Who knew womanhood would come with so many rules? It’s a wonder we remember to feed and clothe ourselves, what with all these female-centric edicts we have to follow. They start early (no spaghetti tops, so commands my kids’ elementary school, for nothing obstructs learning than a 7-year-old wearing climate-appropriate attire in a non-air conditioned classroom) and continue through adulthood. There are entire instruction manuals on relationships, childbirth, and getting kids to sleep. So, let me add to the pile with some rules every mom should follow during her second pregnancy.
OK, maybe these aren’t rules inasmuch as they are reality checks. I mean, do we always need to look outside ourselves for the answer? I think about all the time I’ve spent, from childhood on, comparing myself to others, and I’ve continued this self-defeating practice into motherhood. It took me getting shingles a couple of years ago to realize that I couldn’t continue to be a good parent, or even a fully functioning adult, if my happiness was dependent on how I measured up to others. I literally made myself sick from stressing about my abilities and how they were stacking up when compared to someone else's. I needed to own my sh*t and stop feeling apologetic for forging my own path through parenthood (as long as that path worked for my family and me).
So here are some rules you can consider (or ignore, of course) about what to do during your second pregnancy. To a degree, this is what worked for me. All women, and all pregnancies, are unique, mind you, so please feel free to do you. (That’s not a rule.)
Don’t Buy Any Baby Things
It’s tempting, I know. I felt so bad that all my son’s clothes and playthings were hand-me-downs from his sister. However, he didn’t care and your newborn won’t either. Just hide the baby pictures from them when they're older and probably capable of recognizing all the stuff as being, well, identical to their older sibling's.
Sarcastically Respond To Every Stranger Who Comments On You Adding To Your Family
Them: “Wow, having another one so soon, huh?”
You: “Actually, they were supposed to be twins. This one just doesn’t want to come out.”
Them: “I bet she’s excited to become a big sister, huh?”
You: “Who, this kid? I don’t know her. I have no idea why she’s holding my hand. But I’m kind of lonely, so I roll with it.”
Them: “Guess you’ll need to look for more space, right?”
You: “Not at all. In fact we’re moving to a tiny house because living rooms are so bougie and we don’t want to raise our kids like that.”
It may sound counterintuitive, but teaching you child to continue to respect your alone time, even when she is still a singleton, is important. I was remiss in doing this; I felt so guilty for being a working parent that I didn’t deny much access to my older kid and I’m still telling her, at age nine, to let me pee alone.
Ask More From Your Partner
Start conditioning your co-parent to have his or her hands fuller than ever. This also will provide you with some nap time before that baby comes.
Get Your Cuddle Time In
Chances are, your firstborn will demand much more of you once there is a little sibling to compete with. Bank extra hugs and snuggles now, while you can. It won’t make the kid any less demanding later, but it will serve to prove that you would always opt to spend time with him or her if you could.
Also, you will probably be touched out with two kids pawing at you once the new baby arrives. I know I was. It was a lot easier to demand that people let go of me after I spent some extra cuddling. It will all even out.
Run A Marathon
A TV marathon, that is. Binge on as much crap as you can because your brain will soon go into overload managing the lives of two littles. Zone out whenever possible, as it will no doubt become a useful tactic that comes into play when both children are wailing for, “mommy, and only mommy” in the middle of the night and you can’t even.
Give Up Hot Food
Seriously. I don’t think I’ve actually had a piping hot meal since the birth of my second child. It may come out of an oven, but by the time something from my dinner plate gets into my mouth (thanks to little humans who need their chicken cut up, their glasses filled, or a pep talk to even take a bite of their meal), it’s ice cold.
Say "Yes" To Help
Even if you can do it yourself, take someone up on their offer to assist you. Kind gestures are so few and far between (take it from someone who was not offered a seat on the subway when I was very visibly pregnant, on my way to have the baby.)
Say "No" To Helping Others
This sounds mean, but I assure you it's not. On the contrary, it’s protective. Know your limits. If you’re exhausted, the only obligations you should feel you have are to your immediate family and, as a distant second, your employer. If you are not up to attending a holiday dinner, get yourself out of it and send flowers instead.
Afraid people won’t like you because you’re being selfish? That’s for them to get over. You’re not being selfish, because everything you do while pregnant you are doing for another person. There's someone literally growing inside of you, relying on your self-care to help bring it successfully full-term.
Don’t Follow Stupid Rules (Like These)
Look, I know what worked (sleeping on my left side) and what didn’t (totally giving up caffeine). Nobody could tell me what I needed for myself while gestating another baby and simultaneously caring for a toddler. So follow these rules or not, but most importantly, give yourself a break. You’re doing all the important work just taking care of yourself, and mentally preparing to do the whole newborn thing again.
The only rules in a second pregnancy is that you get to make them yourself. Control what you can now, because you’re about to be outnumbered.