When I was initially looking for material on welcoming a second child I wasn’t that surprised to find so very little. Still, it was a disappointment, and I hungrily bought up all the books about having a second baby that I could find.
After reading some of those books, I now am VERY surprised that there exists so little on the subject. From what I can tell, having a second child can be even more emotionally, mentally and physically draining than having a first. And the majority of mothers end up doing it, so their seems to be an audience. While it’s true that for mothers most of it can seem like “been there, done that,” the truth is, the experience of having a second child is vastly different from having a first, because, well, you have to fit that first child into the mix. While having a first child changes your life in infinite ways–having a second child does so again. I guess we just assume that since we have already stopped going out much, sacrificed our sleep, become beholden to a nap schedule, greatly altered our professional, social and personal lives, we don’t need to think much about adapting to another child. Except it seems, that we probably should.
What nobody seems to want to talk about it how challenging it is to manage a newborn and a little one. They don’t want to talk about what it does to your marriage to divide and conquer instead of tag team. And no one seems interested in acknowledging the complicated process of opening your heart to another child, when the first is still clamoring for his or her rightful claim. Having read these books, I’m really glad that I know some women actually feel they stop loving their first borns when their second babies come. If I hadn’t read that, I probably would have been horrified if the same happened to me.
Honestly, the only information I can seem to glean from my many friends who have gone before is, “it’s crazy.” And while yes, that is valuable insight, it doesn’t really let me know what to expect. How is it crazy? What can I do to make the craziness a little less insane? Sure we have strategies that worked the first time that we plan to implement again, like setting up a real bed in the back room so at least one person (ahem, my partner) can get a good night’s sleep. But we haven’t discussed what will happen if my daughter wakes up too, especially not if she wakes up after the baby has cried, or dare I suggest it, because the baby has cried. I usually get up with Isa during the night. Does my partner realize he will probably have to now? And when he does, will he have the skills to soothe her when she wants me, but can’t have me, because I’m half-crazed with sleep deprivation and breastfeeding a baby. Will my husband even hear her in the back room, over his own snores? We feel prepared because we know what worked the last time, but this time our daughter is here with us and we can’t imagine how she will react. We also have no idea if our son will sleep in the same ways our daughter did, or if he’ll sleep at all.
The truth is we have NO IDEA what is in store. Sure, we didn’t have any idea the first time either, but I worry that our previous experience since then makes us feel more confident than we should be. If this baby has colic I will have not one inkling of what to do, and that doesn’t even take into account the possibility that his crying might prevent my daughter from sleeping as well. I mean this whole enterprise could be one, big giant cluster fuck.
From what I’ve read, I should be expecting as much, because even if it goes well, it’s going to feel like a getting hit by a mac truck, repeatedly.
Most of the books seem to suggest that it gets manageable right around 12 weeks, which is exactly when I will be retuning to work. Of course none of the authors returned to work at that time, so I don’t know what it will feel like to throw myself into my professional obligations (at a job that requires a very high mental and emotional commitment) when I’m barely able to function at home. Frankly, just the thought of it absolutely terrifies me.
Some may say I should stop reading so much about having a second child, that I can’t know what it will be like until I’m living it. And I know that is true, but these books aren’t focusing on the worst case scenarios, they are presenting very common scenarios. And I appreciate having some idea of what to expect, even when I know that no other situation will completely mirror our own.
Ultimately, I’m just surprised there doesn’t exist more on this subject. Certainly there is an audience for it, as the vast majority of parents go on to have a second child. If most families in the US have two children, and most mothers and fathers are only parenting one child for a very finite period of time, why do ALL THE BOOKS treat parenthood as a two on one enterprise? Why do they all cater to the one mother-one child dynamic, when that dyad only exists for most women for a short couple of years? It’s great to know how to set boundaries and such for your first child, but what about the intricacies of doing so when you have a baby or another toddler to tend to? How do time outs work when there is another child vying for your attention? How does attachment parenting work when there is only one of you and two or more of them?
Maybe it’s just that parents don’t have as much time to read, so books cater to the audience that is buying, and hopefully reading, these books–parents-to-be or parents of one. Maybe most professionals–and parents–really do believe that everything they learn the first time around will adequately prepare them for having a second. I don’t know. In my opinion, taking on two seems like a vastly more complicated enterprise, one that deserves some attention in the vast canon of parenting literature. I just wish someone would recognize that and write something to fill the void.
And I hope when my son comes, that I’ll find the time to write here about what it’s really like, because I can’t believe I’m the only person who’s wishing she had a better idea of what life with a second child will look like. If anyone knows of any blogs that have tackled this transition, PLEASE send me the links. I really want to see, first hand, what it’s like.
Why do you think so few books exist on the transition from one to two, or rarely touch on strategies to use with two children? If you already have a second child, what was the transition like for you?