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Along for the Ride

Welcome to On Parenting's occasional guest blog feature, where we welcome parenting bloggers from around the Web. If you'd like to join the guest blogging party here at On Parenting, please e-mail parenting@washingtonpost.com.

By Amy Bowman

Preparing for the arrival of your first child is one of the most exhilarating and frightening times in many people's lives. You pore over the details of baby books trying to decide which color stroller will be most soothing to your impending arrival, you visit multiple baby stores to find the right style crib, the most adorable bumpers, and you do a lot of soul searching and contemplating with your partner to see what kind of parents you want to be.

The second time...not so much.

In fact, I am finding that the second time around I am so consumed with caring for and loving my 22-month old daughter, that I already feel like I am neglecting baby number two. And s/he is still five weeks away from arriving!

In the weeks and months leading up to our daughter's arrival in May 2006, my husband and I pretty much agreed that we had no idea what to expect and we would just do our best to maintain our senses of humor and sanity. Almost two years later and after varying degrees of success, we have all survived with only a few minor battle scars.

Some people believe that there should be fewer "unknowns," after all you already are a parent. You should have this gig down, right?

Well, in addition to not knowing this baby's gender, temperament, likes, dislikes, name and all of the stuff we didn't know when we went through the same thing two years ago, we also have no idea how our daughter is going to react to having a sibling. We don't know how we are going to react to parenting two children. Will we be "divide and conquer" parents or will we follow the "hunker down, we are all in this together" approach? Will any joint decision making even be possible?

You would think that we would be more confident in our physical preparedness as well. After all, we have gotten by on twenty minutes of sleep before, I have survived the excruciating pain associated with the first latch, my husband has learned how to do squats while lifting a newborn over his head (he truly believed that this was the only way to get her to fall asleep at 3am).

Oh, and we already have a crib, a co-sleeper, a bouncy seat, a swing, an exersaucer, a stroller, a play mat, toys, books, Raffi CDs and enough clothes to wallpaper a McMansion. It would be better to say that we are more lax than confident. After all, the kid won't be naked and s/he certainly won't be sleeping in a drawer (and even if he or she had to, that would probably be okay, too).

We are 100% confident that we are going to love this baby every bit as much as we love our daughter. In fact, after having one child and seeing the positive transformative impact on our lives, we are eagerly anticipating having that feeling grow. And I know we will find the time and energy to wholly enjoy it.

Amy Bowman writes View from the Passenger's Seat.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  April 29, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Babies , Guest Blogs
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Comments


I am about 7 weeks away from number 2's arrival. I must say your more prepared then me.

Our oldest daughter is 4 1/2. So it has been a few years for us. In that time we had a failed adoption. So when that happened we gave away all our baby clothes and equipment.

It did not matter too much. I found between friends and family, we were able to secure everything all over again. We had saved our crib but gave literally everything else away.

The clothes would not have mattered too much because we are having a boy next and he is born at a completely different time of the year.

But we find ourselves scrambling to put together his room. We still have curtains to hang, furniture to move, bottles to sterilize and clothes to wash. Luckily we got many many hand me down clothing items. But poor little boy will not be as well dressed as his sister for the first year.

I don't fear that we will love him just as much. The only fear is managing two kids, sleep deprivation, and my daughter will be very jealous for a really long time.

Best of luck with both. I am sure it is worth the journey. But I am happy to say after my son is born, we are done.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 29, 2008 7:23 AM | Report abuse

We were much more confident with #2 than #1. Sure, there were a ton of issues with two that you don't have with one. But we also realized how much all the stuff we stressed out about with #1 really didn't matter, so we didn't stress out about it with #2.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 29, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

First of all, Congratulations, Amy!

Secondly, I like your parenting strategy. I've always been an advocate of "make it up as you go along" because that's the nature of life. You can plan and plan all you want, but most of it will be a waste of time anyway. There are simply way too many unknowns to predict the future.

BTW: That's the first time I've noticed the s/he to denote a genderless pronoun. It just may catch.

Posted by: DandyLion | April 29, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

My youngest left the hospital in a hospital issued onesie and blanket because I forgot to remind my husband to grab something and he didn't think of it himself...then she spent the next few weeks in only a diaper because it was the hotest summer in years! My oldest never left the house in anything less than adorable coordinated clothing with hats and shoes, etc. The poor baby has barely worn matching pants and shirts! But at 20 months she is dressing herself and if I don't have to do it, she can dress as she likes!

I have been more confident with each baby, which has helped because they are all so very different. I thought I knew what to expect and they have each found new ways of surprising me.

Congratulations and Good luck!

Posted by: Momof5 | April 29, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

What I was unprepared for with the second, was how much my eldest would change-- he adores his little sister and is fully attuned to her. He reminds me to nurse her (by the way, it is less painful the second time around) and always has great ideas to help sooth her when she is fussy.

good luck!

Posted by: dc mom | April 29, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

foamgnome: don't worry about your 4-1/2 year old. My kids are that distance apart, and it's amazing how helpful a 4-1/2 year old can be. And they're old enough to understand more - like that the baby will get more attention at first, mom will be tired (if she isn't already), etc.

Mine are now almost 15 and 10-1/2. Sometimes having that large of a spread is difficult, sometimes easier - just like anything else.

Posted by: just me | April 29, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Fondly remembered overheard conversation:
Tough waitress to couple with lovingly dressed baby: "Your first?" "How did you know?" "Matching socks...honey, I've got four. By the time you get to number three, they'll be lucky if they've got socks." And they won't even notice. You do 90% of your worrying with the first one - when the second comes along, you have the experience to know what's worth worrying over, you'll have stopped feeling guilty about the various things you do that don't accord with the latest fashionable advice, and you'll be able to enjoy the fun of meeting a completely new individual with a different set of opinions on how things should be run. Congratulations.

Posted by: lurkette | April 29, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Adding another child to the nest changed our parenting technique a little. For instance this is how we dealt with a dropped pacifier by kid order:

#1 Sterilize before giving back to baby
#2 Just Rinse it off with tap water
#3 Impose the 30 second rule before it needs to be rinsed
#4 Let him eat dirt, it's good for him

Posted by: DandyLion | April 29, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Boy, can I relate! My daughter was also born in May 2006 and I'm due in July. Pregnancy was much more exciting last time and I was completely prepared for the baby by April. My preparations so far are to read Big Sister/New Baby books to my daughter. I figure when June rolls around I'll pull the baby gear and clothes out of the attic and buy a couple BPA-free baby bottles. I'm definitely more lax than confident too.

Congrats!

Posted by: Leslie | April 29, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Amy, btdt! No. 2 is weird, because on the one hand you feel better able to handle it, but on the other hand it's still a completely new person, with his/her own wants/needs/routines. I was far better able to handle the early baby stuff, when you're basically snuggling a cute little drooling/eating/crying/pooping blob o' baby -- early baby stuff is mostly basic survival skills, which don't change much, and I was much more relaxed about all the details (does daddy REALLY need to know the poop colors as soon as he walks through the door??). But I was still completely unprepared when his little personality started coming out after the first 6 weeks or so. He's SO different from his big sister -- I felt like I went from 60 to 0 in 2 seconds flat! So I had to learn a whole new routine -- what he liked, what he didn't like, how long he'd play with something, etc. But the good part was, even when I felt like I didn't know what I was doing, I also knew that I'd figure it out, because I'd done it before.

The best part about having no. 2 was having learned that there's no such thing as perfect. I really wasn't worried about doing things "wrong" -- because I'd already learned that I was guaranteed to mess up, and that somehow, my kids would be just fine despite me!

DandyLion, one of our friends told us that before we had our first. So we decided to jump right to the "baby no. 2" stage and skip that whole sterilizing annoyance. :-) Of course, we're continuing true to form: since our first kid started at "baby no. 2" stage, it shouldn't be surprising that our second kid is at "baby no. 3" stage!

Posted by: Laura | April 29, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Very well put, Amy! Having a second brings with it the onset of any number of new and exciting things to worry about! The physical preparedness is nothing compared to the "unknowns" which you mentioned.

You have an incredibly calm and easy-going approach. That should earn you a smooth and trouble-free transition.

Posted by: themommykelly | April 29, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I tend to be harsher- that you should consider these issues seriously, that you should do your best to really understand what being a parent will mean to you, how your personality will work with that, through ALL ages, how you will manage things long before you actually act on becoming a parent or parent again.

I'm all about going with the flow and life will always manage to screw things up in some ways...that doesn't mean you shouldn't be as prepared and educated about who you are and what parenting means to you as you can be.

Posted by: Liz D | April 29, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Liz D -- Well, of course, I wouldn't advise being flip and throwing caution to the wind. However, while I can't speak for Amy, for me the problem is the reverse: I tend to talk and analyze everything to death. As, ummm, many folks here and on OB will no doubt recognize. :-) We debated the whether/if/when for no. 2 for a good 3 years before finally decided to fish or cut bait. It was always, always, always in the back of my mind. I couldn't go to a freaking movie without wondering whether/how we'd manage that with two kids -- how long will it take before I'll be rested enough not to fall asleep 30 minutes in? will we be able to find a babysitter who can manage two? how much more will it cost? if I can't go much, will I really mind it? because boy, this movie sucks. Etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum. (Yes, my head can be a scary place to be). :-)

Which is why actually getting pregnant with the second was such a nice revelation for me, personally -- once the decision was made, there wasn't much point in fretting about it any more! And bigger-picture, the realization that no matter what I do, something will be wrong, was even more important. If you have a perfectionist streak, it's easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself to do everything "right" -- especially when it's your first, and you're still under the mistaken impression that a "right" actually exists. For me, realizing that screwing up is inevitable was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, which allowed me to just sit back and enjoy no. 2 a lot more.

I think the key is, as usual, moderation -- if you tend to just float through life, then you owe it to your future kids to put a little more thought and effort into the preparation. And if you hyper-scrutinize every aspect of daily minutiae, then maybe you need to let it float a little more.

Posted by: Laura | April 29, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Of course, we thought long and hard before deciding to have our second child. I recognize that bringing children into the world is not something to be taken lightly.

However, in parenting there is only so much you can prepare for. It is 100% true what they say - you don't know what it is like to be a parent until you actually have a child. Adaptation is a constant part of the process and game plan.

Posted by: Amy Bowman | April 29, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Amy - Be prepared for a bit of a painful separation from daughter #1. You've been able to cater to her every need so far. In a few weeks -- not so much. You'll find new ways to carve out time for her, but there will be an adjustment. With baby #2, I was not prepared for the grieving that I felt for the loss of that special relationship with baby #1.

But baby #2 is 6 months old now, and we have new patterns. It takes time. I just didn't expect that sense of loss, so I thought I'd share with you. :-)

Posted by: Jenny | April 30, 2008 7:29 AM | Report abuse

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