So you’ve just got your darling first-born sleeping through the night. Maybe he or she is even potty-trained. You’ve got your evenings back. You and your beloved notice each other again (wait, have they been here this whole time?) and can finally find time to have a conversation about something other than sleep or diapers or Mr. Tumble. The tyranny of the newborn is a distant memory (or maybe you’ve blocked it out completely). And then it happens. You decide it’s time: let’s have another baby! You turn off Netflix, flash your come-to-bed eyes, and move on to the euphemistic “chill.”
Wind forward, the fun part is over, and the next 9 months pass in a haze of confidence (“We’ve done this before, it’ll be so much easier this time, we know what we’re doing now!”) and rose tinted optimism (“I can’t wait to see them play together!”).
And you know what? You should be confident. You should be optimistic. Think of all that knowledge you’ve acquired over the months or years you’ve spent with your first-born. You’ve picked up all those tricks and techniques. You’ve gone from asking friends for their advice to giving them yours. You’ve thrown out all the stuff you bought or were given that turned out to be completely useless (that magic blanket guaranteed to soothe your baby to sleep) and doubled your stock of the essentials (no amount of easy-wash white one piece sleepers will ever be too many right?).
You, dear reader, are a Jedi parent.
But (you knew it was coming) there are a few things I wish I’d known before our 2nd daughter arrived. Her arrival was a time of joy and total love of course. But for me at least, it came with a couple of changes I want to share with you now, along with my tips for dealing with them, so you can be better prepared than I was.
- “Taking it in turns” is (temporarily) over. Remember those final months before your second pregnancy when one of you could get to the gym, or go shopping, or meet up with friends, while the other looked after your child? Well, it’s likely that, for a little while at least, that’s about to get more difficult. Remember how much one-on-one attention your first-born needed? Well, they don’t call it the 4th trimester for nothing. And your toddler is banging at the door asking to be let out to run around. It takes 2!
Try this: Adapt your expectations to a new baby, not the life you had before your new baby. If you’re ready for this, it will be much easier to take! Make a plan with your spouse around how to give each other the headspace and time you will inevitably need, even if it’s only short spells initially.
- You might feel more impatient to reach the toddler phase the second time around. With your first-born, you were discovering all of the development milestones and hurdles together for the first time. Of course, this process is still a life-affirming joy with number 2, but when you hit the inevitable fussy patches, you might find you’re less tolerant because you’ve seen how much easier an older child can be.
Try this: Look for the individual in your new baby. I found that once I started to see how her personality and behavior were different from her older sister, I could get excited about seeing her develop slowly, at her own pace.
- Sibling jealousy might not kick in right away. Our eldest daughter was nothing but thrilled when her new baby sister arrived home. She was gentle and loving with her from day one, through to about the 3rd month, when suddenly, she decided mommy was baby’s mommy, and daddy was her daddy: the family was, in her eyes, split along those lines.
Try this: Be prepared! The old trick of buying your toddler a gift “from” their baby sibling only works up to a point, after all. If some form of sibling jealousy does develop later on, try to be with your child in the emotions they’re experiencing. Try not to be hurt by any dismissive behavior they may show to one or both parents, and keep showing them you love them both equally. We found that this approach made the blip pass pretty quickly.
This is just what worked for me, and you’ll find your own ways through some of the challenges involved with the arrival of your second child. Everyone will tell you how much easier it will be than the first time around, and in many ways it is, but there is another side too, and the better-prepared you are from the outset the better you will handle it. Good luck!