How to Handle a Second Pregnancy Emotionally, Physically, and Spiritually
By Jody Mullen
I don’t know about you, but, personally, having a second baby seemed like a completely crazy idea — at least at first. After all, I had just gotten to know the first one (and convinced him to sleep through the night). Adding a second tiny helpless person to the mix seemed wild, and I had to keep reminding myself that parents do it all the time! As an only child, I knew I really wanted a bigger family than the one I’d grown up in, and that’s how I knew a second pregnancy was the right decision for us.
If you’re anything like me, your first pregnancy was pretty nerve-wracking. It’s a completely new, unfamiliar, and — let’s face it — sometimes painful and unpleasant experience. Sure, bringing a new life into the world is miraculous and joyful, but the nausea, heartburn, and random aches and pains can be uncomfortable and disconcerting. When you have no barometer for what’s normal and healthy, small changes in your body can sound all the alarm bells. Additionally, the prospect of getting that little person out of you at the end of forty weeks can be intimidating, to say the least. One of the nice things about a second pregnancy is that, for the most part, you know what to expect.
Being pregnant with a second baby has its own challenges, however — like taking care of your first child while not always feeling your best. For example, when I learned I was expecting a new baby, my first was two and a half; that meant I was raising a toddler while trying to take care of myself. I won’t lie to you — it wasn’t always easy. So let’s talk about some of the things I learned about how to handle pregnancy when you already have a child (or children) at home.
Are You Considering a Second Pregnancy?
If you asked me, “How do I know when I’m ready to be a parent?” I’d be upfront with you: No one is ever truly ready. Becoming a mom (or dad) is taking a leap of faith and hoping you’ll be enough (spoiler alert: you are!). And, if I’m being honest, I’m not sure anyone is ever one hundred percent ready to welcome a second child. If you get pregnant soon after having your first baby, you’ll be dealing with toddler tantrums and a needy newborn (and possibly breastfeeding two babies at once!). If you wait a while longer, you’ll be trying to keep up with an active preschool-age child while pregnant, which I can tell you is a challenge. And if your older child is in grade school by the time the second baby comes, you’ll be juggling the responsibilities of parenting a newborn with things like homework, after-school sports, and socializing. Regardless of how you space your pregnancies, welcoming that second little bundle can make life complicated for some time to come.
That being said, if you’re looking to expand your family, all the stress and exhaustion are absolutely worth it. If you’re starting to doubt yourself, just look around — moms go on to have second, third, and fourth babies (and beyond!) all the time. You CAN do this, and you will. Just be sure to take good care of yourself along the way. When you’re so absorbed in caring for your children, it’s easy to forget that you matter too.
Prenatal Care for the Busy Mom
Unless you’re one of those lucky mothers who have easy-breezy pregnancies (I’m emphatically not!), it’s tempting to let some of your responsibilities slide. I know I backed out of social gatherings like crazy in those first few months because I was constantly nauseated and simply wrecked from exhaustion. For the majority of my first trimester with baby number two, working part-time and taking care of my toddler was about all I could handle. It’s okay to scale back on your obligations right now, whether that means canceling your weekly girls’ night out or saying a polite “no” to volunteering for the school PTA. Your social life will still be there in nine or ten months when you’re ready to return to normal.
One appointment you should not cancel, however: your visit to the OB/GYN or midwife’s office. I know it can feel like a drag when you’re tired, sore, and crabby, but it’s important to go to your monthly (and, later, weekly or twice-weekly) checkups. Your care provider wants to monitor your pregnancy weight gain, screen for serious issues like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, and measure your little one’s growth via ultrasounds. You can also ask your doctor about how to keep you and your unborn baby safe from COVID-19, especially if case numbers in your area are on the rise. And, of course, you shouldn’t hesitate to bring up any other concerns you may have.
It’s not always easy to squeeze stuff like this into your schedule when you’re a busy mom. Ask your doctor’s office to work with you to make it happen.
Self-Care for Pregnancy: Prenatal Yoga, Meditation, and More
Just like in your first pregnancy, you’ll feel healthier and more energetic throughout the next nine months if you take good care of yourself. In addition to keeping your regular medical appointments, here are some great ways to do that:
Practice Prenatal Yoga
Prenatal yoga can help you to tame your anxiety and center your mind. It’s a great way to keep in shape and also works well as postpartum exercise. Bonus: You can do it right in your own home, and your older child can join in the fun!
Learn to Meditate
Meditation is another great tool to help you feel more relaxed and mindful. If you’ve never tried it, check out apps like Calm, which have meditation programs for beginners. Spending just five to ten minutes a day focusing on your breathing and self-awareness can make a positive difference.
Catch Some Zzzs
Get some rest whenever you can. I know that’s not an easy task when you have a baby or toddler at home — especially if you’re working, too — so just do your best. For example, when your little cutie goes down for a nap on the weekend, take one of your own. The laundry will be there when you wake up!
Ask for Help
Now is not the time to be a hero. (Hey, you’re already pretty heroic for growing a new little person while caring for another one!) It’s okay to ask people for what you need right now. Ask a trusted family member or friend to entertain your little one so that you can take a much-needed snooze. Ask your boss if it’s okay to work from home on the day of your OB appointment so that you’re not racing around too much. Ask a school friend if you can carpool to drop off and pick up to save a trip out of the house. There’s no need to do it all alone!
Hang in There!
I know being pregnant when you’re already a full-time mom is a daunting prospect. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll meet that new little bundle of joy and forget all about the stress and discomfort of pregnancy. (Yes, I’m even talking about trying to potty-train a stubborn toddler while lugging around an extra 30 pounds — yikes!) And the moment when your older child first meets their younger sibling is absolutely priceless. So take it one day at a time, give yourself grace when you don’t get it all done, and enjoy welcoming that little brother or sister!
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