This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. (Georgie is nearly two – so that long!)
They do say it takes two years to recover from having a baby – and in many ways I have found this to be true. But overall I think it’s that, at the two year mark, we find ourselves at the ‘in between’ – that space between their babyhood and before their preschool years, with a chance to breath a little deeper – so there is now a sense of catching up with yourself; there’s a bit more time for reflection; and a willingness to start opening up a little more again.
I think having children brings you back to yourself in many ways, but it also opens you up in new ways that you could never have imagined. It takes time to process, to re-familiarise with yourself, and so remaining in your own little bubble for a while is not an unwise thing to do.
When one becomes two
On the one hand, having a second child is considerably easier than having your first – you know a little more about what you might expect (in terms of the physical and practical side of things); you’re already set up with everything you might need; and you’ve gained confidence as a parent.
But on the other hand, the transition from having one child to having two can also be considerably harder: you do know what to expect, so that in itself can bring anxiety which you may not have had the first time round (e.g. if your first childbirth was traumatic); you now have two children to care for, both with very immediate needs in very different ways; and managing the transition for your first born might be very emotional (for them and/or for you).
It takes time to adjust and find your new rhythm. It’s hard going to have a new baby, whatever the number or circumstances. But often the expectation on a ‘second-time’ mother (and obviously third-time+ mothers) is far higher than she is able to manage. “Oh, it must be so easy for you second-time round!” “Errrr…” The only people who really get it and know how much support you are going to need, are the only people who aren’t actually able to give it – those who have already had more than one baby, and are juggling just as much as you are… they’re just further down the track.
In the absence of a physical ‘village’ to support you in practical ways, you just do what you can to make life easier. There are a lot more PJ days, and a lot less pressure, and overall a greater sense of just enjoy it. Because you also know now just how fast this time really goes. And once it’s gone, it’s gone.
And then here we are… suddenly, nearly, two years later.
And I really have enjoyed it. I really have.
It was harder, and it was also easier. In some ways it was better, in some ways it was worse. But it was all filled with such unconditional love and I have thoroughly enjoyed both of my pregnancies and both of my babies.
No longer babies (sob):
Variations of normal
My two pregnancies could not have been more different.
Beau came along as a complete and utter surprise! We were one month married, starting to plan our career development and a big overseas trip… and then one Saturday morning our life’s course abruptly changed! I’ll never know why I put that pregnancy test in the trolley that unsuspecting Friday afternoon. Or why I chose to pee on it that Saturday morning when Nick was out. But never-the-less I did. And it will forever remain that sliding door moment, which opened up to Beau. Those two, bold pink lines were my first awareness of him. And now I’ll never know a time without him. It was so simple, yet significant.
Georgie’s conception was very different. I remember realising I was ready for another baby, when Beau was 15 months old and my sister told me she was pregnant again. I was over-the-moon for her, of course (my being pregnant or not has nothing to do with someone else being pregnant or not – and, fortunately, and probably thanks to my own mother, I’ve never been one to compare myself with others) – but it did awaken within me a longing of my own, a little tug, from a far off soul that belonged with us.
For the next 6 months I wondered what was going on with my monthly cycle (which hadn’t properly returned after having Beau), before we took a family holiday to Rarotonga and made a decision for me to see my Doctor when we got back. Blood tests. Referral to Fertility Associates. It was found I wasn’t ovulating due to poly-cystic ovaries. Beau had been conceived without even trying! But circumstances were different now – I wasn’t at the same level of fitness as I had been before and, naturally, there was more stress in my life now that I was a mother. So then I began my fertility journey to conceive (which I blogged about here, if you go back to posts from late 2016).
Three months of treatment (consisting of taking hormonal drugs to make me ovulate, regular scans and blood tests to keep track of my hormone levels, and clinically timed intercourse that all but ruined our sex life – thankfully we are fully recovered from that!) and we conceived again. I’ll be honest -it wasn’t a beautiful surprise, it wasn’t a wonderful discovery – it was a hollering from the toilet one morning whilst Nick was wrangling Beau into his clothes for the day: “well, there’s definitely two of them!” (meaning pink lines), shortly followed by a wondering of “well, shouldn’t I be a bit more excited? or a bit more emotional?” I think it took a bit more time to feel real. But she was there – and now she is very much here – and she came exactly when we were ready for her. And, ever since, the timing has always felt ‘perfect.’
I loved my surprise conception, and I loved my fertility journey. With Georgie I had to fight for her; I knew just how much I wanted her, long before she came; and it was just as beautiful as the first time with Beau, it was just different.
There are so many variations of normal.
Pregnancy and toddlerhood
Pregnancy 1: feet up, fresh pedicure, peace and quiet.
Pregnancy 2: on my feet, hair unbrushed, definitely not peaceful, or quiet.
First time pregnancy consisted of wonder and comfort and bliss… I was fit and well and peaceful, enjoying every minute. I didn’t focus on anything other than my job and my pregnancy, and finished working 2 months before Beau was due, spending time setting up my Celebrant business for after he was born. I also enjoyed weekly yoga classes, regular massages, and quiet walks on the beach followed by long afternoon naps on the couch. We had dinner parties and I baked and meal prepped, and everything was washed and folded and ready for our bundle of joy. Due to complications with labour, I didn’t get the home birth I longed for – but his birth was still an incredible experience, even if somewhat traumatic, and I look back on my first pregnancy with nothing but warm fuzzies.
Then I was pregnant again. Verrrry different.
The thing with second time pregnancies (and third and so on) is that your body isn’t as it was once, and never will be again. Things have been stretched and shifted once before. Things are softer overall. And with that comes increased physical complaints. For me: misaligned hips, pubic symphysis dysfunction (PSD), and all the other nags and strains from a body who has done it all before. Of course you don’t have the same ability to relax, rest, or nurture yourself, when you have other children to take care of – so things can be exacerbated considerably.
I think for me, the thing with my second pregnancy was that I felt out of control. I didn’t have the ability to rest when I needed to, or to organise myself as I would have liked; I gained weight and was in constant pain/discomfort in some form or another; I had restricted mobility because of the PSD, so couldn’t walk far; and then there was the mix of guilt/sadness – at not being the best mum for Beau at that point in time, and at his carefree baby/toddler days being over. It wasn’t a totally despairing time! – but overall there was a sense of being out of control (and I think you’d be kidding yourself if you don’t believe all any of us really wants is some kind of control over our own lives). I had to work really hard every day to surrender.
Add to this the intention (read: longing) of having a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) – which I will write about in another blog post – and I approached my second childbirth with anxiety that I didn’t experience the first time around. I knew this time that things could go wrong. Like, ‘unable to deliver’ wrong. And I truly missed that blissful naivety from my first pregnancy.
I think a lot of second time+ mothers might have increased anxiety than the first time round, because you do know what to expect – irrelevant of whether you had an easy or a difficult delivery – it is an endurance, to say the least.
Despite the increased discomfort, exhaustion and anxiety, and the additional responsibilities and strains – having a second baby brings a special kind of glow, which comes from the quiet knowing of what you have in store. There’s the pride in how far you’ve come, as you watch the beautiful child walking beside you, stroking your bump; and there is all the anticipation of what is to follow: of more delicious newborn snuggles, more firsts, more memories, more love.
On reflection, my second pregnancy wasn’t harder, it wasn’t easier, it wasn’t better or worse. It was the journey that took us from “parents” to “family” – and the arrival of our beautiful Georgie, who totally completes us.