When I found out I was pregnant with my first, my husband and I waited on pins and needles, laughing our way through the longest 3 minutes of our lives. A long Monday ended with that life changing moment, a bottle of wine (for the hubby), and a night-long game of “name that baby.” The excitement was as potent as the shock, and the celebration that ensued was immediate and everlasting. From that moment forward, we began to see a future that was bigger than anything we could actually imagine. We always knew we wanted kids, and probably more than one, but with one we would start, and for that we both felt ready. We didn’t have our timeline quite figured out (not that many do), but we always just said we would take it one pregnancy (and one baby) at a time. And when all the nurses shouted “see you in 18 months!” as we left the hospital with our new son in our arms, all I could do was roll my eyes and laugh a nervous laugh. That would surely not be us…
Well, 18 months later (and one year ago this week), I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. But, to my surprise, this time the excitement wasn’t that strong or immediate. It was something I, quite literally, had to grow into. It feels horrible to say that now because, at three months old, my daughter is the most incredible blessing in our lives, just like our son. But at the time, I was just starting to feel like myself again – my life as a mom was just starting to regain a sense of normalcy, and my relationship with my husband was beginning to find a new sense of balance. I loved my son to pieces, and couldn’t imagine adjusting my attention for him to include another, nor could I imagine throwing my body right back into pregnancy. Not for myself or for my marriage. And, while I may have had a passing touch of baby fever, the reality of having another wasn’t really on my mind. Until one October morning, before the rest of my house awoke, I stared at the little pink + thinking “HOLY SHIT” in all caps. I didn’t know what to do or how to feel, and as much as I couldn’t be totally shocked, I was surely in some category of disbelief. I stood for a moment in slack-jawed silence until my son woke up – and then just like that I was back in mom mode, and on with our day we went.
I remember the day well: I had plans to take Roger to the pumpkin patch, and I knew I couldn’t put my toddler’s life on hold just to let this new piece of information sink in. My husband was off to work, and I wasn’t about to spring this on him during his morning rush. After my son and I ran through mazes and took pictures with pumpkins, and after we spent one of our last pure quality days together as “just us,” I decided he would reveal the news to daddy with an appropriate Big Brother t-shirt (of course, while catching the whole thing on camera). It might be fair to say my husband was in greater shock than I was. I suppose that makes sense, as he hadn’t been the one feeling tired, nauseous, or inexplicably “off” for the past several days. But just as he was more surprised, his excitement settled in a lot faster, as well. (Not to worry, I caught up rather quickly).
It’s no surprise that a second pregnancy, (or third or fourth, as I can imagine), is treated much differently than the first. People don’t shower you with the same kind of attention, the physical symptoms are often stronger, as is the emotional rollercoaster, and when you have an older kid to look after, you simply can’t give yourself the same treatment either. In my case, it wasn’t until the very end that I began to give myself the pampering and self love that I needed and deserved. Early on, I would watch my son and just see his numbered days as an only child. I would feel guilty when I was too tired (or too big) to play with him the way he wanted, and, of course, I couldn’t imagine loving another kid as much as I loved my son. I worried that my love for him would be somehow divided, and that made me horribly sad. But on top of all the things I was feeling for my son, I was feeling just as much anxiety about being pregnant again, and everything that would mean for my body, my relationship, my household, and my identity.
As the days and months went on, my excitement grew and grew. Seeing my baby on the ultrasound screen was more exciting than it was the first time, because I had such an incredible reference point for what was to come. Her kicks felt much more tangible the 2nd time, because I could imagine an actual baby inside, which was a very hard thing to comprehend the first time around. And involving my son in conversations about his baby sister was beautifully gratifying. But when baby number one is literally running around, causing toddler mayhem, and baby number two is safe and protected in utero, she becomes, by default, a bit of an afterthought. Half the time I would forget she was even there – until my body gave me those “subtle” reminders.
As she grew, my love grew. When my son would tote around his baby doll, and point to my belly with an enthusiastic “bebe!,” I knew everything was going to be alright. I trusted every mom who told me “your love doesn’t divide, it multiplies.” And the further into my pregnancy I got, the more comfortable in the idea I became. I knew how short this time would be, and I could see the larger picture of giving my son the gift of a sibling, and us the gift of another child. And then, in the final months of my pregnancy, my mom and sister gave me a baby “sprinkle” that I truly didn’t know I needed. It was that celebration, the one I tried to not have because it seemed redundant, that made me realize I had been too busy giving my son the love and attention he needed to give myself the love and attention I deserved. Just because I was a mom of one didn’t negate the importance or significance of this pregnancy or this baby on the way. I still had this moment in time to cherish and enjoy, and I was surrounded by loved ones who were just as excited to share it with me. I ended that day feeling loved, supported, celebrated, and perfectly ready to meet my baby girl. And while I was still nervous for what our lives were about to become, I found the balance, joy and excitement in pregnancy the second time around.
Stepping into the unknown future of pregnancy and parenthood is always scary and intimidating. No matter how “planned” a pregnancy is, or which number kid it is, the expected excitement can be momentarily overshadowed by fear, anxiety and doubt. Learning I was pregnant with my second was not the same as it was with my first, and neither was my outlook or readiness for a baby at that time. It was a slow climb early on, but one that has proven to be the best “expected surprise” we could have hoped for. I don’t feel any guilt or shame for not having the same amount of instant excitement that I had with my son, and I don’t regret keeping my focus on my son throughout most of that pregnancy. It was the natural and comfortable thing for me to do. But I am also glad I found the meaningful moments throughout to reconnect with myself and my baby. Now that she’s here, it’s amazing to think it has been a full year, and yet only a year, since that first moment of shock and awe. Since then my entire world has changed, again, in the craziest of ways. It’s amazing how beautifully perfect this newest phase of my growing family feels, and yet I couldn’t have written it before it happened.