I got pregnant with my daughter on my son's second birthday. Whereas my first child was a not terribly surprising but also sort of surprising happy surprise, our second child was very much planned. My husband and I had always known we'd wanted more than one child and neither the birth of our first nor the miscarriage I'd had swayed us from that desire. Still, despite the fact that we knew exactly what we were doing, I found myself faced with the very real fears moms have before their second baby is born.
I'll skip to the ending for now, just to reassure people: everything worked out great. My daughter is amazing, my son loves her, she loves him, and my marriage is intact. But the aforementioned did not always seem like the foregone conclusion. I recently heard someone say that having one child is a life changer and having two is a game changer and yes. A thousand times yes. But even if you like (and, more importantly, have a handle on) the game you're already playing, rest assured that while the Game of Two Children may be more challenging it can also be so, so much fun. (And, good news, if you're parenting with a partner you may have given up your numbers advantage, but the teams are still even.)
Still, it's normal and healthy to feel your feelings, including any of the following:
The "What The Hell Did I Get Myself Into?" Fear
I feel like, especially early on and then towards the end of a second pregnancy, there's just an overwhelming feeling of generalized panic. You can't really pinpoint what you're worried about either, because it's everything and nothing specific all at once. But it can be a lot and, if you're like me, the source of more than one terrified crying session.
The "What If My Older Child Hates Them?" Fear
Most of my fears about my second pregnancy had to do with my older child. I was very concerned (and at times completely convinced) that I'd selfishly made the decision to ruin his life. I just "knew" that a younger sibling was going to ruin his personality and make him feel bitter and unloved. This absolutely devastated me, and the fact that he would clam up and scowl whenever we talked about the new baby did nothing to allay my fears.
To my relief and delight, my son never gave us a problem with his little sister. Every case is different, of course, and some siblings have a tough adjustment period, but I don't personally know of a child who didn't eventually become at least OK with a new arrival. I know of a great many, however, who develop close and loving bonds with their new brothers and sisters.
The "How Can I Possibly Love Them As Much As My Older Child?" Fear
Deep down I knew this wouldn't be an issue, but in my first several layers this was a concern. I adored my son. The little one living in my uterus, though? Well, I didn't even know them yet. So obviously, at that point, I loved the outside-of-my-uterus offspring more. But what if that trend continued? How could I love a baby I didn't know as much as a child I had almost three years of history with?
Again, this turned out to be a non-issue, but the struggle was real.
The "How Are We Supposed To Afford This?" Fear
Even if you've sat down with a financial planner and done the math, that math is still daunting (unless you're a millionaire or something in which case good for you and it must be nice). Panicking over finances, even in good circumstances, is kind of my thing, so needless to say the added expense of a second beloved money pit was daunting.
The "What If My Birth Is Terrible [Again]?" Fear
First time moms worry about birth because they don't know what to expect. Second time moms worry about birth because they do know what to expect. Even if you had a good birth the first time around, it's still birth. It doesn't tickle, folks. If you had a traumatic birth, that can be a lot to cope with, and the thought of potentially going through it again can cause a lot of stress.
It's important to talk to your healthcare provider, not only about your physical but mental wellbeing. Work through your fears, get on the same page, and make a plan to the best of your ability.
The "What If Something Happens To Me?" Fear
It's scary enough to worry about yourself during labor and delivery, but when you're already responsible for another human being that adds a whole new level of fear into the equation. The question of, "What happens to my child if something happens to me," while a statistically remote possibility for the general population, is nevertheless an understandable source of worry.
It's normal to have these thoughts and concerns. If they begin to interfere with how you are able to function on a regular basis, talk to your care provider.
The "What Does It Mean That I Have Nothing Done Yet?" Fear
"By the time I hit my second trimester with my last child I had the nursery painted and decorated, the house baby-proofed, purchased, washed, and stored three different kinds of bottles, bought an entire wardrobe, and organized and reorganized everything five times over. I haven't even begin to think of names for this baby? Does that mean I'm not as committed?!"
No. It means you're a parent now and it's basically impossible to devote as much time to preparing when you have a child in tow.
The "What If Something Happens To The Baby?" Fear
This is a fear moms can have about baby one as well as two, but with baby two it's a little more intense. You know what it's like to love a child now and therefore how high the stakes are, and the logistics of a NICU stay are complicated when you already have one child at home.
The "How Am I Supposed To Start Over Again?" Fear
It's been a while since I had a newborn. Even if it wasn't actually that long ago it sometimes feels like a very long time ago. Am I really going to go through the sleeplessness and the diapers and the crying and the constant feedings and the "not being able to talk to this kid to figure out what they need" game? And I'm going to do that while continuing to care for my first child? Why have I done this?"
In these moments, I recommend looking at some old baby pictures of your firstborn and remembering how adorable little squishy infants are.
The "How Am I Supposed To Recover While Caring For Two Children?" Fear
Not going to lie: this is a real concern. Line up as much help as you can, because it can be a doozy.
The "What If This Adds Strain To My Relationship With My Partner?" Fear
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Talk before the baby is born about your worries. Talk through your problems once the baby arrives. Let them know when you're not happy, and let them know when you are (positive reinforcement works, people). There's no room for guessing games when you're parents raising a child. After all, the kids are taking all the energy you'd normal reserve for deciphering bad moods and tantrums, so you and your partner can't make the other person do the same for an adult who is, in fact, capable of communicating their problems. Voice them and then solve those problems together.
The "What If We're Ruining The Family Dynamic?" Fear
This was another big concern of mine — our little family seemed really perfect when I got pregnant with my daughter. We were balanced, happy, and my husband and I were both available to cater to our (very mercurial) child's needs, tag team style. And while it worked it was still work. What if throwing another kid into the mix completely upended us in a way that would be impossible to correct?
The "How Am I Going To Do This?" Fear
You will. I don't know how you, specifically, will manage, but you're going to do it. You're a mom! Figuring out and navigating the impossible is basically what you do.