There’s no question that becoming a mom for the first time is beautiful. I remember so many quiet mornings spent rocking my newborn, studying and memorizing every detail of her perfect face. Showering one tiny person with all my affection was wonderful–an experience I’m happy to have had–but I’m here to tell you, friends, five reasons why becoming a mom for the second time has been even better:
- I have more confidence and the benefit of strategic expertise. I don’t know everything when it comes to parenting, by any means. I have a lot to learn. But I can now change a diaper in the dark without getting poop all over myself, nurse discreetly while standing in line at the bank, and fold laundry with one hand while building a Lego tower with the other. This baby can hit me with her best shot, because she’s going to need a lot more than a month’s worth of life experience to get the best of me! Ironically, as my level of functioning has gone up, my expectations of myself have gone down. There was a time, not long ago, when I used to wake up every morning and tell myself I’d have the house spotless by dinnertime. I lived in a constant state of stress and saw myself as a failure. Now, I wake up every morning and tell myself I’ll still have two living children by dinnertime. So far I’ve been able to accomplish that every day, and if I also happen to pay a few bills and put the laundry away, I feel pretty impressed with myself.
- I have my older daughter here to keep me company and keep things interesting. Baby snuggles are one of the greatest gifts life has to offer, but sometimes a mom needs a little entertainment to go with them. My newborn sleeps for a good portion of the day, but with my toddler around, I don’t have the chance to get bored or lonely. She’s learning new skills every day, and the things she says keep me laughing in spite of myself. When I hear her thanking the cashier at the grocery store, I’m reminded that all my efforts are paying off–I’m raising some awesome kids here! But the best part is seeing my little girl interact with her baby sister. She’s so gentle, so attentive, so caring towards our new little one it just melts my heart. I couldn’t be more grateful that they have each other to grow up with.
- I have a network of mom friends. With my first, I was making the transition from the workforce to staying at home. As much as I loved spending all my time with my little girl, I missed adult interaction. I had nobody with whom to commiserate over day-to-day frustrations and celebrate small victories. As my baby grew, I took her out more and we got involved in activities like story time at the local library. We met other moms and babies, and over time I made connections that helped me feel more fulfilled at home. Forging those bonds was an awkward and stressful process, and I often felt like I was picking up women in a bar. (The process was completely foreign to me: does she like me? should I ask for her number? am I supposed to wait three days to call?) This time, I already had all those connections in place. I had friends to see me through the transition from one baby to two–there was no awkward period of isolation and uncertainty.
- My husband is more involved. I don’t mean to say that he’s more involved with our second baby than he was with our first. He is simply more hands-on with our family as a whole than he used to be. Part of this has to do with how much he’s grown as a dad. Part of it has to do with our older daughter beginning to verbally engage him, and part of it has to do with my inability to be all things to everyone all the time. He sees that I’m outnumbered now and he rises to the occasion. There’s always something to do, so if he doesn’t feel comfortable giving our newborn a bath, he can read to our toddler and help her brush her teeth.
- I’ve caught a glimpse of what lies ahead. I remember feeling sentimental as each day passed with my first baby, knowing I would never get that day back and wondering how I would ever love a rambunctious toddler as much as I loved my soft, cuddly infant. Now, I understand that a mother’s love for her children grows with them. Instead of dreading the passage of time, I’m grateful my baby has survived another day of being extremely fragile (no small feat in a house with an active two-year-old). Every day she gets a little stronger, a little more interactive, and we get to know each other a little better. One day I’ll take her to the zoo, one day I’ll show her fireworks for the first time. One day she’ll be able to respond to her sister’s questions and return her daddy’s hugs and kisses. I’m not wishing these newborn days away; I cherish every one of them. But now, understanding just how much I can love a rambunctious toddler, and knowing how fun the next stages in her life will be, I can hardly contain my excitement!
I only wish I would have known how joyful this experience as a mother of two would be. I spent much of my last pregnancy tormented by guilt, wondering if my daughter would ever forgive me for disrupting her life, wondering if my heart was big enough to hold two times the love. It is. So is yours. If you’re nervously expecting your second baby, grieving what feels like the end of an era with your first, please know, the best is still ahead.