What I Wish I'd Known Before My Second Childby Kate Tunstall
My husband and I always knew we wanted a second child at some point. But after some difficulties in the first year or so following Pixie’s arrival, we were far from confident about actually making it happen. One of my most popular posts is about the intrusion of being asked when you’ll have a second baby - if you have a child yourself, you’ll know from bitter experience the questions are relentless. In the post I talk about all the many and varied reasons people may have for waiting, or being ‘one and done’.
I didn’t share my own personal reasons for waiting a little longer than some thought necessary in that blog, but it’s no secret: I developed anxiety following a fairly traumatic delivery.
My Fears About Having a Second Baby
The idea of a second seemed at once a blessing and an insurmountable, overwhelming responsibility. I was terrified of not coping and falling back down the rabbit hole from which I’d not long begun to emerge. However, clinging to the hope that the law of averages dictated we couldn’t possibly have another baby who was such a dreadful sleeper, a couple of years in we decided to be brave and take the plunge.
The reality was that I was broody - for my baby daughter: I wanted to relive her early weeks and months without the distraction of my illness. I wanted to have that precious time back to do it better and fully immerse myself in the magic of it all, to create the bittersweet nostalgia we’d only half-made because my anxiety was always on the periphery.
We eventually decided we could put it off no longer and I chose to look forward to creating those missing memories with our second child instead.
Oh, the irony…
The Perfect Labour and Delivery
As my belly grew, my confidence in my abilities diminished in inverse proportion. Thankfully, I was very fortunate and when the time came, in astonishing contrast to my first pregnancy and delivery were all I’d wished for. Everything was just as I’d have planned had I not been burnt before and made the decision to actively not plan.
Labour came on naturally at 39 weeks, without the need to be induced (a hell I never wish on any woman). It was fast, but I still got the water birth I so desperately wanted, and even managed to avoid any pain relief. I felt in control and it was blissful.
The Reality of Taking a Second Baby Home
The moment you introduce your new baby to their older sibling is so beautiful and poignant it’s hard to find the words. The awe and wonder on Pixie’s face is something that will stay with me forever. Of course, that’s a single fleeting moment which doesn’t reflect the reality of everyday life…
The initial few weeks were actually quite lovely. Novelty ensured Pixie remained curious and fascinated, while Elfin was sleepy and easy.
Alas, it didn’t take long for life to take a very different turn: Elfin was diagnosed with CMPA and the colic that came with it is one of the worst things I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. My husband was fantastic, but we found it very, very tough.
Pixie’s behaviour soon began to deteriorate, along with my mental health.
What I Wish I’d Known Before My Second Baby
It quickly became apparent that the magical moments I’d hoped to create with Elfin would never come to pass: I’d neglected to consider the demanding toddler I would also have to juggle.
I wish that I’d known, long before I had children, that that first year with your firstborn is a period in your life that should be treasured, even if - nay, even when - it’s not perfect.
You’re never getting that time back and, no matter how much better your mental health may be, it cannot be the same with a second child. I’d naively held out fanciful hope that my romantic yearning would be fulfilled - but Pixie had other ideas.
CMPA didn’t help matters, and sleep-deprivation caused by projectile reflux and literal hours of colic-induced screaming each night put paid to that early on.
What I’ve Learned From Having a Second Baby
To manage my expectations! To be realistic and give myself a break!
I wish I’d looked back on my early memories with Pixie in a different light sooner than I have. I still have lovely memories, they’re just not perfect…but they were never going to be.
There’s a damaging narrative surrounding early motherhood that everything is perfect, and if it’s not then it’s wrong, or somehow less than. Neither of these things are true. It’s okay to acknowledge that becoming a mother is tough, and it’s essential to recognise that the difficult phase is normal and in no way detracts from what otherwise is a very special time.
I wish I’d known from the off that I should appreciate my less than perfect moments and remember them with fondness, because I’m never getting them back and they are nonetheless worthy of being cherished.