My children are two years, eight months, and 25 days apart. I always knew I'd wanted more than one child, and in the 998 days between having one and wanting a hypothetical second, I developed a lot of weird ideas about what life would be like as a mother of two. In fact, there were things I thought I had to do after I had my second baby. In retrospect, most of these notions were completely unnecessary or even, in some cases, totally impossible (or at least not realistic).
Don't get me wrong, life with two children is amazing. Moreover, it's amazing in a lot of the ways I sort of predicted. Have you ever seen a video of a puppy and a kitten playing together and you just kind of melt because they're so completely adorable? Having two children, for me, is kind of like living in a puppy and kitten video. It's adorable, it's often pretty funny, and, as with two adorable baby animals of different species, the things that you experienced with one do not necessarily prepare you for having the second, let alone both of them together. Yet, somehow, it works out and everyone winds up living together (mostly) harmoniously.
Getting to that harmonious spot can be a challenge, though, especially when you have to knock down so many preconceived notions and assumptions you have at the beginning. You can't be blamed for these notions, but you'll soon find you have no room for them in your life as a mom of two (especially since the extra diapers and gadgets are taking up, like, every inch of extra space you previously had).
Like, literally everything. About pregnancy. About labor. About birth. About newborns. About the safest products and methods of doing absolutely everything.
The problem? Every pregnancy, labor, birth, and newborn is different. And the safest products and methods of doing things? They change every five minutes, so there's likely new stuff going on between your first baby and second that you have to learn about the same as the newbies. And yes, granted, I knew more this time around, but we're never done learning, even the seasoned moms among us.
Get All New Stuff So The Baby "Doesn't Feel Bad"
I'm sensitive about hand-me-downs because even though I'm the oldest in my family I somehow managed to be dressed almost exclusively in hand-me-downs between the ages of birth and 13. So I took that experience with me as I thought, "Well, I have a whole bunch of onesies from my first baby, but the first baby got everything new. This baby is going to be sad if they only wear their brother's clothes!" I wound up getting a whole mess of new onesies. In retrospect, while I don't completely regret it (mainly because second time around I bought a bunch of cute "girl" clothes), I do kind of regret not using more of my son's old wardrobe. In the end, I realized:
1) Babies (at least my babies) wear a single onesie maybe five times before they grow out of it
2) They were still perfectly good
3) Babies do not give a crap, except for the craps they literally take on their clothing.
Sure, I cared about hand-me-downs when I was, like, 12, but I didn't really care before then. I could have saved some money, which I could have spent on cuter clothing for when my second child got older and did care about what she was wearing.
Get Through Birth Like A Mother Earth Goddess
This was compounded by two main factors. For one, I had already given birth so, as mentioned above, I figured I'd be an expert at everything. For another, I was planning to have a vaginal birth after a previous c-section. As such, I'd sort of built up the idea that a vaginal birth was going to be an empowering, meaningful, beautiful experience. It was all of those things, but it's also a baby coming out of your vaj which is simultaneously painful and weird AF. I did not look, sound, or feel like an earth goddess. I looked like a sweaty hippo, sounded like a chanting monk desperately but unsuccessfully trying to maintain their composure, and I felt like a 9 pound baby was sticking out of my poor, inexperienced vagina.
Constantly Compare My First Baby To My Second to Ensure Normalcy
Remember when I said that every newborn is different? Yeah, it took me a while to really internalize that. I would constantly compare the behavior of my second child to what my first had done.
"Does she seem a little sluggish to you?" I frequently asked my partner. "Our son was so alert. What's her deal? Is there something wrong with her, do you think? Should we call the pediatrician?"
"OK, was his poop ever that precise shade of yellow? Did we ever take pictures? Maybe we should Google this?"
"Why are her legs so little? His legs were so fat. I'm concerned about her legs. They're very skinny and crooked. She definitely needs to see a specialist."
The answer to everyone one of my questions was always, "It's perfectly normal, calm down." But when you think that one child gives you all the experience you're going to need to be a pro, you can't help but second-guess unfamiliar (if perfectly normal) behavior.
Go Right Back To Doing Everything Around The House
Between being a mom already (and knowing that being a mom means you're constantly engaged in some activity or another) and expecting recovery for a vaginal delivery would be absolutely nothing compared to recovery for a c-section, I foolishly made the mistake so many second-time moms do: I dove in head-first as soon as I got home the hospital.
No joke, I was playing tag with my toddler with my newborn strapped to my chest within an hour of coming home. I thought that whatever I had been accustomed to having to do as a toddler mom was more important than the most important thing the mother of a newborn mom needs to do: rest and recover. I forgot that recovering is an activity. (Incidentally, forgetting that crucial activity set my recovery back at least a week.)
Ensure That My Oldest Child's Life Remained As Unchanged As Possible
Another thing second-time moms frequently do is feel guilty. I felt super guilty for having another baby. My first child was accustomed to my and my partner's undivided attention, and he never agreed to change that. How dare we take that which was rightfully his.
Because I felt so guilty, before birth and shortly after, I was determined to come up with plans to ensure that this baby disrupted his routine as little as possible. Yeah, that didn't last too long because it's just not possible. I mean, how can a second child not affect the first? Fortunately, kids are very adaptable and he got used to his role as a big brother pretty quickly (or he found inventive ways to ignore his little sister). Either way, it worked out.
Fill Out A Baby Book (For Real This Time)
It's a lovely dream, but let's be honest with ourselves: it didn't happen when you have one child. What makes you think it's even a little bit possible with a newborn and another child to care for? Not gonna happen. Sorry. Fortunately it's not a requirement. In my case, social media has pretty much served as my children's baby book. Their first smiles, words, steps, etc. Speaking of which...
Make Sure Each Child Was Getting Equal Amounts Of Exposure On Social Media
I was weirdly bent on the idea that I didn't want the outside world to get the impression that I loved one child more than the other, so I literally tried to get both children in every picture I took for weeks. If I did post a picture of both, I made sure that the next picture would be of the other. I literally kept tabs running. It was absurd. I didn't have to worry about how other people perceived my parenting or my love of my children, because I know how much I loved both of them.
Pay Exactly The Same Amount Of Attention To Both
Look, I'm a socialist at heart, you guys. I just wanted to make sure everyone was being treated equally. But when it comes to children, some days one is going to need more attention than the other. Maybe one is sick. Maybe they're just a little bit clingier. Generally it's going to be about the same, but these things fluctuate and that's OK. As with social media posts, it's not a contest: it's giving everyone as much as you can when they need it.
Have Toys Just For The Little One
You'd think I'd have learned last time around that babies really don't need toys and even at an age where they're interested in playing with objects you could give them, like, old measuring cups and some Tupperware and they'd be happy. Alas, I wanted to make sure "she had her own things" and they basically sat either gathering dust or being played with by her brother until she was six or seven months.
When you have two kids, basically all toys are communal.
Not Make Stupid Mistakes This Time
I may not have made the same mistakes (though sometimes I did, like eating messy sandwiches while babywearing), but I absolutely made stupid mistakes with both my children. Not only is that part of parenting, that's part of being human. I am convinced, at this point, that some dumb parenting mistakes are an important aspect of normal childhood development. Mine have turned out pretty well so far (and I'm still making some stupid mistakes).