column is the second of a two part series about adding a second child to your
family. If you missed the first
part, just e-mail me and I'll send it on.)
the thing is... you've changed your mind.
agonized over how far apart to have your children and you've either carefully
planned your latest pregnancy or you've done the Barb Cooper WHOOPS method.
At any rate, you're now nearing the end of your second pregnancy and
you've simply changed your mind. (My
second pregnancy coincided with the second pregnancy of my good friend Heather,
whose second child was born the very same day as Jane.
I would call her and moan, "I canít do this.
What was I thinking?" And
Heather would answer, "YOU? I
PLANNED this and I donít think I can go through with it!")
there you are, see. Nine months
pregnant with Number Two. It's time
to leave for the hospital and when you get home, you'll have a new little
roommate, God willing. So you try
to cuddle with your firstborn one last time and you silently apologize again and
again to her and then you tell your caregiver to spoil her mercilessly and then
you leave. Sobbing.
have the baby. The birth itself is
not exactly anticlimactic, but your focus is so much on what happens after the
baby comes out that it feels as though it is.
There's less of a party atmosphere; fewer adoring friends and family
cheering you on. Fewer flowers.
In fact, people call and say they'd rather just come by in the next few
weeks than bug you at the hospital, if that's okay.
(Actually, this may just be unique to Jane's birth since the pregnancy
was so fraught with drama that I'm sure most people just wanted to do a Dorothy
Parker and send notes saying "Congratulations.
We all knew you had it in you.")
then you hold the new one for the first time.
And you look deeply into her eyes and you have that feeling. You know. THAT
feeling. The one where you silently
shriek, "Oh my GOD, I've given birth to a GARDEN GNOME!"
are wheeled back to your room and you call home and announce to your oldest
daughter that she's now a big sister (she seems under whelmed) and you make
plans for her to come see you that afternoon, just as soon as Daddy can drive
home and get her. Your husband
leaves and there you are with the new baby. Alone.
And it's as if you've never even SEEN a baby before --are they really
that SMALL? As soon as your oldest
arrives at the hospital, you pull out the incredible present, the one thing your
oldest has wanted forever, and announce that the new baby has brought her a
present. This is VERY well
received. Than you let her crawl up
in bed with you, stitches not withstanding --and you marvel that anything that
once dwelled in your body is now this BIG.
It's truly a funhouse-mirror feeling, the whole day.
you go home. And at some point in
the next three weeks, you and your husband come to the realization that you
can't remember a single thing about ever having had a baby. Which is actually okay because even if you had total recall,
the new baby is totally different and nothing you learned the first time will
work this time anyway. (I only have
one trick that worked with both of my children.
Whenever their eyelids were heavy and their stare rather glassy-eyed, I
would stroke their eyebrows and they would sleep.)
you survive the first few weeks, totally sleepless.
In Paul Reiser's book "Babyhood" he asks the question
"Just what is the goal here? Twenty-four
hours of sleep?" When it
comes to the second child, the answer is a resounding "YES!" --you
just want this kid to sleep for a while so you can figure out how you are
possibly going to survive.
you DO survive. You just sort of,
well, DO it. It's not pretty and
you frequently have to make snap prioritizations --for example, say you're
nursing when your oldest does a Face Plant on the wood floor and you put that
baby down faster than you can say "unlatch" and rush to offer comfort
and an ice pack. Or you're nursing
the baby when your oldest has a poopy diaper that drives the pets under the bed
and you have to decide if you should sit there, eyes watering, or unlatch the
baby and change the oldest quickly. My
one bit of advice here is to err as often as possible on the side of your oldest
--not just in the case of poopy diapers but in general.
The baby really doesn't know the difference as long as her basic needs
are being met but your oldest sure does! And
make sure you announce loudly "Iím sorry, Jane, but you'll just have to
wait a minute for your new diaper while I get Ana a snack. She's hungry." so that your oldest understands you are
giving her priority. (Of course,
you might want to substitute the names of YOUR children into sentences like this
to avoid general confusion.)
any rate, you'll find a good groove for parenting two children and you will
eventually take the two of them out in public BY YOURSELF without needing to
announce it to everyone you know. In
fact, this will happen much more quickly than you ever took the first one out in
public by yourself. Thatís the
thing about having two kids: you no longer have the luxury of easing into some
kind of comfort zone before you achieve basic milestones.
I knew I had crossed some invisible line when I took Ana with me to
Janeís six-month check up and she actually helped comfort Jane after her
shots, as opposed to being completely traumatized.
Your heart will ache a little as you try to integrate the needs of the
second one into the routine you have with your oldest.
But kids are so adaptable and it is unlikely that your oldest will need
major therapy just because you had to nurse your youngest in the middle of story
time. Cuddling side-by-side is
still cuddling, even when you're used to cuddling your oldest on your lap.
last point about adding a second child. I
wasn't particularly worried about having enough love for a second child.
But I was unprepared for how it happens.
It's like you grow an additional heart for your second one --there is no
diminishment of love or sharing of the love that you have for your first. You really do love your second one EXACTLY as much as you
love your first, even though it takes a little longer to establish your
relationship with the little one. I
should have known that Mother Nature didn't intend for our love for our children
to be some finite resource. In the
same way our bodies expand to create a new life, our hearts expand to nurture
and accommodate this tiny sibling. The only being who really suffers a loss of
affection is the same one who got shortchanged when you brought your oldest
home: the dog.
once the baby gets here, you find that there might still be days when you want
to announce that you have changed your mind and you are truly not up to
parenting two children, but your heart never knows such ambivalence.
Oddly enough, given the choice, youíd do exactly the same thing.
Pretty cool, huh?
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Barbara Cooper 2001
Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (3) and Jane (eight months). She lives in Austin, Texas and is grateful every day for her two healthy kids and her one miserable dog.