ADDING A SECOND CHILD
The decision to grow your family and add additional children is a decision you and your partner will make, much like the first. Like the first, where people give you their very unhelpful opinions – such as, it’s better to have children early, because then you’ll still be young when your kids are older, or it’s better to have kids later, because it’s important to establish you career first – people will give you even more unhelpful opinions, like, it’s better to have a smaller gap between the two kids, or it’s better to have a larger gap between siblings. At some point, you just have to drop all of the shoulds and do what works for you, keeping in mind that much of it is out of your control anyway.
Mothers often express a fear of not being able to love the second as much as the first. How can I possibly love another, to the same extent, after loving one with my whole heart? I was actually on the other end – I find newborns so utterly lovable, I was worried I would love the new baby more than my talking-back two-year-old, if anything. Both of these qualms should be easily squashed, because parent-to-child love is unconditional love. It knows no bounds. Loyalty and reciprocity don’t come into play as in other types of love. Now, of course, you may have no trouble loving them the same, but you still might worry about being able to provide for them in the same way. Identical treatment and identical care are not possible and not something you need to strive for. For starters, no two kids are alike therefore their needs are not exactly the same. No two children ever truly have the same two parents; you will not be the same person going into any subsequent pregnancy as you were previously, therefore your children will always be experiencing evolved versions of you. They say, when a baby is born, so is a mother. As you watch them grow, so they watch you grow. You can’t give them the same experience, but you can give them a family built on love. Giving them siblings can be a gift in and of itself. The only thing I would suggest you make an effort doing with your second (third, fourth…) is take lots of pictures of just them when they are young. Baby albums are something they are going to want to see when their older, and you don’t want one of your kids to have a baby album the size of a phone book and the other the size of a smart phone.
There are lots of tips and tricks out there for helping your first child(ren) adjust to the new baby or babies. They are worth looking at. I sought advice on this subject when I was pregnant with my second. Things like, don’t have the mom holding the baby when you bring the older sibling into the room to meet them for the first time, so they don’t feel like they’re being replaced. My son literally watched his sister appear out of the water at the same time I did, so it’s not always going to be a formal introduction, and that’s fine, either way you do it. Another popular one is, have the baby “give” big brother or big sister a gift to earn their favour – another thing that we did not do. My son happened to handle the adjustment to a family of four extremely well. I tend to think that it’s more about clear and timely communication starting in pregnancy about what to expect, as well as nurturing that sense of security that I touched on earlier. Kids are incredibly wise. They are resilient. I think we need to help them understand their surroundings and trust that they have the capacity to understand. Remind them that they are loved, as much as possible. Exercise patience with them and yourself. We need to manage our own nerves, insecurities and expectations, because our kids pick up on our stress and fear as well as our coping strategies and stress management skills. It is an adjustment period. It’s a period of change. But you also have your parenting skills to call on, now. It’s not entirely new and unfamiliar. In some ways it will be much harder, and in some ways you will find yourself able to enjoy it more.
The weird thing about having a second child is that people offer to help less than when you had only one, even though your load has significantly increased. I’m not ragging on my friends and family when I say this. I’m guilty of it, too. I believe two things are at play. One, when a family has a kid, life gets busier and priorities change and, without meaning to, distance is sometimes created between some of the contacts that you once had. By the time you get to having a second child, your friends may be less in the habit of touching base with you. The other thing that happens is, people assume you are a pro parent by now. You’ve had one, so it’s not new, therefore, you must be at an expert level and find the whole thing easy-peasy. It’s a misconception, especially on the part of your friends who haven’t experienced parenthood for themselves. It might be a good time to self-advocate, or have a friend or family member reach out, to remind people in your circle that, more than ever, parents of a new baby could really benefit from some help, in the form of meals, checking in, a baby shower, childcare, or any other specified form.