Bringing home a baby for the first time is a nerve-racking experience. When you’re pregnant with your first, everything is just that…a first time experience. You have the time and attention to devote to reading the books, prepping the nursery, researching the best products and generally feeling “prepared.” But nothing can prepare you for that moment when you come home from the hospital with that tiny bundle of joy.
But the second time around. Man. That one is a doozy. More than likely you’ve spent the last nine months not only growing a tiny human inside your body, but you’re managing to keep another small person alive, as well as you know, continue on with normal life. And coming home from the hospital with your second sweet babe…well that can feel like a hurricane. But even if you know what to expect the second time around, from pregnancy to delivery to bringing home baby…it can feel like nothing is the same.
Our first child was born while we were living overseas in Japan. Connor’s was born at 34 weeks and stayed in the NICU for another month(ish). His entry into the world was a bit dramatic but we adapted and overcame. Japanese NICU experiences are very different from the US – I was only allowed in hospital with him for about 3-4 hours a day. And while we had many friends who were appalled at that practice (did you just “gasp!” too?), it actually allowed us to finish preparing our home, hearts and for me to heal physically. When he finally came home, he wasn’t a fresh newborn, but rather, a one month old baby boy. And while we still had all the shocking “what do we do now” moments when we finally walked in the door, we’d had quite some time to prepare and bond with him before welcoming him into his new home. Plus, I had completely healed, which made things that much easier to adjust to.
Fast-forward about two years and we were preparing for the arrival of our daughter, Emma. We learned at the start of the pregnancy that my husband would more than likely be unable to attend her birth due to Navy commitments (i.e. the ship was out to sea). And so, in addition to the normal routine of being pregnant with #2, working full-time, keeping a toddler alive (sometimes easier said than done!) and having a husband on a ship that spent more time at sea than at home, I also prepared ourselves, mentally, emotionally and logistically for Emma’s arrival. But to be completely honest, pregnancy didn’t scare me and the upcoming solo birth didn’t scare me. The idea of bringing home a fresh newborn to an overly rambunctious and energetic big brother without my husband home SCARED the $#!& out of me! But in the way that motherhood has a way of always teaching us some pretty great lessons, I learned some valuable ones during those initial weeks that really helped make our transition from one kiddo to two a little bit easier on everyone.
Have a plan in place.
Because my husband wasn’t able to be present at the birth, I had a three-page plan mapping out every possible scenario of when I would go into labor. No, seriously. I had a detailed plan for five scenarios, A-E. Everything was coordinated from daycare pickup for Connor, to someone coming to take care of our dog, to a ride to the hospital, photographer and doula. My mother-in-law came down the day I went into labor and stayed for a few days until my parents could come into town and then one of my best friends spent the remaining week with us until le hubs could make it home. Having that plan in place was a key part of setting my mind at ease and helped us manage those first few weeks at home. If you are fortunate enough to have family nearby or a spouse who can readily take parental leave for more than a few days, that’s great. But having a detailed plan in place to ensure your older child, the dog, the house, and above all else, YOU, are cared for. Setting the expectation for help, as well as boundaries is a big stress reliever during one of your family’s most stressful moments.
Post-partum healing is harder the second time around.
When Connor finally came home from the hospital we literally spent hours curled up on the sofa snuggling, napping, eating. I felt like such a queen despite the stress of navigating newborn sleep, breastfeeding, and this new life we were forging. However, once Emma and I were home, Connor wanted me to give him his bath and make his dinner and sit on the floor with him and drop him off at daycare, especially since daddy wasn’t home. The ease of Emma’s birth left me feeling like a mama goddess. I thought to myself, “I can do anything!” But after one too many walks up the stairs to put Connor to bed or too much activity in general just trying to keep my family together forced me to realize that even though our house had fallen into a haze of emotional newborn chaos, I needed to first and foremost, allow my body to heal. There’s a pull to return back to your role as wife and mother as if you didn’t just deliver a human being from your lady parts. Your body, your heart, your mind are raging with raw emotions. Give in to them, but know your top priority is to heal properly. It’s the total essence of the whole “you need to take care of yourself before you can care for anyone else” mantra.
Roll with it.
Trust me when I say we did #allthethings to prepare Connor for Emma’s arrival. We had him present her a gift and him receive one from her. We talked SO MUCH about the baby before she arrived. We asked his opinion on her name. He rubbed my belly several times a day. And to an extent, I feel like it might have made an impact on him. But the reality is, there’s only so much a two year old can conceptualize. He was super excited when he met her in the hospital and was genuinely interested in her for a hot minute. But after the newness wore off, he only wanted me, without his new baby sister. I know there are lots of books out there on how to transition kid #1 when baby #2 arrives. And I’m sure they offer much better, scientific advice. But you know what, we just took each day at a time and rolled with it. And we survived. Puzzles, favorite books and TV became a resource I relied on greatly to an extent, because we all needed to learn some patience during this transition.
Every baby is different and each family is different. I know my experiences are unique to our family. But I sincerely hope that if you’re expecting baby #2 and are stressing because you’re at 37 weeks and still don’t have a crib mattress or you’re newly pregnant and concerned as to how this new baby will fit into your family of three, I assure you that you will find a new corner in your heart to love this baby and older sibling will eventually see this new tiny human in your house as a new member of his or her team and you momma, you’ll be just fine. Perhaps a bit more tired, but you’ll survive too.
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