Hard to remember what it was like with a newborn? Thinking about how you’re going to manage doing the birth and baby thing all over again with another little one tugging on your sleeve? You’re not alone. There is something of amnesia that comes along with having babies, which makes us confident (foolish?) enough to do it again, yet shaky and shocked about how little info we’ve retained. The good news is that it’s a little like riding a bicycle when we are prepared. These days, I’m more focused on getting baby Shula (just over a year now!) a spot on the tire swing with the big kids. But the feelings of figuring it all out again, once I thought I had figured it all out, still feel alive for me too.
Be a well-planned mama bear
First time around I felt much more like a kid and there was a lot of on-the-job learning. Now is a great time to start thinking like your elders and take the longer view. Buy duplicates of your favorite products. (If it flashes in your mind “Do I need this YET?” probably YES, soon! Get it. If it simply flashes, “Do I need this?,” probably NO!). Maybe invest in an electric hot water kettle, rice cooker, slow cooker, toaster oven (things that start the cooking process for you, that you don’t have to watch, and turn themselves off). Pull out a yearly calendar and take 2 minutes to write down everything that jumps out at you as something you will need to manage. Take a little extra time to write yourself calendar reminders to decide about those things 6 weeks in advance. Outfit your stroller with extra hooks. Maybe plan for one extra babysitting shift than you think you need (on the other hand maybe plan to cancel shifts if they interrupt connection time and be flexible). Pack duplicate versions of your diaper bag to use either with a stroller or in a backpack with your carrier. Fly Lady is not for everyone, but she has some helpful downloadables for meal planning, schedule planning, etc. No fear! – if you don’t like writing it all out, you still are already well on your way by keeping ideas for staying on your game in the back of your mind.
The birth will likely be much faster – Early labor for days or weeks? may not be terribly uncomfortable but wondering when (if ever) it’s all gonna go down? the grand finale is usually upon you much sooner than you expect once the big moment does arrive. on the other hand it is helpful to hear that not ALL 2nd time labors are this fast. Many wonder if a doula will be needed again second time around – I can only tell you that my doula 2nd time was priceless!! Part insurance plan, part major emotional support, still useful to help you navigate when to go or alert your birth team and help with physical support. So much focus in your life has shifted to your first child, usually even more than you realize. It is so enjoyable (and practical) to have someone who attends to your needs primarily (to help you “put on your life vest before putting on your child’s,” so to speak). Many doulas will offer a discount to repeat clients, or help you find another in your price range, and will not be insulted at all! Most love repeat clients. So please let your doula know when you are pregnant again so she can talk it through with you. Consider it part of the first service.
You don’t time contractions the same way
(and you may have more questions/contractions the last month of pregnancy!)
You can keep track of contractions, but you’re not waiting for them to be “3 minutes apart or one minute long” the same way – you want to let your doula know when you feel anything at the end of pregnancy, and you want her to know when you feel any kind of consistent feeling that “today might be the day,” and you want her ready to run out the door when you feel one or two “good ones” that really stop you in your tracks. A doula or a good friend will be great to keep perspective when you start overthinking stuff – another listener can remind you how fabulous you are and give you a different point of view if worries arise.
Postpartum contractions are more intense to help the uterus “involute” (aka go back to pre-pregnancy size) – When your uterus is done holding the baby, it goes from the size of a watermelon to the size of a fist astonishingly fast (famous midwife Ina May Gaskin says “if men had a body part that can grow and shrink and do such cool stuff they would talk about it all the time, and so should you ;-)”). But the more times you have been pregnant, the more she needs to work to accomplish this. You may want afterease tincture (must start taking right after the birth for it to work much) or Motrin handy.
You might want your children at or near the birth – and you might want a backup plan!
Generally, the sooner your child can meet the baby after the birth, the more the child understands and has been informed, the less the baby will feel like a stranger invading her territory. Then it’s just about upkeep of goodwill. Only caveat is wait until the visit can be a reasonably ample duration – not a good plan to rush the child in only to send him/her out against their will. Below I have a few favorite resources to prepare an older sibling for a new baby and birth.
You need some time to process the last birth – Maybe a childbirth refresher class, maybe some birth counseling (email me for recommendations), maybe some journaling or a good friend who can listen to your fears, without quickly going to all-that-matters-is-a-healthy-baby… We desperately need connection in the childbearing years. Join a Facebook, google, yahoo or meetup group to supplement the people you already know. Meditate in the least fussy way available to you (Seasoned meditator but prefer to lay down – do it. New meditators – just sit still with a timer 2-5 minutes and don’t worry about what it’s supposed to look like). Take a few moments to write down what you want this next birth to look like. Shorter? Easier? Talked to kinder? Hold the baby sooner? Google around to find stories that reflect your specific birth preference so you picture how it is possible.
Take heart!!! The biggest work you do second time around is likely on the front end (thinking, early contracting, more heavily pregnant)…You are growing like the rings inside a tree, year by year. There will be growing pains for all of us. The heart is deep, you are strong, and you are building a family history, with sweet stories for generations to come. With all the commotion, maybe grandparents/helpers focusing on taking big bro/big sis off your hands, all of a sudden YOU again have. A tiny soul. Tiny body. In. Your. Arms. Second baby felt to me like a gift to the mama more than to everyone else. In time she will grow just as fully into her extended family. But I enjoyed having her close to me. Just a few years wiser. Sipping in and nestling baby’s head. Stroking a soft cheek. Kissing curled fingers. With maybe a sigh and just a few minutes to myself.