When I was pregnant with my second baby, I thought I had everything figured out. Turns out, I didn't. From the moment I brought my second baby home from the hospital, I realized that parenting two children was an entirely different ball game. On one hand, I was way more confident as a second-time mom, and especially about things like breastfeeding and baby care. But, in so many other ways, I felt like I was in over my head. If there's anything that's harder than being a new mom, it's being a mom to a newborn and a toddler.
When I asked other moms about their experience bringing home their second babies, I learned that I am not alone in finding the transition from one to two kids difficult. To be honest, for me, it was actually harder than becoming a mom for the very first time. I was trying to find my stride in caring for my brand new baby, but I had another child demanding my attention, throwing tantrums, and regressing big time by peeing on the floor and refusing to sleep.
It wasn't all bad, though. In fact, it was nice to actually feel like I knew what I was doing because I had been there before. Unfortunately, I also learned that babies are different, y'all. I don't know if it had something to do with coming second, but baby number two wouldn't take a pacifier, hated swaddling, and wouldn't sleep unless he was touching me. So, I felt like I couldn't use any of my old standbys.
While different parents have different experiences bringing their second babies home, we all have one thing in common: having a second baby will change everything. If you are expecting baby number two, read on for some real-life mom experiences, which just might help you get through the transition relatively unscathed:
"I was so worried about how my firstborn, then 3 years old, would react to his baby brother. It turns out I didn't need to. We walked in the house and said hello to him, and then we introduced him to his new little sibling. Andy toddled over, gave Matthew a kiss on his little peach-fuzzy head, got a little baby hair in his face, and announced, 'he tickles me.'"
"Mine are two years and 12 days apart. It was great. My husband took the week off, I had a very easy birth — much better than my first (it was a repeat C-section). I stayed my full allowed hospital stay just eating room service and snuggling my new baby. Baby was super chill and content to snooze in his own space, so I still spent a lot of time with older one. It went so smoothly, I was actually bored by the time I went back to work."
"My son wouldn’t speak to me or look at the baby. I must admit I was a lot more across it this second time. I didn’t leave her in the car seat thinking, ‘WTF do I do now?'"
[Note: Jessica is from Australia. There "across it" means you've got it covered, and she totally did.]
"Easier. I was so much more confident. I had concerns about my eldest, of course, but no fears of parenting my second."
"My first child was 19-months-old when my second was born. I had left him for the very first time with my mother-in-law for a few nights, while I went to the neighboring city to give birth two hours away. I missed him the whole time, and was heartbroken when I realized I could have brought him with me, like the mama down the hall had.
I finally got released, and took the new baby with me to pick my eldest up. I got out of the car, and could hear his little feet running through the house, excited to see his mommy. I was so excited I was almost in tears. I carried the new baby inside and set his car seat down just inside of the door to get a hug from my first-born. He looked at the new baby, looked at me, then turned and walked away from me. He was so mad at me that he wouldn't let me hug, kiss, or even speak to him. He refused to even come home with me. I have never been so hurt in my life."
"Fantastic. I was in nowhere near as much pain as I’d been in with the first. I had a slightly better idea of what I was doing, and my mother had taken the oldest for a week’s holiday, so we were just together in our own home (instead of four hours away like I had been with the first). Getting to know each other, while the oldest had the time of his life with Nonna."
"Your now eldest suddenly looks gigantic. It's hard not to expect too much of them or expect them to grow up overnight. But watching their relationship develop is actually one of the best things ever."
"My 4-year-old daughter is obsessed with 'her baby.' She is constantly running to grab me a diaper, gas drops, or pacifier, but she gets upset about all the time I have to spend feeding him. She even made up a song about it. I'm so much more aware of how quickly this stage goes since this isn't our first rodeo, so I'm trying to soak it up, including the sleep deprivation, leaky bodily fluids, excessive diapering, and all the rest of it."
"The first three to four days my 22-month-old sobbed uncontrollably every day when he came downstairs and saw his baby sister. He was OK seeing her in the hospital, but apparently not with her coming home."
"I wondered, 'What did I do?' Haha no, just kidding. It was much much easier than the first time actually. I prepared myself for postpartum depression/postpartum anxiety and, thanks to the Fed is Best Foundation, I was much more prepared for feeding, which was a major source of anxiety the first time around. My first child, who is 4, was very helpful and only slightly jealous. Overall, it was a much much better experience. We still struggle with sleep. I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but at 4 months now, we are doing pretty good."
"I felt nothing but guilt and dread. My first son was 22-months-old, and had been absolutely doted on — we bed-shared, my husband sat in the back of the car with him on journeys, he still breastfed, we had a perfect routine, and he was thriving. All I could see was everything we would have to lose or change. I could only envision this new baby taking away from our perfect lives.
Then they met and loved each other immediately. My eldest took it all in his stride and adapted so easily. I was still sad and concerned, but he helped me to deal with it because he had dealt with it so well."
"My 2-year-old ignored me for a week, which was honestly so much better than the tantrums I was expecting. I wasn't afraid to use formula when my milk didn't come in, so feeding was way easier. And it was my second C-section, so I knew what to expect recovery-wise and had the sense to keep taking my pain medications.
But although the first couple weeks were easier, after that things were very difficult for us for a few months. The toddler started acting out and the baby started screaming most of the time instead of being the sleepy laid-back newborn she was when we first brought her home. I had quit my job to stay home full time, developed postpartum depression and was alternately weeping and yelling all over the place. Baby number two is 8-months-old now, and I wouldn't change our family for the world, but I can honestly say that overall the first six months were much harder this time around."
"Thankfully, my oldest was 7. So he was very excited and wanted to help as much as possible. It was also a lot easier with him being in school as the new baby was on a reverse schedule for a week, so we all slept from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m."
"My first baby was very preterm. He came home after 4.5 months in the NICU, and on an apnea monitor with of oxygen around the clock. My second was full-term, and she came home after three days. I was shocked they just let us leave with her. My 3.5-year-old son adjusted OK to his baby sister. He loves her, now. He did ask me a couple of times, 'So, when is her mommy coming to pick her up?' After I explained to him that I was her mommy too, he said, "OK, I guess she can stay, but I’m not sharing my Paw Patrol Toys."
"The baby was so much easier. I felt that I totally knew what I was doing. But my 2-year-old had some feelings. He told me 'go away mommy' whenever I came in the room. It lasted about two days, but broke my heart every time."
"Was so much more exhausting bringing [my son] home. My toddler is very high needs, and he kept trying to 'help,' so we were constantly having to run interference so the toddler didn't accidentally hurt the baby. He's a great big brother, and now that baby is bigger, he's not trying to pick him up all the time."
"Coming home with baby number two was a blur. This time, instead of being able to sleep when baby sleeps, you're playing princesses, reading books, or for your sanity you've put a movie on and hoping your toddler stays put so you can close your eyes for two minutes. Coming home was different, an ego boost. We didn't feel like we were going to break the baby. I didn't cringe every time the infant cried and try to 'fix' her right way.
Seeing the love my eldest daughter has for her newborn sister has been priceless. With our second baby, we didn't worry about the house projects being done before she arrived. I also knew what to expect recovering from a repeat C-section. Overall, coming home with our second daughter our house was immediately filled with double the love."
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.