My kids were born exactly fives years and two days apart. We celebrated my daughters 5th birthday and the next day I drove to the hospital for my scheduled induction. My son, like my daughter, was a week late and probably would have stayed there for another year if I let him. Each newborn story is unique and every newborn is different. My first born was colicy, didn't sleep, didn't eat, and cried incessantly. My youngest was pretty much the best baby anyone could hope for, however, so bonding with my second baby was easier than my first.
My second child, my son, was born on a warm sunny April day. Unlike his sister, he came rather quickly and it only took 20 minutes of pushing to bring him into the world. The nurse placed him in my arms and I cried. I cried and my heart grew a hundred sizes. In an instant he won all of me.
I've heard stories about moms struggling to bond with their second child, but my experience was quite the opposite. The bond with my son was instantaneous. We didn't need to work on our relationship, we just connected. After struggling through my daughters infanthood, I found my son's birth and first few months to be a breeze.
Because I'm, Like, A Pro
I was no longer intimidated by changing diapers or breastfeeding. I’ve done all the research the first time around. I knew the "best" gizmos and baby gear and newborn gadgets. I knew the rules for storing breastmilk, the rules for introducing new foods, and the rules for carseat safety. I knew how to get my newborn to sleep and what colic was. That kind of knowledge and that kind of preparedness makes everything so much easier. When you aren't focusing on what to do next, you are able to enjoy the now.
Because Stress Was Minimal
Both of my children were jaundiced when they were born. When I brought my daughter in for her first visit, a few days after we brought her home, the pediatrician sent us for blood work. The blood work showed increased levels of bilirubin and we were sent to the emergency room so our daughter could be admitted and treated. We were told such high levels have the potential to cause brain damage and I think I lost approximately eight years off my life. The next 24 hours were a mix of exhaustion, anxiety, fear, and tears.
When my son’s levels came back high I was practically unfazed. I’ve been through this before. I was calm when the pediatrician sent the biliblanket (wallaby) to our house. I was calm when the nurse came daily to draw his blood. We napped together on the couch while he received his light therapy. The stress was practically nonexistent.
When my son was diagnosed with Torticollis, something that I would have lost my sh*t over the first time around, I did not panic. I took him to weekly therapy and we played together until he improved.
Because I Actually Slept
My second time around, when the baby slept, I slept. I already learned that laundry and dishes will always be there, and I also learned that my newborn will be a newborn only for a very short period of time. So I napped with him, next to him, with him on my chest, and with him in the bassinet or the swing. A well-rested mom is a good mom, and this well-rested mom used her newfound energy to snuggle with her newborn.
Because I Asked (And Received) More Help
With my first baby, I tried to do it all on my own. I wanted to prove to myself I could be the best mom without anyone's help. Well, that kind of self-pressure made me miserable. With my second, I cared about myself a little more. I cooked less and got more takeout. I let the laundry pile up until my husband did it. I asked my parents to babysit. I asked and I received.
Because I Was Proactive Rather Than Reactive
As a second-time parent, I developed a new superpower: anticipation. I could tell my son was about to wake up hungry before he did. I knew what he needed before he needed it. I'd avoid tantrums before they began. I'm telling you: superpower.
Because My Baby Blues Were Mild
I'm sure this is just a coincidence, but my baby blues were practically nonexistent. I didn't lock myself in the bathroom and cry. I didn't feel suffocated by the chaos that is a newborn. I didn't feel shame and regret. I didn't feel alone. I felt fine. Actually, I felt happy, because I was happy. Aside from the slight misery of my body trying to heal, I was fine.
Because My Body Wasn't As Broken
Of course everything hurt, but my body healed much faster. I didn't feel nearly as damaged the second time around. I had more energy and I was out running errands within a few days. Bonding with a newborn is much easier when you don't feel like crap every second of every day.
Because I Made Time For Me
I started going to the gym sooner this time. Not because I love working out, because I don't, but I do love the way I feel after I'm finished. I got my hair and nails done more often. I started taking care of myself and my needs. As silly as it may sound, feeling good about myself made it so much easier to bond with my baby.
When you realize this is your last baby, you treasure each milestone. The last baby of the family means every smile, every crawl, every step is that much more precious. It was a pleasure watching my son do everything. I often feel guilty for enjoying the first year with my son more than I did with my daughter, and I feel awful for not napping with my baby girl and for stressing about every stupid insignificant thing instead of just enjoying her as a newborn. I wish I could turn back time and do it all over again with her. But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. My experience with my firstborn allowed me to be a better new mom to my second. Because of my daughter, the (unfortunately) trial-and-error child, I knew what was important and what wasn’t. Because of the lessons my daughter taught me, I was able to appreciate my son.