Preparing for a new baby can be exciting, overwhelming, and stressful. There’s also the fear of the unknown. Will I know what to do? Will I be a good mom? I thought for sure the second time around would be easier. I had all the baby gear, the swing, the bouncy seat, plenty of infant clothes and toys. I would know what to expect…I was wrong.
When I found out I was pregnant with our second child, our daughter “V” was only 16 months. Having come from a small family with just one sibling who is almost 7 years older than me, I had never imagined having two babies so close together. Not to mention we had help getting pregnant the first time around and in my head, I just assumed we’d wait a few years and take the necessary steps when we were ready for number two. But you know what they say about people who “assume?”
My first response to the news was to break down in tears. No, they weren’t tears of joy. They were tears of sadness and overwhelming guilt. I looked at my little girl, toddling around the house and I could feel my heart breaking. She was my focus, my reason for living. We were so close. We spent our days attending music classes and “Mommy & Me” swim lessons. She was my everything and I was hers. How could I take that away from her? I said to myself, “she will never understand having to share me with another child.”
My second bout of guilt came when I realized the new baby would have to share me too. This is when the “knowing” turned to fear. I knew what it took to care for a newborn. The sleepless nights, the hours of nursing and pumping. How could I possibly have enough time and energy to care for this baby AND a toddler? Something would have to give. Someone would have to take the back burner and I just couldn’t fathom it.
I spent most of my pregnancy in this disillusioned state. To make matters worse, I suffered from placenta previa in my second trimester. This meant I couldn’t exercise or lift anything heavy, including my toddler. All of this left me feeling depressed and anxious. And when we found out we were having another girl, that feeling only deepened. A baby boy would’ve at least given my daughter the distinction of being Mommy and Daddy’s princess. Now she’d have to share that title as well. And even as she grew inside my belly, I am ashamed to say it took several months for me to bond with my unborn child. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get there. V, on the other hand, was excited about having a baby sister. At night she would rest her head on my belly and babble to her for what seemed like hours.
The morning of my scheduled c-section I woke up early, showered and kissed my sleeping daughter goodbye. I cried the entire ride to the hospital. My husband was excited, and I was too. But I was also terrified. I had been through this before and it wasn’t fun the last time. But the procedure was the least of my worries. I was becoming a mother of two and I wasn’t sure I was ready.
When baby F finally arrived, the tension in the air lifted. That magical thing that happens to a woman when her newborn baby is placed on her chest, happened to me again. I loved her instantly. She was my focus, my reason for living. When V came to visit later that day, she kissed her sister gently on the forehead and told her she loved her. My heart was filled with immense joy and I knew I had not taken anything from her. I gave her a best friend for life. I spent 5 glorious days recovering and bonding with my new daughter in the maternity unit. And I probably would’ve stayed longer if they’d let me. But eventually, it came time to go home and face reality.
I’m not going to sugar coat it: those first few weeks were hard. I was terrified when my husband went back to work and I was left alone to care for them. Even months into it, exhaustion led to short tempers, lots of timeouts and many long drives around town just to get a break. But it was doable and somehow we managed.
Looking back I wish I had allowed myself to enjoy my second pregnancy the way I enjoyed my first. I wasn’t all bad. There were moments of joy and things to be excited about. But I wish I had more faith that everything would work out because it did. Today V and F are 6 and 4. They wear the same clothes, they like the same shows, they fight over the Nintendo, and they are thick as thieves. My husband is outnumbered, but he seems OK with that. We’re done at two. Two crazy little girls and we couldn’t imagine our life any other way.