The memory of spending my first pregnancy with my head over a toilet bowl was still very fresh when I found out I was pregnant again. And before I even had a chance to worry about morning sickness, I was turning green -- not in the privacy of my bathroom but at playgrounds and sing-alongs. The morning sickness was no shocker, but what did take me by surprise was that this time it didn't really faze me. While I holed up during my first pregnancy, now I was on my feet, chasing my 2-year-old from sunup till sundown -- morning sickness be darned. It helped that I'd learned a thing or two my first time around -- what to eat, what not to eat, where to stow barf bags for easy access. Most important, I'd learned that the discomfort wouldn't last forever and that it would be repaid a million times over with a perfect, precious little person.
Your second pregnancy may not be the thrilling adventure that the first pregnancy was, but it can come with its own surprises. Carrying your first baby changes you profoundly -- from your abdominal muscle tone to your confidence level -- and these changes lay the foundation for a few big differences. Lest you think you've got it all figured out, we've rounded up moms and experts to dish on the things you don't expect when you're expecting again.
You Look Extra Pregnant
The first big surprise: The belly that took months to pooch with baby number one will pop instantaneously. "You get bigger, and you get bigger faster," says Danielle Dopman, a Brooklyn, New York, mom whose third child was born in October. "I couldn't believe it when the doctor weighed me at an early prenatal visit and said I'd gained only five pounds. I pointed to my belly and said, 'This is not just five pounds!'"
Take comfort in the fact that this fuzzy math has a biological explanation. "The abdominal muscle tone is not the same as it was with the first baby," says Heather Paar, a certified nurse-midwife at Swedish Midwifery and Women's Health, in Seattle. "You don't regain that, even if you're very physically fit. "Without that muscle tone, Paar adds, your uterus is more mobile -- which explains not just why your baby belly is so big but why it feels so low. "With second-time moms, the uterus can sink a little into the pelvis," Paar says, which can mean more pelvic pressure and even more trips to the bathroom later in the pregnancy. But one thing it doesn't mean is that your baby's a boy; male or female, second babies tend to hang low.
You Feel Extra Pregnant
The loss of muscle tone and the stretching of the ligaments that support the uterus, both of which you experience in your first pregnancy, can also lead to more of those good old aches and pains. "Usually, whatever symptoms women felt during the first pregnancy, they will now feel earlier," says Benito Alvarez, MD, codirector of obstetrics and gynecology at the Cleveland Clinic. Topping the list of complaints for second-timers are back pain and pelvic pressure. Though these discomforts are definitely physiological, they're often made worse by circumstance: many times women tell their doctor they have bad back pain -- and it turns out they've been toting around a 25-pound toddler.
Of course, those bothersome pains will make it even tougher for you to get a decent night's sleep, especially if your firstborn is still treating you to middle-of-the-night wakings. Even the luckiest mom who sails through pregnancy with nary an ache is sure to feel bone-tired. "On the days when I was working and couldn't nap when my son did, I'd come home at 5 and just be done," says Heather Musil, a Minneapolis mom to two boys. "But of course I had two more hours of chasing my toddler around."
And if you had a big complication with the first -- gestational diabetes, breech baby, or cervix issues -- expect (or push!) your doctor to be on top of it from the get-go this time, because it could become an issue again.
It's true that you'll be more drained with less time to rest. But despite this, you'll keep on keeping on. Motherhood brings with it a demand for energy that will force you to power through even the most exhausted moments. "The second time, you find yourself doing things you wouldn't have considered doing before," Dopman says. "I'd be sitting on the floor in music class thinking, I need three people to help me up, but in the end you do what you have to do."
Besides possessing the superpowers that come with parenthood, you'll be so busy that you just won't be able to give your aches and pains the attention you did the first time -- which is sometimes a good thing. "I had morning sickness with both kids, but I had so much stuff going on the second time, I was distracted from it," says Bat-Ami Frankel, who lives in Portland, Oregon, with her two sons. "Everything that seemed so insurmountable the first time seemed inconsequential with my second pregnancy."
You're More Relaxed
Remember how you agonized over every cup of coffee and beat yourself up for not sleeping on your left side? With a few years of parenting under your belt, you'll see the big picture, which helps even the worst worrywarts lighten up. Plus, you know what to expect, and preparation eases anxiety.
"When I was pregnant with my first son, the obstetrician would ask if I'd felt the baby moving yet, and it would make me very anxious," Frankel says. "I didn't know if I had or not, because I had no idea what should it feel like. But the second time, I was so much more relaxed -- it just happened when it happened."
Being less preoccupied by the minutiae of your body's changes and being more informed about what to expect means you'll be better attuned to what's happening -- that's part of why second-timers feel baby's first kicks about a month earlier, on average, than first-timers.
You're on the Labor Fast Track
There are no hard-and-fast rules, and even fewer guarantees, when it comes to labor, but you'll notice some subtle and not-so-subtle differences the second time around. There's more of some things (get ready for Braxton Hicks -- sorry) and less of others (vaginal tears are less common -- hurrah). And certain things that occurred before labor started the first time around, like your baby dropping in the pelvis and your cervix starting to efface, don't happen this time until labor is actually underway.
And, of course, the light at the end of the tunnel: second labors tend to be faster -- much faster -- than first ones. Exact numbers are hard to pin down, but Dr. Alvarez says that in his experience labor is about half as long the second time. And though no one likes to think she's lost vaginal muscle tone, you'll be happy to know that it'll help baby slide out that much easier. "Pushing time is much shorter for second-timers -- between 30 minutes and an hour," Dr. Alvarez explains. "Which is why we have a rule here: never turn your back on a woman who's already had a baby or two."
Of course, there's really no telling when your baby will make her grand entrance, but chances are good that all the hard work of your first childbirth will make things speedier this time.
The toughest and most exhilarating part of childbirth -- and pregnancy, and parenting too -- is that you don't have a whole lot of control over how it all unfolds. No matter what surprises pop up, the best you can do is relax and roll with it. Thankfully, your years of parenting are sure to have given you plenty of practice doing just that.
Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the January 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.
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