby.
No one warned me about afterbirth pains, so excuse me for being a little big graphic and giving you a “this is how the body works” talk. After a woman gives birth, her uterus immediately begins contracting back to its pre-pregnancy size and location. It’s very important that a uterus immediately begins this work, and postpartum nurses push on a mother’s stomach several times during the first day to make sure the body is behaving accordingly. A first-time mother doesn’t usually have much pain associated with their uterus contracting, but a second-time mother will. Apparently, the pains get worse with every subsequent birth PLUS they’re much worse during nursing. I’m glad a postpartum nurse told me what to expect and encouraged me to take painkillers. You can read more here.
I bounced back faster, physically, after Owen’s birth compared to Anna’s.
Anna and Owen’s births were very different since one involved an epidural and one did not. Jonathan was convinced I bounced back much faster after Owen’s birth and he credited the lack of epidural. I agree that I bounced back faster, but I think it had less to do with the epidural and more to do with it being my second birth. Within a few hours of arriving to a postpartum room, I’d napped and showered and nursed and wanted to see visitors. I looked like a wreck (hello broken blood vessels all over my face) but because I’d done this all before I had more confidence which seemed to help me feel better. There’s a lot that happens in the body during the first few hours after giving birth. This time around, none of it phased me.
Nursing didn’t click immediately.
Because I nursed Anna for about 10 months, I figured that nursing my new baby would be like riding a bike. I was a little surprised, and frustrated, that it took Owen about a day to get the hang of nursing. After all, I knew what I was doing this time around! What I needed to accept was…he didn’t! Owen kept falling off the breast or generally not acting interested. The hospital nurses reminded me that babies are often very sleepy when they arrive so I needed to just keep trying, be patient, and teach him. Sure enough, it clicked before we left the hospital.
I didn’t like Anna for a few weeks.
Yup, I totally just admitted that I didn’t like my first baby for a few weeks after Owen was born. A lot of moms warned me that my first child would be jealous of the new baby, and it was certainly the case in our experience. We did our best to prepare her by reading books and buying her gifts from Owen, but as soon as she walked into the hospital room we could tell she was jealous. (Could there be any better proof than the photo above?) For several weeks after his birth she was very clingy with me which was hard because we had loving grandparents visiting who wanted nothing more than to entertain her while I napped. Between my raging mama bear hormones and lack of sleep, I found myself increasingly annoyed by her behavior. I wanted nothing more than to curl up on the couch with my sweet, QUIET, newborn to cuddle. (Spoiler alert: this didn’t happen nearly as much as I hoped.)
For any mamas out there who are expecting a second child, here are my three quick tips:
Prepare a “nursing bag” full of fun activities, games and toys that are only to be played with while you’re nursing. When I could, I tried to plan my nursing periods so that Anna was only awake for a few of them. We’d pull out the nursing bag during once, watch TV during the other, and have Daddy entertain during the morning and early evening periods. Sometimes, I’d try to nurse the baby while Anna ate a meal because it kept her strapped in and happy.
Don’t feel guilty turning on Thomas the Train or Frozen more often than you’d like. This is a time when you’re purely trying to survive, not win a parenting award.
Acknowledge the one thing that helps you feel like a human, and then do whatever it takes to make that one thing happen every day. In my experience, a second baby demands a different kind of strength than a first. Unlike your first child, it’s no longer an option to stay inside for two months, half dressed with spit-up running down your arm. Your toddler wants (and needs!) to get out of the house. But in order to get out of the house daily, a lot of other tasks get thrown out the window. I found that on the days I showered and got dressed, I was a much happier woman. And on the days I made my bed? Those are the days angels sang. I would encourage you to take inventory after your first two weeks. What days seemed to go well? What days didn’t go well? Did they have any common denominators you can control? Maybe, for you, a shower isn’t all that important but you feel great if you eat a healthy lunch. We’ve all got our thing. Set your expectations low for the first few months and don’t demand too much of yourself, yet do make a point to do something daily that helps you feel in control when so many other things aren’t.
I’d love to hear from you. What is something that surprised you after your second child’s birth?