Expecting a second child is, in my experience, an entirely different experience than expecting your first. You deal with the same pregnancy discomforts, but you're also caring for another human. You have a reasonable expectation that labor will be quicker this time, and you'll likely be more chill, but you'll probably feel guilt now that your attention is split. It's also safe to assume that people will treat you differently, too. I'm not saying everyone should roll out the red carpet, but they should avoid the following: the cruelest things you can do to a mom expecting her second kid.
I am due with my second child, a boy, shortly after my daughter turns 3. My husband and I always planned on having two children, so my pregnancy was welcome news. It's not exactly earth-shattering for anyone who's not us, though. Lots of families have two kids. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, American mothers have an average of 2.4 children, a number that's been relatively stable for two decades. Given how common it is, I've been surprised at how many opinions people (family, friends, co-workers, my mom group) have about it, as well as what they think is OK to say.
Honestly, if you're not going to be supportive, or your commentary isn't along the lines of "I'm so happy for you," maybe it's best to keep your thoughts to yourself. For clarity, none of the following are "nice" when addressing a mom pregnant with a second baby:
Ask If It Was Planned
To be clear, it is never acceptable to ask this question of a woman, regardless of which number pregnancy this is for her. Unfortunately, a woman expecting a second child is likely to hear this, especially if her first child is young (in the commenter's estimation). It's problematic because you can't possibly know what someone has gone through to get to this point, or what their current emotional state is. Plus, it's just none of your business.
My family and I were at a BBQ with our 2-year-old daughter and some guy, when he realized I was pregnant, said, "Already?" So rude.
Assume It Happened Easily
How about we just stop making assumptions about people's pregnancies in general, OK? But comments like "you're so lucky" can be especially insidious because they presume conception was straightforward and, as a result, can invalidate prior loss and struggle. The fact is, according to BabyCenter, secondary infertility affects over 3 million women in this country.
I lost a pregnancy at five weeks, a month before my daughter turned 1 year old. The miscarriage and my husband's subsequent deployment put our plans for growing our family on hold. I'm so grateful to be expecting another baby, but there was nothing "easy" about this journey.
Tell Her How Much Bigger She Is This Time
According to Parents, women on their second pregnancy tend to show about a month earlier than their first-time counterparts. After your first kid, your uterus doesn't completely shrink down and your abdominal muscles have already been stretched out. But just because it's true, doesn't mean you have permission to comment on a woman's pregnant body.
A dear friend informed me that I "popped" way sooner this time. I know she didn't mean to offend me, but all I heard was, "Wow, you look like a house."
Ask Her How She's Possibly Going To Manage
Let's not pretend that this question comes from a place of concern for a pregnant woman's wellbeing. Do you really think she hasn't thought about it? Believe me, she already knows that sleep will be a thing of the past without you rubbing it in.
I'm already stressed about having to manage maintaining my household, going back to work, caring for a preschooler, and keeping a newborn alive. I shouldn't have to explain my plans (or lack thereof) to anyone.
Predict How Badly Her First Child Is Going To Take It
Believe me, we are already worried about how our older child will react to being "pushed off the lap." We are doing our best to prepare them, but we recognize that jealousy and sibling rivalry are somewhat inevitable. How about purchasing a big brother or sister book instead of making dire predictions?
My daughter was a laid-back baby, but she's a challenging toddler. I've heard everything from she's going to "hate" the baby to she's going to be a monster when she doesn't have my full attention anymore. Is that supposed to make me feel like crap? Well, congratulations, because mission accomplished.
Criticize The Spacing Of Her Children
Siblings close in age tend to play better together, but a significantly older child can be a great helper and mentor. Certain age gaps are more conducive to jealousy and physical aggression. The reality is, there are pros and cons to every spacing of siblings, and frankly, we don't need something else to be worried about.
I'm perfectly aware of the fact that it will be a long time before my baby will be "interesting" to his older sister, but that doesn't stop people from telling me all the damn time.
Comments like, "You think you're tired now" and, "Soon you'll see how easy you had it" are just plain insensitive. We should be in the practice of encouraging and supporting moms who are growing their families, not imbuing the situation with doom and gloom.
I was recently at a play date with my daughter and talking about second pregnancies with other moms. I said that I'd heard breastfeeding was easier the second time around and another mom piped up, "Oh, that's not true." Thanks?
Comment On Gender
Society puts way too much emphasis on the private parts of babies, in my humble opinion. I'm not denying that some women experience gender disappointment, but at the end of the day, we're all just hoping for healthy and happy babies. If a woman is having another boy or another girl, she doesn't want to be asked if she's going to try again. Sheesh.
If I had a nickel for every time I've heard, "Awww, one of each!" I'd have a lot of nickels.
Act Like It's No Big Deal
We're not expecting the pomp and circumstance of a first baby, but an acknowledgement of the excitement we're feeling would be nice. It seems like people are too busy telling us how challenging our lives are about to become that they forget how much richer they're going to be, too.
I've had numerous friends tell me they forget that I'm pregnant. Yep, just growing human life. NBD.
Remind Her How Hard The Change From One To Two Is
I mean, you know that someone is always going to be sick and you won't be able to go anywhere ever and basically your life will revolve around pee and poop, right? The transition to having two children is a lot. We get it.
Please stop telling me how much it's going to bother me when I can't be on time anymore. Try saying that I'll learn to roll with the punches. Even when it feels like I can't handle it, I'll be able to reflect on your words of encouragement instead of your "I told you so."
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.