Being pregnant with a second child is an entirely different experience than being pregnant with a first. When you’re pregnant the first time, you’re a princess; an amazing, delicate creature growing a new life in a masterful, mysterious way. People are in awe of your majesty. You’re told to rest as much as possible. You’re encouraged to pamper yourself. You’re told you glow! But, for round two, you can forget about the special treatment. You can’t rest or stay off your feet and you don’t get any downtime or alone time, let alone time to pamper yourself. You’re not a magic vessel creating a miracle, but an experienced mom. Do you glow? Maybe, but you do it while covered in pee, poop, blood and snot. For baby two, you’re no longer an innocent newbie — you’ve gone to battle once and you’re an experienced soldier. And you’re about to do it all over again.
During my second pregnancy, I realized why a second (and every subsequent) child has fewer pictures and accolades and less attention. Even though it took me a year to conceive the second time, when I finally did get pregnant, I was so consumed with the kid I already had that I couldn’t focus on my second pregnancy. Every milestone, feeling or picture that I celebrated the first time kind of got ignored the second time around. Of course I love my second child as much as my older one, but pretty much everything about my second pregnancy was, in a way, less than my first. Here are some examples:
For baby one, I marveled over each photo — looking at his little ribs, spine, nose — wondering what he’d look like, if he’d have his daddy’s eyes or my mouth. We scanned the images and uploaded them to Facebook, making captions, sharing them proudly. I even made frames for my parents and in-laws so they could show off the baby before they had actual baby pictures. I kept each original picture (and even some duplicates) in a folder dedicated to the baby, in chronological order of course.
For baby two, I forgot to show my husband the pictures half the time. Instead, I found them days after my appointment, crumpled at the bottom of my bag, under snacks, wipes and zyyons. When I thought about it, I put a few on the fridge, but I certainly don’t make copies for my parents or in-laws this time. Why would they want a picture of an alien/fish/baby-looking thing when they could display a picture of their beautiful 3-year-old grandson instead? And Facebook? Forget it. I certainly wasn’t taking the trouble to scan things, let alone show off a grainy, black-and-white image that wasn’t even cute.
For baby one, my husband and I both counted down the days until we received our weekly update emails. I updated my Gchat status each week to reflect the size fruit the baby correlated to (which I thought was so cute and not at all annoying). We looked at produce stands to better understand the size of our tiny, growing creature — a kumquat — how big is a kumquat, we wondered? I read, with interest and pleasure, what other women were thinking and the suggestions BabyCenter offered.
For baby two, I signed up for the weekly emails solely to keep me abreast of how far along I was. I knew my week changed on Thursdays, but that was it — without the emails I would have been clueless. The second time around, I didn’t care about the fruit/vegetable comparison, but I could ignore that. What annoyed me were the snippets of conversations the emails included. I did not care what other women were going through, wondering or feeling. And I got irritated with the “helpful hints” BabyCenter wanted to teach me. Worse yet was the concern-trolling. After I received the third email that was focused on weight gain, I decided to stop reading them altogether and deleted them as soon as I got my weekly update.
For baby one, I diligently took pictures every two weeks, marking my pregnancy growth. I made sure to stand in the same place and wear the same outfit each time so we could see just how my belly was changing. I even made my husband take several pictures so I could choose the best one. I also lettered the signs just so and often rewrote them when I was unhappy with the size of the “1” in relation to the “8” or other such nonsense.
For baby two, I totally forgot that I had actually taken pictures of my belly on purpose the first time around. I remembered somewhere around 24 weeks, when I was already huge and bloated and didn’t feel like showing off, let alone caring about a damn sign that would help document my giant ass for prosperity. So, I took no cutesy weekly update pictures while pregnant the second time around. If baby two wants to see what I looked like while I was pregnant with him, he can look at pictures of me with his brother.
For baby one, I worried about literally everything I could think about. I worried he would be a psychopath, a sociopath or a rapist. I worried about autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other developmental and mental disorders. I worried he would be a hermaphrodite. I worried he would be mean or stupid, that he wouldn’t like me or that I wouldn’t like him. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. I worried that he would be kidnapped. I worried that I would be kidnapped and he would be cut out of me, raised by a crazy person or sold on the baby black market. I worried that I was damaging his psyche by watching shows like Criminal Minds or Law & Order: SVU — would the violent crimes I watched on TV be internalized and imprinted on his tiny brain? Were those shows the reasons I was convinced I’d be kidnapped by that creepy van on the corner? And why was that creepy van on the corner? I once started crying at a restaurant because I was worried about the lotion I had used earlier that morning. Lotion. Not specialty lotion for a skin condition, but regular ol’ lotion. If there was something happening, I worried about it. And then, of course, I worried that I was worrying too much and was going to give him an anxiety disorder based on all the in utero stress.
For baby two, I only worried about sleep. I mean, that’s not completely true because there’s no way to not worry about diseases or disorders or The Big Stuff, but for the most part, I mainly worried about how a second baby would fit into our family and how (and if) we would ever sleep again.
For baby one, I didn’t eat anything that was verboten during pregnancy. By that, I mean I didn’t have a sip of alcohol even when I joined my husband on a business trip we turned into a babymoon in Paris. Paris! And not even a sip of wine. No cheese at all in France, and in the states, no soft cheese, no sushi, no cold cuts and I literally wrote on my calendar when I had tuna so I wouldn’t go beyond my allotted two cans in 10 days.
For baby two, I laughed in the face of the ridiculous rules of pregnancy eating. No, I didn’t do anything to put my baby in jeopardy, but I ate sushi (from reputable places). I had a half of a beer a couple times. I ate soft cheese if it was pasteurized. I ate tuna sparingly, but didn’t always keep track of exactly when. Basically, I didn’t drive myself bonkers for the minuscule odds that I could contract a food-borne disease.
For baby one, I did more than plan out his room — I went overboard crafting, dedicating hundreds of hours to his room’s decoration. I made him a cross-stitch birth record, two matching cross-stitch wall pieces and a matching cross-stitch quilt (are you thinking of doing this? Don’t! Unless you’re insane, in which case you still shouldn’t do it. Seriously, it’s a ridiculous amount of work and under no circumstances should anyone ever attempt this). Against Jewish tradition, I had his room completely set up before he was even born and months before he moved out of our room and into his. Everything matched his theme (baby animals) or his colors (yellow and blue or rainbow). It was, if I may say so myself, an adorable nursery.
For baby two, my older son asked me what the baby’s room was going to be and I actually laughed. The baby doesn’t have a room and won’t have one until we move into a bigger place. And when he does finally have a room? He’ll either get the hand-me-downs from my first son’s nursery (if I ever get around to finishing his half-finished birth record) so my older son can have a “big boy” room, or the boys will share a room.
For baby one, I actively thought about giving birth. I wondered what it would be like and thought about the process, like how long I would be in labor and when I would ask for the epidural (because I knew it would be when and not if). I made a “labor” playlist for my iPod and bought a mini-speaker docking station so I could listen to music during my delivery. I bought myself a cute outfit to take pictures with the baby. Of course, an emergency C-section put the kibosh on all that, but I was even kind of mentally prepared for a C-section (just not one at 2:00 a.m.), knowing that they’re increasingly common.
For baby two, I didn’t think about the actual birth at all. Granted, having a scheduled C-section took the fear of labor and the uncertainty of when I would deliver out of my hands, but I didn’t even think about the basics of what the delivery would be like. I was only concerned with logistics regarding my older son.
And that’s kind of where we are now — concerned with logistics regarding my older son. The baby’s needs are always trumped by my older son’s needs. When my son has to leave for school or get picked up from school, the baby’s naps have to take a backseat. As the baby gets older, I’m sure we’ll settle into a routine that works for everyone, but right now we’re still figuring things out. And since my older son is at school, I’m going to go coo at the baby and take a few pictures of him while I can.