Having a second baby – expectations vs. reality

With Alastair’s first birthday just around the corner, I’ve been reflecting on what we expected from our second baby experience and how it’s actually turned out. Clearly, a lot about 2020 has not been what people expected, but I think there are some things that would have still been the same no matter what.

Firstly, I’ll be honest. I did NOT enjoy my second pregnancy. Extreme fatigue, constant nausea, pelvic pain, epic nosebleeds, swollen ankles, aching everywhere was not fun with a 1 year old to take care of. And the magic was gone – the pregnancy symptoms were no longer signs of the miracle of life, they were just painful and annoying. So, I wasn’t Alastair’s biggest fan before his arrival.

4 days before birth

Given that, my first surprise about baby number two was just how ardently I loved him the second he was born. He is the light of my life and my heart explodes when I look at him. Despite having done it before, I still revel in all the ‘baby’ things he does and feel besotted with this tiny creature. And I don’t love Carys any less because of it, I have the deepest affection for them both entirely independently.

How could you not adore this face?!

On the other hand, Tom and I were discussing the other day that having two has been harder than either of us ever imagined. We expected it to be difficult but people kind of suggest that the second one will just slot in and it’ll be easier. This has not been our experience. As with all parenting, there are ups and downs, but when you’ve been up every 90 minutes in the night with the baby then have to potty train a 2 year old in the day, you wonder where you’ll find the patience, energy or resilience. It’s genuinely driven both of us to our absolute limits and I’m actually getting a little teary writing this and thinking about just how tough it’s been.

People seem to assume you know what you’re doing once you’ve had one kid. You have fewer midwife appointments, fewer health visitor checks and typically don’t attend NCT second time round. But I had seemingly completely wiped all knowledge of how to care for a newborn, how often and for how long they nap, what a normal nappy looks like, when they should hit certain milestones. I felt like I was learning on the job all over again.

And I found it much lonelier too. Without the NCT classes and having to fit baby groups around my existing child then them all closing during the pandemic, it was harder to find friends with babies the same age. I think my lowest moment was sitting in the car in the rain after a baby massage class where I’d been too nervous to talk to anyone, just crying and not knowing who to call because everyone I really knew was at work or busy.

However, I’ll finish this on a positive. I cannot describe the joy of seeing Carys and Alastair play together. She makes him laugh like no-one else can and it makes all the effort so worthwhile. Seeing their similarities and differences constantly intrigues me and I hope beyond hope they stay close as they grow older.

Having a second baby has been, in a lot of ways, so much harder than having our first. The lows have been much lower, but the highs have been so much higher. So, if you know someone who’s having their second, third, fourth baby, please don’t assume it gets easier. They still need the love, support, reassurance and food parcels that first-time parents need.

The first year of being a family of four is nearly behind us and we’ve come a long way. We’ve all learned a lot. Alastair, you are the brightest light in our life and we cannot imagine our family without you. I can’t wait to celebrate your first birthday (even if it is during a national lockdown) and all your birthdays to come.

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