Recovering from childbirth is no joke. Reassembling your life, body, and mental status after having a baby is not easy. And doing it all more than once, well, that doesn't make the process any less taxing. When I had my second baby not only did I have to physically recover from childbirth, figure out breastfeeding, and navigate sleep deprivation, but I had to do it all while chasing a toddler. My second postpartum recovery was different from my first in a variety of ways, both big and small, that made it just as challenging.
My first postpartum recovery was hard, for sure, but, for me, having a baby and caring for an older child was much harder. When the baby arrived my daughter regressed, so I was dealing with an increase in potty accidents, tantrums, and her coming into my bed in the middle of the night. While I could understand why she was regressing, helping her adjust to life as a big sister while caring for my newborn was incredibly overwhelming. At times it felt impossible to have to figure out why the baby was crying and deal with a toddler tantrum simultaneously... and on zero hours of sleep.
Eventually, and thankfully, I found my groove, but before I did I learned just how much harder and different postpartum life is with a second baby. No two postpartum recoveries are the same, to be sure, but my experience was a reminder that just because you've done a thing once before doesn't mean it'll automatically be easier the second time around.
The logistics of having one kid can be overwhelming sometimes, and let me tell you, having two is exponentially harder, especially when you have to recover from childbirth at the same damn time. From having to arrange child care for my hospital stay, to having to get two kids ready in the morning while I felt like a pile of poop, it was hard to not lose it.
The Sleep Deprivation
When her baby brother was born, my daughter regressed big time. So, not only did I have to get up with a newborn every two to three hours overnight, but I also had a 3-year-old toddler who stopped sleeping in her own bed and wanted my attention, too.
The Child Care
To be honest, I didn't have the physical stamina or emotional where-with-all to care for a baby, let alone a baby and a toddler. It was so freaking hard to juggle both responsibilities at first, or feel as if I was 100 percent there for both of my children all of the time.
I was often filled with intense guilt at both not being able to be 100 percent there for my daughter, and give my newborn my full attention. I tried to split myself in two, alternating between their needs so that they both knew I was fully there for them. And when that didn't work, I tried to do everything for both of them simultaneously, with two hands, a baby carrier, and a metric ton of coffee. It was exhausting.
As a new mom of two, my mental health suffered. I was too busy trying to stay afloat to ask for help, though, so when I crashed I crashed hard. Luckily, my midwife noticed and made sure I got some help for postpartum depression.
I thought recovering from a second childbirth and caring for a second newborn would be easier. But then I realized that no two pregnancies, no two births, and no two kids are alike. So even though I had gone through labor and delivery before, I had never gone through that specific labor and delivery. And even though I had cared for a baby before, I had never cared for that specific baby. I didn't expect to face a different set of challenges, and not be able to use the same tricks and hacks with postpartum recovery and baby number two.
The "Baby Weight"
I had such unrealistic expectations about how quickly I would be able to lose the "baby weight" and "bounce back" after having my second baby. My body will never be the same, but I can honestly say that I'm OK with that. And that is another difference between my first and second postpartum experiences: my expectations are rooted in reality, and I have come to accept my new normal instead of try to meet some unrealistic, and often unhealthy, social standard of motherhood, beauty, and the postpartum experience.
The Need For Help
My pain level and need for down time to recover after my second baby was so much higher than the first time around. Luckily, I learned to ask for help and accept it whenever it was offered.
The Self Care
After I had my first baby, while on maternity leave, I found myself feeling, well, rather bored. Babies sleep a lot, so I was able to read, watch Netflix, and play around on social media. After my second was born, however, I had very little time to myself. I thought I had to hold my newborn son every moment he was awake, and while simultaneously giving my daughter my full attention when he was sleeping. That left way less time for me, so I had to be more proactive about finding moments to devote to self care.
Learning To Let Things Go
Fortunately, I also learned to prioritize better the second time around. It's not necessary (or possible) to give 100 percent of yourself to your kids 100 percent of the time. It's OK to order pizza, or send your older kid to day care. It's OK to have someone else hold the baby so you can sleep. It's OK to put the baby in his bouncy chair so you can take a shower or simply enjoy a momentary break. And it's certainly OK to leave toys on the floor or clothes unfolded. Recovering from childbirth is hard, and you need to cut yourself some slack — especially after baby number two.