As much as we educated ourselves and prepared for the experience of becoming parents and having a baby the first time, every circumstance and decision cannot be anticipated. All the inner workings of your baby cannot be known until you meet him face to face. The experience is full of unknown variables even when having a second baby.
Even though we are happy with our first experience of pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and the first year, we learned some lessons along the way that have caused us to better know our preferences and needs when it comes to having a second baby. A lot of what we did the first time around will stay the same; however, we have changed our mind in a few ways.
So, I wanted to record those here. I’ll share each point along the way: pregnancy, birth, postpartum (fourth trimester specifically), and the baby’s first year. In each category, I’ll share what we plan to keep the same and what we plan to change knowing what we know now.
I don’t share this to say that everyone should do these things when having a baby, but that this is what we have learned through the process of having a baby as we prepare for having a second child. Also, this is not a comprehensive list, but the main things that come to mind.
What to Repeat:
While pregnant with Benji, I did a good job of eating nutritional food though working in an office environment brought its fair share of junk food temptations. Now that I’m at home, I can completely avoid junk food and eat nutritional foods that will help build a healthy baby.
We also took a comprehensive childbirth class the first go around. Though we don’t plan to retake the class, I am continuing to learn about pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. I don’t want to ever stop learning or assume I know everything about this experience.
About half way through my first pregnancy, I began visiting a chiropractor trained in the Webster technique which is specifically for babies. Regular adjustments help with back and hip pain (especially as the belly expands), and I’m hoping this time around the adjustments help the baby get in the right position to come out more easily.
What to Change:
During the first pregnancy, I was extremely sedentary. I didn’t track my steps, but I can’t imagine I got more than 3,000 a day, if that many. I believe my sitting the majority of the day caused Benji to be in a posterior position which meant I experienced back labor pretty exclusively. So, my goal is to be more active. I am more active by nature of not working in an office. But, my goal is to walk each day and practice yoga regularly. Now that it’s the second trimester, I should start taking these goals more seriously!
Before getting pregnant, I never knew the thought that could go into clothing choices. So this time around I want to make better decisions about maternity clothes! Again, being home helps me here because I can dress rather casually each day. But, I feel like I have a better handle on what clothes I actually need plus what will serve me best through pregnancy as well as postpartum. Childbearing completely changed the way I think about my clothes!
What to Repeat:
The childbirth class and our continual learning helped us make informed decisions during Benji’s birth. So that, even though I wasn’t happy about our options, our choices were our own. We decided what to do and were not coerced to do anything. It is empowering to rest in that confidence when the baby is in your arms.
Jesse and I had a great experience during the birth in terms of working as a team. He was with me the entire time and supported me through it all. I want to have that type of experience again.
And we are continuing with midwifery care as we did with the first pregnancy and birth. I love being cared for by midwives who consider labor and delivery a natural process to let happen in its own way and time.
What to Change:
Even though we heard over and over during pregnancy to stay home as long as possible even after labor starts, we still left our house too early the first time. Some of that is because I was convinced I would have a short labor like my mom had with me. But that did not happen. So, this second time around, I will walk around the backyard, go about business in the house, try and do anything to stay at home until it is absolutely necessary to go to the birth center.
We also plan to hire a doula to support us through the birth. I did not comprehend the distinction before a midwife and doula the first time around. And was a bit disappointed with the care we received until I realized my expectations were misplaced. A doula will put my mind at ease and support us in making those informed decisions that are so important to us. Hopefully, this time, we can have an unmedicated, intervention-free birth.
What to Repeat:
Have you heard of “lying in”? Rather than return to the “normal routine” of life as fast as possible, traditionally, women have taken the first bit of time after the baby’s birth to rest, heal, and bond with the baby. For the first month after Benji was born, I stayed in bed and at home most of the time. Before Benji was born, I looked forward to lying in but also struggled to define what it should look like. However, I read a breakdown of the lying in period that gave me a concrete goal: 10 days in bed, 10 days around the bed, and 10 days around the house. I look forward to the lying in period to rest and bond with this second baby.
Just like high quality nutrition was helpful during pregnancy, eating mostly protein, vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats helped my body heal and have what I needed to feed Benji. I noticed that times when I ate dairy when Benji was first born his body was sensitive to it. So, I limited my dairy intake so that he wouldn’t have tummy pain. I plan to take that precaution again in case this second baby is sensitive to dairy as well.
And after I got out of the bed and moved around the house, I started to wear Benji for several hours a day. There’s so much good information about the benefits of babywearing out there. And I experienced it first hand. Benji napped most days in the wrap if I wanted to be up and not in bed with him. Wearing him also kept him off his back. I never worried about tummy time because he was upright, strengthening his neck whenever I wore him.
What to Change:
Even though I made a point of lying in, the first week of Benji’s life was full of appointments and activity. I would rather not have that much activity this next time around! Emotions were high as hormones balanced out (eventually!), my body was sore, and I easily tired. Add onto all of that my own processing of a birth that did not go as I hoped, and it was the perfect recipe for crying at awkward moments with almost strangers. If we can avoid that this time around, I would love it! Here’s to keeping life very small!
What to Repeat:
Within the first week of Benji’s life, we took him to the chiropractor. He has been adjusted almost monthly his whole life. We consider regular visits to the chiropractor as more important than his wellness visits to the pediatrician. I can’t speak to what it has prevented, but Benji has never had an ear infection (which are usually helped by a chiropractic adjustment). Besides a few colds, he has been healthy and well.
The ideas of attachment parenting have guided a lot of our decisions during this first year. We developed a relationship of mutual trust and sensitivity with Benji that continues to benefit us.
What to Change:
One of the tools of attachment parenting is bedding close to baby. We learned about cosleeping and bedsharing while pregnant. But it wasn’t until after Benji was born we decided to keep him close while sleeping. He slept in our bed. Then later in the first year, he transitioned to a pack and play in our room. Logistically, we weren’t prepared for this decision. Now that we know our preference for the baby bedding close, we can be better prepared and not have to make due.
We initially cloth diapered for many months, only using disposable diapers if we traveled. It went really well at first, especially in summer and at the house we rented. The laundry room and second bathroom created a convenient setup for storing the dirty diapers and washing/drying them. However, between the colder weather and the move into a house with a less conducive setup, our stash of cloth diapers soured. We eventually trashed them all. It was a frustrating process that I still feel conflicted about. But, we use disposable diapers on Benji now and plan to do the same with this second baby.
Set a Course, Respond to the Unexpected
I don’t think we can ever be 100% prepared for the experience of welcoming another baby into the world. There are so many variables. However, it helps me better understand our own needs and preferences so that maybe next time’s unknown variables will be different from before. And I hope with each pregnancy we will be better equipped to respond confidently to any scenario and circumstance we encounter.
Each pregnancy, birth, fourth trimester and first year of a baby’s life brings the opportunity to learn and open-handedly receive the life given however the child makes its way into the world. The circumstances of life are ever changing and beyond our ultimate control. So, we seek to be prepared, make the best decision for our family with our resources, and rest in what is.
All images courtesy of our friend, Anna Duncan, who took photos of our family when Benji was two weeks old.