Dear readers, we are finally in the final countdown for Baby #2! This morning I felt the anticipation building even before I opened my eyes: that now we can start to really number the days left before we have our second child, that we can start to take out the layette, clean the bottles, prep the bassinet, finish the nursery. I literally could not keep my eyes closed (but neither could B–I’m convinced our sleeping patterns are linked.) So there we were, cuddled up in Mommy’s bed, watching Peppa Pig before 7am. Daddy is making breakfast downstairs, the smell of pancakes wafting up the stairs. And on this lovely morning, it dawned on me that this month is one leading to a new beginning, but it is also leading to the closing of a chapter in my life as a mom of one.
April 1 is always a special day for me anyway, because it was Briar’s expected due date. We ended up having her on March 27 by c-section because she was breech, but every year I mark the passage of the day. I got my girl a few days early! Now, I can also mark it as the beginning of a real change to our lives. I have relative surety, too: Baby #2 will also be born via c-section, so I know theoretically down to the minute when I will become a mom of two.
I’ve been struggling, as you have read, with a weird sort of distance from this pregnancy. Surely nothing is as special as the first (numerous mom friends and my own mom concur) but I had thought that the excitement would reach the same fever pitch so close to delivery… and it hasn’t. What has increased? My anxiety that I’m changing our family, maybe for the better, maybe for the worse, and always knowing that the change will be immutable.
I am trying to savor and cherish these last few days of being a mother of one to Briar… but I think all mothers know that life gets in the way of the time you have with your children, whether you try to make the time come in blocks or try to slip in bare minutes between all the things on the schedule. For me, at this moment, the life getting in the way is the life of this new child: my OB is in the City, so every second I spend getting to and from the appointments I have for this pregnancy takes away those same seconds from my time with Briar. In serving the second I lose time with the first.
This is not to say that this pregnancy is without excitement or joy; to the contrary, when the distance lifts and I have a moment to consider how close I am to mothering another life, to having another child, to adding to our family, I am thrilled and cannot wait for the birth. It makes some sense, of course, that my time getting to know the second pregnancy is abbreviated because of the first, but the guilt cuts both ways and with both children. On the one hand, I feel tremendous guilt for taking away my undivided attention from Briar, and on the other, I feel guilt that I’ll be unable to supply this baby with the same kind of laser-focused care I did with the first.
Yet there is a whisper of hope in all of this. Thomas has been a saint, constantly reassuring me that this is all completely normal and expected in a second pregnancy; we just don’t talk about it because we are made to feel that anything but leaning into motherhood is a sign of neglect of your children.
I want to know WHY we don’t talk about the emotional stressors associated with this huge leap in motherhood. When a family decides that they no longer want just one child, the clock starts: when will you have another? What kind of age gap will you have? What gender do you want? (This is a hugely loaded question, one I’ve been working on a post about for a long time.) How will you handle splitting your attention? How are you feeling about being pregnant again? For unplanned pregnancies, the questions are even more urgent, but take on a different tenor: can we/I handle this now?
For me, the difference between the pregnancies was pretty immediate. I was so excited at the outset of both, but soon reality crashed in and I found myself struggling to spend the same amount of energy on Baby #2 as I had with Briar. Things as simple as decorating a nursery became problematic: does this nursery look better than the first? Oh no, have I not done my best for the first baby? Should I be making similar choices for this nursery’s design, or completely different? If different, should I improve the quality of the first? I’m guessing these kinds of questions are similar to what other mothers on the cusp of having their second child feel, but I have never heard any women in my cohort express this difference. How would we know what we are feeling is normal, if someone didn’t stand up to say that they feel insecure about the differences?
The change is huge, and I am pushing back against those differences daily, trying to smooth the gap–not just for me, but for Briar, for Thomas, and for my immediate family. The expectation that you are just as excited is immense. So is the more internalized concern that you should love this second baby as you have the first. What I hear, and this is the only thing I hear on this issue, is that you do, but it doesn’t feel like you will until you’re holding that child in your arms.
So… maybe all this agitation over the difference is a good thing. Maybe that is the proof that you will love this child as fiercely as the first; even if nobody told you it would be so Herculean to bridge the gap, that building the bridge is proof that you will feel the same. That this struggle is a good thing, a real, hard-won lesson: that your time may be split, but your love will be doubled in the end.
Or at least that’s what I hope. So moms of two and beyond, I exhort you to talk about the transition, the hard stuff in between, not just the love in the end. Because that makes this all seem like a fairy tale, and I think we can all acknowledge that while it may have its moments, a fairy tale motherhood is NOT. It is beautiful, wonderful, special, but it is hard, this rarified and important state. Let’s be honest to mothers to be, that the leap from one to two is not as easy or as seamless as it looks. That it’s not just adding to a family, but turning a page, and closing on the time before.
As I write this, the baby kicks in earnest while Briar nibbles her breakfast. Nothing will be the same, for sure, but I know it will be just as beautiful–just different.