A second pregnancy can cause a swirl of anxious-filled thoughts: How can I possibly love another baby as much as my first? What will childbirth be like this time? How will I handle two children?
As it turns out, having a whole new set of concerns in your second pregnancy is completely normal, says parenting specialist and mother Rachel A. Cedar, M.S.W. "It's a myth that because you have had one baby you should be prepared and unafraid during your second pregnancy," she says. "The truth is that second pregnancies and second children can be just as nerve-racking as the first."
The good news is, most moms soon find that their anxiety, while not unusual, is unfounded. But if you're feeling overwhelmed in the moment, check out these common second-pregnancy fears – and what you can do about them.
Opening up your heart to another child when you have so much love for your first may feel nearly impossible during your second pregnancy. Not bonding "is a common fear for parents, but the fact that they've already bonded with their first child is proof that they will bond with their second child," says Susan Bartell, Psy.D., a New York-based parenting psychologist and author of The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. In fact, you're much more capable of loving two (or more) children than you ever expected. And although you'll likely love your second child differently than your first, rest assured that the development of that special love and bond will occur naturally, just like it did the first time around.
If you're still worried, take proactive steps to encourage the bonding process during your second pregnancy: Attend prenatal yoga classes, listen to soothing music while rubbing cream on your growing belly, or simply talk to your baby for a few minutes each day – anything that helps you feel connected with your growing little one.
Having a difficult first birthing experience can lead to strong fears surrounding the birthing process a second time. "My first birth was 45 hours with hard, consistent contractions every five minutes," says Austin mom Sara Cotner. "I was terrified that I'd have a long struggle the second time." The fear of having a difficult or different birth experience is legitimate; therefore, Dr. Bartell encourages mothers to become advocates for themselves and their own health during their second pregnancy. Discussing your concerns with your health-care provider and creating a birth plan that makes you feel can help, she says.
There are many factors that influence the decision or ability to nurse a baby – and whether or not you did it the first time around doesn't mean that breastfeeding will be the same the second time around. If you are planning to breastfeed, seek help if you experience any issues post birth. "See a lactation consultant or talk to your health-care professional as soon as there are concerns with nursing," Dr. Bartell says, "but most important, take the pressure off yourself in regard to breastfeeding your second child."
Remember that no two children are alike and that your baby will benefit from your love and attention no matter how you're feeding her – a sentiment shared by Des Moines mom Kelsey Williams. "Nursing didn't work out for us the first time and it may not the second time, either," she says, "but I'm thankful that this time I have realistic expectations and can stop putting so much pressure on myself."
Being prepared will go a long way in alleviating fears and concerns here – especially if you don't have family nearby that's willing to help. "Make sure you have at least two friends or neighbors ready to take your child – even overnight – if you go into labor unexpectedly," suggests Cedar. Spend time with your older child to prepare him for the possibility that Mom or Dad won't be around for a night or two once the baby comes, and explain to him what will be happening while you're gone. Most important, don't wait to make a plan: Solidify what you will do with your older child a few weeks before you expect to give birth.
The idea that parents should find their footing immediately is simply unrealistic The truth is, adjusting to life with a second child is hard, but the balance will come, and it will be different for every family. "There are realistic concerns with the logistics of caring for two children," says Cedar, "but it's important to accept and expect a learning curve as you establish a 'new normal.'"
Cedar suggests carving out special one-on-one time with your older child while your newborn is napping or quietly cooing in her playpen. "Even five minutes of focused attention is enough to remind a child that you love her and that she is important," says Cedar. And keep this in mind: It's actually in your children's best interest that you not dote or hover too much, as not doing so provides an opportunity for them to learn how to deal with their own emotions, develop their own interests, and establish coping skills. "It's okay for your children to feel that they lack parental attention from time to time," says Dr. Bartell. "You are doing the best you can do as a parent; you don't have to be their constant playmate, just be their mom!"