Having a Second Baby
by Susan Miller, BScN
The first year with your first baby is busy, exciting and exhausting. As your baby nears her first birthday you and your partner may be thinking about having a second child. For many couples the decision to have a second baby does not come easily. As with deciding to have the first baby, there will always be some valid reason to put off having baby number two—at least for now. Each couple will have different priorities and reasoning on various aspects of expanding their family. There is no one answer to the complex question of having baby number two. Here are some points to ponder when deciding to have another baby.
Spacing. The best spacing of siblings in your family really boils down to individual preference. Parents often reflect on their own family of origin and their sibling group and want to copy this, or not repeat what they considered to be awkward or difficult spacing. Even after making a well thought out decision about spacing there is no guarantee that Mother Nature will cooperate. On the other hand, conceiving a second baby may come as a surprise. Even with the wide variety of reliable birth control methods available, approximately 50 per cent of all conceptions today are unplanned. If this is your situation, you may spend a fair amount of time getting used to the fact that baby number two is coming earlier than you had planned. Don’t panic!
Parents’ Feelings. For some women the thought of another difficult pregnancy, birth or post-partum is a barrier to deciding to have another baby. It takes a lot of self-reflection and courage to go ahead with a second pregnancy if the first pregnancy or birth was difficult. Speak with your caregiver about your past difficulties. Perhaps a different plan can be put in place for your second pregnancy that can help to avoid a repeat of these problems.
It is common to hear both moms and dads express the concern that they cannot imagine how they can possibly give as much to the second child as they have given to their first. Realistically, your second baby will not have your undivided attention as often as your first baby did, but he or she will be getting a lot of fun and entertainment from the older sibling. Babies delight in the attention from other children. It comes as a pleasant realization that older siblings can entertain baby while busy parents are getting dinner on the table.
Moms expecting their second baby often express that “I love this first baby so much—how can I possibly love another one the same?” I can remember saying this very thing to my friend (the mother of two) when I was expecting our second child many years ago. The home-grown wisdom of my friend was just what I needed to hear, and today I still remember exactly what she said: “Don’t worry, the love just keeps bubbling out of you.” And it did! There will always be a tug-of-war around time with each of your children. Mothers typically feel inadequacy when they are not able to spend as much time with their older child as they used to. Toddlers can become impatient and cranky when it seems to them that Mommy is always busy with “that baby.” It is a good idea to have a routine of one-on-one time each day with your older child. This special time together is something that you and your toddler can both look forward to each day.
Coping With Two. Some parents shudder to imagine looking after two young children at once. Your memories of long days and sleepless nights may still be vivid. The time and energy required to care for two young children is significant, but there is less exhaustion and emotional stress because the learning curve is not as steep with baby number two. The nice thing about being experienced parents is that you know that “this too shall pass.” One wise mother of two recently told me that she just doesn’t panic about anything with baby number two. She knows that whatever challenge baby is presenting right now is just a phase, and it will not go on forever.
Having a second baby means that the household will be busier and fuller. Baby things and toddler toys have a way of overtaking your space. Family life goes a lot smoother and is more relaxed, if you can depend on a certain amount of order and routine in the house. Having a place for everything may not be attainable right now but knowing where certain things (like your car keys) are saves a lot of time and wear on your nerves. De-clutter and purge anything that is not absolutely necessary at this point in your life. This way, when people are around and want to help out, it is so much simpler for them to see what has to be done and find what they need. Housekeeping is a lot easier when there is less to work around and maintain. “Stuff is stress,” so simplify your household before baby number two arrives.
You learned your favourite pieces of baby equipment and clothing with your first baby so customize your baby’s room and change area for what works best for you. It can be a big time saver to have sorted all of your baby clothes into size groupings and placed them in labeled bins or boxes that are stored out of the way. With this system you can quickly retrieve the larger clothes when baby number two grows into the next size. These days, people are less inclined to worry if baby is dressed in a pink or blue sleeper, so use what you have as much as possible. Reduce, reuse, recycle!
The Grand Plan. Perhaps the most pressing concerns couples have when considering a second child are around family lifestyle, finances and employment. A second baby may mean that a larger home or car is required. How do you plan to split maternity/paternity leave? Is it going to be cost-effective to have two children in full-time daycare or will mom or dad be staying home for the early years? All of these questions need to be addressed so that the couple has clarity about the future and are committed to the choices that they made together.
There is never a perfect time financially to take the leap of faith and have one more child. So through accident or design, if you are expecting your second baby (or planning to), embrace this new adventure and be assured that the very things you worried about the most usually turn out to be not that much of a problem after all. Have fun with your young family and cherish these early years.
Susan Miller R.N. BScN is a Perinatal Educator and Certified Breastfeeding Counsellor. She works with prenatal and post-natal families in the Greater Victoria area and is the proud grandmother of Meredith.