1. Every conversation leading up to the birth of kid #2 is about how kid #1 will be affected. Should we get him a little gift “from the baby”? Who will take care of him while you’re in the hospital? And if you leave him with your sister, say, what if she doesn’t cut up his sandwich right? Maybe you should make a 34-page binder of instructions for his care.
2. You won’t hesitate to get the epidural. Unlike the first delivery, when you were determined to go it au naturel, and in weeks prior said to your husband over and over again in a firm voice, “No, I won’t want pain meds. If it looks like I’m caving and asking for an epidural, you are to say to me ‘NO! You can do it! You don’t need an epidural!’ Okay? Got it?” and then, an hour into labor, when you were writhing around and shrieking for the needle, your husband, terrified and leaking tears, tried to summon up the courage in the midst of this shitshow to recite, in a barely audible voice, “No, you can do it, you don’t need an epidural.” Well. The nice thing about the second kid is that you aren’t worried about these things anymore. Get the epidural immediately. In fact, just get it now. Someone can carry you around until you deliver.
3. Your entire conversation in the hospital—rather than paying attention to the newborn—is going to be about how you are managing your first child’s feelings in the wake of this event. Your Orthodox Jewish roommate, fresh from delivering her eighth baby, will quietly chuckle to herself at your concern that your older child not be even slightly disturbed by the arrival of a sibling. (Well, maybe you won’t have a roommate—you might get lucky!)
4. You’ll be surprised that the whole process of labor and delivery and nursing goes more smoothly. Or at least it isn’t as shocking—shocking like a bomb going off—as the first time around. You recover faster. While with #1 you wanted to stay in the hospital as long as possible—what were you supposed to do with this baby on your own?—with #2 the hospital starts to feel like an airport you’re trapped in. You’ll lobby to get home as soon as possible.
5. You will have your suspicions confirmed that there is no such thing as a four-month or seven-month or 15-month sleep regression. The baby is just fucking with you.
6. You will have washed everything in something cheaper than Dreft, because you’re not falling for that shit anymore.
7. You will already know to queue up Orange Is the New Black for the nursing sessions in your gross, sweat-stained glider. OITNB brought you such comfort the first time around, mostly because of your weepy, deranged insistence that prison is a metaphor for the year of breastfeeding.
8. You really, truly, have all the gear you need. Like, let’s say, hypothetically, you didn’t even have a crib for #1, because you were so determined to co-sleep, because you read somewhere that co-sleeping is the only way to go. And even though your husband was not on board with that at all, he deferred to you.
But then, the first night home from the hospital, the baby’s every exhalation startled you awake, and so, weeping, you handed him to your husband, who slept on the floor while the baby slept on the couch while you slept in the nice comfy bed. And your husband said, three days later, as he once again made up his hard pallet on the floor, I just love this co-sleeping, honey, it’s really brought us closer together as a family. And then, your friend took pity on you and brought over a hand-me-down bassinet, which you still have.
Yes, this time you have everything you need, including the ugly plastic doohickey that will sling your newborn in random directions—we call this The Scrambler, after the ride at the county fair—pinning the child in place via centrifugal force, and which takes up half the room. You will have all this gear, unpacked and ready to go.
9. You’ve probably frozen a lot of meals and hopefully your friends will organize a meal drop, which is so luxurious you consider having a third baby just to get the dinners. Though, when you say that, your husband says I will buy you a chef if you don’t bring up a third kid anymore.
10. It’s not teething pain. Or it is teething pain. It doesn’t matter.
11. You’ll know exactly how long each stage lasts. With the first child, the sleepless nights piled up on one another like a long, slow car accident. Kind people said, “Oh, my child slept through the night at two months!” Sadistic people said, “My seven-year-old still wakes up to nurse every twenty minutes! Hah hah, if you find a solution, tell me!” But now you do know how long this can go on—if you’re lucky, two months!
This knowledge has its downsides, though—I knew from experience that things would get easier after two weeks, and then easier after six weeks, and then easier still after 12 weeks. So I crossed off each day like a prison sentence. Nineteen times a day I would numbly think “Day 11. It gets easier in three more days.” I hunched in my sweaty glider (which is the new book I’m writing, by the way; Sweaty Glider is a sequel to The Yellow Wallpaper) and nursed and crossed off the days until it got easier.
12. You’ll set out the tiny newborn sleepers that you haven’t seen in two years and cry at the one with the little lions on it, and cry again when the baby outgrows it in nine days. “We have to have a third,” you cry, “just so someone wears the lions sleeper again,” and your husband, lying on the floor, moans.
13. Any hobbies or free time you had with one kid will drop to effectively zero, at least for a while. Your husband, who used to enjoy music, doesn’t sing at all except to croon Eric Clapton’s iconic “Darling, You Look Terrible Tonight” to himself in the mirror after a rough evening getting both kids to bed.
14. At a certain point you’ll actually notice #2 and think, hey, he’s pretty cute. And he’ll probably turn out to be something of a bruiser—he’ll elbow his way onto your lap, demanding the attention that #1 commanded by fiat. #2 will have been waving at you for three months before you even notice and then you’ll be like, “OK, sweet, he waved. What can I make for dinner?” #2 learns to insert himself by brute force. This may be even more true for you, what with the heir-to-the-throne thing at all.
15. Your time alone with your husband will also drop, and when you do find yourself with a free hour here or there, you might find that your time is mostly spent snatching drabs of sleep like a starving person. I climbed into bed the other day and said, “God, I’m just a carcass,” and my husband said, “Oh, how you sweet-talk me,” and then we both collapsed.
16. You realize company is more important than a schedule. The nights are horrible no matter what you do, so don’t deprive yourself of lunch with friends because it might throw the whole timetable off.
17. #1 and #2 will eventually start to play together, which I believe must be like the moment when scurvy-ridden sailors spotted land after months at sea. You might get twenty minutes of peace. Just enough time to entertain thoughts of #3.
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