The First Week as a Second Time Parent; The Real Struggles
Being a parent for the second time should seem like a breeze, but that’s not always the reality. Doula and Postpartum Consultant, Sasha Romary, talks about how tough it can be and some tips to help you through.
Nothing is more exciting than welcoming a new little person into your family. Being pregnant the second time around was filled with that same magical feeling of growing another human but this time, I felt so much more prepared. I had done this before, after all! I was so much more prepared and much more relaxed about everything. Instead of the “first time mom” anxiety, my biggest worry and concern was how to prepare my 2 ½ year old for the massive change that was headed his way. How would I have enough time, hands, energy and love for two little humans?
The day came when we welcomed our second little boy into the world and our carefully organized plan for who would take care of our 2-year-old fell into place nicely, almost. We had planned for all the logistics but our poor boy was caught totally off-guard when he woke up to find our neighbor there to get him dressed and ready for daycare instead of Mum and Dad. After a quick 24 hours in the hospital with me and baby boy, my husband went home to our son to provide him with a wee bit of normalcy. Not something we had planned but it was important that he felt safe and secure with my husband instead of with our neighbors.
The day we came home from the hospital was when the reality of juggling two little ones really hit. We were faced with two little boys, both of whom needed me but in two very different ways: our new baby boy had basic, physical needs. He needed to be changed, fed, put to sleep and comforted and for practical reasons (I was exclusively breastfeeding), much of this could only be done by me. Our 2-year-old, however, had just spent 3 days and nights away from me. He needed me on a much more psychological level. He needed my physical attention and he needed to understand that I wasn’t going to disappear in the middle of the night again. I immediately felt stretched thin, like there was not enough of me to provide both of these little humans with what they needed.
Over the next few weeks, we fell into a rhythm that seemed to work. Most days were just making sure everyone was fed, dressed and (mostly) happy, but here are some tips that have gotten us through the first month
- It will still be all about the first-born!
You might be worried that all the attention will go to the new baby but most toddlers will make sure that your attention is still on on them. Newborns aren’t on any kind of schedule and will mostly just fall in line with whatever you need to do with big brother/sister. Maintaining your older child’s routine is key for any big change and that stays true with adding a new family member into the mix. Trust me, everything is easier if your toddler is happy so address their needs first!
- Get Help!
I was lucky enough to have my mother-in-law here for the first few weeks to help out. Her extra set of hands not only allowed me to spend that important one-on-one time with our older son but she also helped cook, clean, run errands, let me shower and nap. If you don’t have the opportunity for this kind of help, I strongly encourage you to have friends make you some freezer meals and hire someone to clean the apartment and help with laundry once a week. It is so worth it!
- Have a plan for nursing time.
Once your toddler gets over the strange idea that there is a tiny person attached to your chest, they will quickly realize that while baby is nursing, you are immobile and this can lead to a total free-for-all! Let loose on your parenting ethics and have a plan for nursing time. I try to have our older one eating dinner while I nurse in the evenings but simply flipping on some cartoons for a few minutes to keep them safe and occupied is totally acceptable!
- Witching Hour is pure survival mode
If you thought that the 5pm-7pm time of day was hard with one kid, it is exponentially more difficult when you have two! On the magical days when baby is napping during this time, I feel like supermom but most days, both kids are awake, fussy, and needing me. These few hours of the day are pure survival mode. You will feel like you are juggling the entire world, there will most likely be tears, and you will probably be wondering what ever possessed you to create these miniature versions of yourself, but, the time will pass and somehow both babies will fall asleep and you will be able to sit down for a moment with some food or have a quick bath and recharge.
- There will be guilt, and that is OK.
There is only so much Mama to go around. My older child was not accustomed to waiting for me and I found myself so much more sensitive to his emotional needs than mynewborn’s physical needs. I felt guilty attending to this new little person and hurting my first-borns feelings as I did so but I also felt guilty constantly responding to my first-born and not giving my newborn the undivided attention that I had given my older child when he was a baby. It is a transition for everyone and it will take time to adjust to the new normal. Be gentle with everyone but most of all yourself. Let the guilt in and then move on. There will be time and arms to give to each child in the future.
We are now a month into being a family of four and I cannot say that we have any sort of plan that works. Every day is different and comes with its own highs and lows. This is a fleeting time that somehow tends to fly by but can be a roller coaster of emotions for the entire family. Embrace it all, enjoy the highs and know that, in the low moments, this phase will pass and you will find your rhythm in the new normal.