Expecting, again? It’s different this time. Your second pregnancy is not the same as your first.
Second pregnancies seem to move along faster, with more tasks to juggle and less time to daydream about the baby on the way. It’s harder to rest and relax when there’s a busy child needing snacks and entertainment.
Midwife visits may creep up by surprise and an entire afternoon may pass without even thinking about the pregnancy. If you’re concerned that you don’t feel as emotionally invested in this second baby, or worry that you love your first child so much it’s hard to imagine “making room” for another, rest assured: these concerns are common. Partners may seem less interested or involved in the second pregnancy as well. Make time to do some “nesting” as you sort through clothes and gear from your first baby’s early days – it will get you in a newborn-state-of-mind to once again fold those tiny outfits and make lists of what you need to purchase or borrow this time around. Attend a prenatal yoga class for stretching and relaxation, and sign up for a childbirth “refresher class” so that you and your partner can have time together to focus on this new birth and baby, and to review and process events from your first birth experience.
Physically, you’ll notice that pregnancy symptoms occur earlier this time: you’ll likely “show” much sooner – usually by four months – and may feel the baby’s movements and Braxton-Hicks contractions much earlier in your second pregnancy, too. Statistically, second-time mothers enjoy an overall shorter labor and birth, due to faster cervical dilation, and a quicker and more efficient pushing stage.
Some complications that may have caused problems during your first pregnancy will need monitoring during your second pregnancy, should they reoccur, such as gestational diabetes, hyperemesis, or depression. However, other problems like placenta previa, sciatic pain, or fetal breech position may not be a problem this time around, but always best to discuss with your provider. Rh incompatibilities are a larger concern for second and subsequent births, so blood tests are done and RhoGam administered during the second trimester. Other tests such as free fetal cell assays, CVS, or amniocentesis may be discussed, even if they weren’t suggested during your earlier pregnancies.
During your first pregnancy, you probably thought carefully about what you put into your body. Now in your second pregnancy you’re nibbling on crackers, macaroni, and leftover crusts from grilled cheese sandwiches. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t have time to prepare healthy, balanced meals three times a day – few people do. Eating well is challenging when you have limited time and energy to shop and prepare food, so make your purchases and plan meals with that in mind.
Stock the refrigerator with ready-to-eat snacks to make good choices easier: fruits and vegetables already washed and sliced, whole grain cereal bars and crackers, string cheese, and hummus and other dips are great for easy snacking. Avoid delaying or skipping meals; your exhaustion and low blood sugar will catch up with you quickly. Hard-boiled eggs, low fat yogurt, a handful of almonds, or some rotisserie chicken are quick and easy high-protein snacks to keep your blood sugar steady during busy days.
You’ll likely feel a major time shortage in the months prior, but once your baby arrives, your time will be even more limited, as you’ll have very different eating, sleeping, and emotional needs to meet with two young children, household tasks to accomplish, doctors appointments, errands, drop-offs and pick-ups, and for many women, other job responsibilities outside the home. It may seem impossible to find time for yourself, but even a few minutes for a walk or hot bath may allow you to de-stress and relax. You’ll also find it more challenging to plan time alone with your partner, but even if a date-night with a sitter isn’t yet an option, spending a few minutes each day to check in with each other helps maintain your connection. Finding a new moms group, playgroup, or email list of other women with infants and children of similar ages will be helpful to share experiences and pick up tips and suggestions.
Adding your second child to the family may be an easier adjustment than bringing home your first. You’ve already made many shifts in relationship, identity, and lifestyle after the birth of your first child. You’ll also find that many things that caused you great anxiety with your first baby won’t seem nearly as concerning, and you’ll be much more comfortable feeding, diapering, and calming a tiny newborn. You’ll have the perspective to realize that all babies cry sometimes, newborns grow quickly into sturdy infants, and even the crankiest evening comes to an end. Perhaps the biggest adjustment after the birth of a second baby will be the complete and total lack of time. You’ll be focused on logistics and practicalities of daily family life, and, of course, trying to get some needed rest.
Expect a busy few months with many highs and lows. Maintain a good sense of humor, ask for help when you need it, and remember that children grow and change quickly. One day in the not so distant future, your children will able to play (nicely!) together during the day and sleep all night.
Read part two in our series to learn tips on Sibling Adjustment.