Congratulations on your pregnancy or soon to be adopted baby!
I have several friends moving from one to two children or two to three more children. I have been trying to think about what advice helped me and what didn’t when it came to our growing family.
For starters, nothing could have really prepared me for one child. I read The Baby Book (or at least some of it) and I got a lot of advice and ideas once my tummy was obviously full of a baby and then more during our baby shower. Still, I had no idea I’d suddenly feel really mortal or that the great schedule I was planning would not be on A’s agenda or that car rides would be sheer torture or that the laundry would pile up even though the clothes were doll sized! I had no idea how tired I would be… I thought all-nighters in my college years were fun!
Of course, there were wonderful things I wasn’t prepared for as well. The deep love I would feel about having my child. The wonderful sensuality of being motherly, of breastfeeding, of hording my child to myself at 2 am when no one could intervene, the joy I’d feel about being home with her, the shock that I didn’t miss work or that I could be entertained all day but counting toes and smelling sweet baby smells and breastmilk breath.
When S was born, A had turned 3 just before his birthday. Looking back, I thought she was more mature than she was. I remember seeing a comic with an overgrown toddler and a tiny baby and said it wouldn’t happen to me – I’d keep thinking of her as a my little girl – but still it happened a bit. To me now, those first three years are really still baby years now. There are so many things parents rush to do when preparing for a second baby… potty training, sleeping through the night, perhaps room or bed changes, teaching new skills, maybe preschool or daycare, etc. In other words, we encourage more independence, as we know that more will fall on our shoulders. I wonder as I think back, what was developmentally appropriate for me to expect of A (and then later of S) and what we may not have rushed had we not had “another one coming”. For example, we worked to have A comfortable in her own room in her own “big girl” bed…and I still vividly remember how S was crying inconsolably at a couple of weeks old while trying to go from S to A and back again… and how I eventually went to A and asked her if it would be OK if I nursed S in her bed while I read her a story… I remember feeling so overwhelmed at needing to be split in two and how relieved I felt when the solution ended up being so simple. I recently told her this story and it really comforted her to know I have always tried to balance all her and her siblings needs.
You will find your way! Give yourself and your family time to adjust and room to grow.
I also remember while pregnant with S, calling one of my sisters-in-law and admitting how afraid I was I wouldn’t love him as much as A or that I wouldn’t be able to attend to him with the same degree of attachment and purpose that I had A. She comforted me and assured me this was normal. I hadn’t heard this before and who even knows if she had also felt that way? I know that it was true however when S was born that I felt that my heart did not split but doubled room for love! I felt like our family was more complete because we had a daughter and a son and they had each other. I remember watching how S looked at A…it was that similar “in love” look I’d gotten from A… and hoping for them to have a wonderful sibling relationship as they grew.
There were days when two children really through me for a loop. I learned to love my slings and baby carriers a great deal…they were used daily and sometimes hourly. I accepted help a lot more and learned to use the crock-pot often so that I could be there for S on his fussy evenings. This transition time was especially challenging for me because my husband traveled a great deal the first year after S was born for work…so much so that we decided to move after his first year so that we would be closer as a family and for better financial stability. And of course, all that work I did to get the kids used to their rooms and routines flew out the window with the changes that came with a move.
The one great thing a friend always said to me was that the one thing that stays the same with children is change… so true!
And now, with Z in our mix, I feel not like we have too many kids but like we have an even more complete family. My concern with S was that he’d want to nurse as long as A…yet he was a quick nurser who had unexpected colic. By baby # 3 I never could have expected Z and I would have breastfeeding challenges after all my education and experience! I couldn’t plan ahead for all the time and energy I was going to need to pump and to work with early intervention on feeding and bottles. Something a family member often says comes to mind…lucky we don’t know what is coming. I am such a planner that this is something I have had to take to heart as I learn to go more with the flow with Z and in my parenting journey. I tell S that he warmed me up for Z because something I would have yelled at S for (Sharpie on the wall & furniture for example) I didn’t yell at Z for. Live and learn is a reality.
I am a different parent now.
I guess the biggest piece of all of this is that nothing prepares you for your child because your child is an individual… your child is not the expectation or the daydream… they are unique. S was nothing like A and Z is nothing like his sister and brother. My siblings and I are nothing alike. You may get one child to sleep through the night and then find them waking up with nightmares or needing you more anyway once your new baby comes. You may work at potty training only to find your “big child” asking for diapers or having accidents as they see you pottying or changing baby diapers. You may work on weaning only to have them ask to nurse once more.
I am not suggesting that you don’t set up new boundaries or make changes during your pregnancy…only that you ask yourself if you would do it at the same pace had you not been pregnant.
The best thing I can tell you is that when you have a new child, you will still be your other child’s parent so don’t rush them… just be patient with yourself.