Second Baby: The Benefits of A Five-Year Gap

Waiting five years to have a second baby wasn't something I planned; it just happened that way. As it turned out, the large gap suited me well. Sure, there was a small learning curve to master regarding changes in the labor and delivery process. But for the most part, having an older child made it easier to handle my second pregnancy. My daughter was four-going-on-five when I told her she was going to have a younger sibling, and she couldn't have been more excited. There's no doubt my second pregnancy was special. Here's why.    

  • I had less time to worry about my symptoms. Okay, I admit to being nervous throughout the entire nine months of my first pregnancy. From morning sickness to labor pains, I feared the unknown. Like any second pregnancy, I now knew what to expect. Happily, busy days with my daughter occupied my thoughts this time around. At her age, she could carry on a conversation, she was potty-trained, and she was well on her way to forging her own friendships. Life was good -- and easier than it had been for a while.  

  • My first child was old enough to understand. Now that my daughter was more mature and had plenty in her own life to focus on, jealousy over the new baby wasn't a problem. Other than making arrangements for a babysitter during the labor and delivery process, there wasn't much we had to do to prepare her. We simply needed to engage her in the process. As soon as I saw the "Welcome Home" signs that she made to greet her new brother, I realized there were several small tasks she could do to feel special and included.  

  • It wasn't impossible to get the rest I needed. One of the biggest challenges of any second pregnancy is that there's less time to rest because you're busy taking care of another child. Because my daughter was five years old, I didn't have to carry around a heavy diaper bag, and I certainly didn't have to carry her. Even better, she understood that I occasionally got tired. If that meant spending some extra time watching her favorite show, coloring or solving a puzzle, we didn't sweat it.

Everything comes with some challenges, and a five-year gap in pregnancies is no exception. For starters, five years is a long time in today's fast-paced world of fashion. Truth is, my maternity clothes from the first pregnancy were already out of style. I also had to educate myself about some minor updates delivery process. None of this was a big deal, but necessary all the same. Today I can happily reflect on my five-year gap between pregnancies. It was a special time for all of us.    

Second Pregnancy Lowdown: Small Age Gaps

I’ve definitely been experiencing some ups and downs my second pregnancy. The upside is that I have been down this road before and I am very familiar with what is to come my way -- doctor visits, testing and a weak bladder to name a few things. The downside, however: I don’t really have too much time to focus on this pregnancy as a whole. Why is that? Well, I have a 21-month-old running my life!

When I was pregnant with my first son, Cameron, it was amazing, exciting and the pregnancy consumed my life (in a positive way of course). My husband and I were so happy to welcome a baby into our lives. I constantly took photos of my growing belly, kept a pregnancy journal and took videos each month to document every stage. I also had the luxury of never having to experience morning sickness. I was glowing and even my delivery went pretty perfectly!

My second pregnancy: I barely have time to take photos, let alone keep a journal, and guess what, no video in sight! A part of me feels guilty, but I have a baby on my hands this time around -- life is so different once a child is in your life.  

For our second baby, we’ve decided to find out the gender, we didn’t with our first. Knowing the gender didn’t matter at all the first time, we were just excited we had a bundle on the way! This time however, I know I have to prepare. If it’s going to be another boy, I wouldn’t need to get all new clothes, he could use Cameron’s hand me downs. If it’s going to be a girl, we’ll need to tweak the room they’ll share to be more gender neutral.  Also, letting Cameron knows he has a little sister on the way seems to be making the idea of a second child in the house more real to him.

I know that there will be some challenges to having two babies so close in age. Some folks believe it’s easier to just have them close in age so they can play together and grow up together (I’m a believer in that). I’ve also heard that it’s not the best thing, because you may focus most of your attention on the second baby and forget about the older child. All I can say is that I’m very happy with the decision my husband and I made to have the second child soon after our first. After all, he is my prince and there is more than enough room in this world to love both my prince and my soon to arrive princess.

Second Pregnancy: Are Boys Easier than Girls?

When it came to my first pregnancy, I felt I was a total rock star. When the time came for baby number two, I knew I would be nothing less than perfect. I had done this before. 

I was quickly brought back to reality though, when my vicious battle with morning sickness set in. It was in that moment I began to realize, that maybe the second baby wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.

With the first time around, I only experienced about two weeks of morning sickness. I was tired, but having no children at the time, I found it super easy to take naps or go to bed early. This was a luxury I wouldn’t have my second pregnancy.

Before the big gender revealing ultrasound with my first child, we assumed my daughter was actually going to be a girl. Simply based on old wives tales and the Chinese gender prediction chart, all signs pointed to female. They claimed women where typically only sick with girls. I was craving sweets. My daughter had a high heart rate on the Doppler at all my check ups. And though I wasn’t gaining a ton of weight, my body was changing all over, not just in my stomach. When they say that a daughter steals your beauty -- in my case -- they weren’t kidding.

When I became pregnant with my second child, nothing was the same. Nothing was predictable. This pregnancy felt like a complete 180, and that was the major factor in believing that I was carrying a boy.

Though I had been slightly sick the first time, I had never experienced anything like this. I was violently ill, but thanks to a steady diet of baked potatoes and plain bagels, I was gaining weight like a sumo wrestler -- I wasn’t just hungry, I was famished.  The acne I received rivaled that of a middle-schooler and my hair and nails were growing at a rapid teen-wolf like rate. My mood swings could be qualified as lethal. And it lasted well beyond the 14th week of pregnancy. I’m happy to admit I was a mess, a hot crazy hormonal mess.

How did I get through my second pregnancy while managing a three year old? We did a lot of sedentary activities. I played a wonderful patient during doctor. We mastered 10 piece puzzles on a daily basis.  And the weekly kids movie showing at our local theater became a cherished refuge. I also had to let go of the small details and focus on the big picture. While my daughter came home to a perfect nursery, my sons room was still a work in progress at the time of his birth. Asking friends and family for help is also something I typically don’t do, but found many people eager to lighten my ever growing load.

At times, the whole experience was overwhelming. But regardless of boy or girl, first pregnancy or fifth, all you can do sit back and enjoy ride.

Second Pregnancy: Having Twins this Time Around

Twins run in the family, but I never really thought about it. My oldest, Rowan, had bad reflux and was up a lot crying, and we thought, ‘We’ll just have the next baby close to this one. That way we’re not doing this for 10 years!’ We didn’t think it would happen so quickly.

When we had the ultrasound, I think my husband, Michael, was probably more shocked to find out we were having twins than I was. He said, ‘I have to sit down, I don’t think I ate breakfast.’ I’m a planner, so I immediately thought, ‘Okay, how are we going to do this? What are the steps?’ There are only 16 months between Rowan and the twins!

During my second pregnancy, I wondered how I could share my love with another child so soon after the first, let alone three children. That was one thing I had to realize would all work out. I didn’t know what to expect from Rowan, and everyone said to me, ‘Oh, she might be jealous.’ But honestly, she was too young to know. As a 16-month-old she was very self-absorbed and she just did things the way she wanted to.

Physically, it’s hard; there you are with two car carriers. I think my arms were in the best shape they had ever been!  And Rowan was young, so doing everything was a lot more time consuming. You don’t always want to go around with a stroller for three -- it’s physical juggling.

One of my good friends had twins, and her main advice to me was to schedule. You need to be as scheduled as possible, and don’t let those two babies deviate from each other and Rowan. That’s not as true at the beginning, but as soon as we could get them situated on an eating and sleeping schedule, we stuck to it. It really did work and that was probably the best advice I’ve received.

The best advice I can give: Leave extra time for everything. That way you have a few extra minutes to catch up if things don’t go perfectly. Oh, and always take a change of clothes for yourself, because now you have two kids who might throw up on you instead of one.

Consider yourself lucky to have twins the second pregnancy. You learn so much from the first baby. The transitions through stages for the twins were so much easier because I’d already done it with Rowan. You think to yourself, ‘I’ve seen this before.’ I really thought I was remembering it all. As I got older, I thought, ‘What was their first this again?’ There are days when you just feel like you have no idea. Just go on with the next thing. Try to enjoy it and realize that it is different and it is special.

It’s really been great. The kids always have someone to play with, and my first three have always had each other pretty much from the start. They have their own unique relationships with each other, and for Rowan, it’s an experience that others don’t necessarily have, having twins as siblings. I think that’s been a pretty neat thing. We can’t imagine it being any different.

What To Expect: The Second Pregnancy

My second pregnancy was both the same as and different from the first. The similarities included another uneventful gestation (9 quiet months), a second beautiful girl (Fiona!), and a repeat C-section. As for the different: I was ‘showing’ almost from the start, Fiona decided to breech at the last minute, and, luckily, breastfeeding was a breeze with our second baby (I struggled mightily with Isabel, my first born). Here, a few surprises and details from my second pregnancy experience:

Body basics Yup, my belly definitely protruded earlier with the second baby (probably because I was already stretched out from #1). Fatigue was also a bigger problem. This situation was thanks to Miss Isabel, who was 2 years old at the time. Chasing a toddler while lugging a huge tummy around is a definite recipe for exhaustion.

Turning green The same things that churned my stomach with #1 were back again with a vengeance my second pregnancy. They included raw chicken, the smell of bleach, and, for some strange reason, mushrooms! Perhaps it was the texture or the black feathery underside? Either way, they weren’t going on my salad. 

Big News When to tell people is a little trickier with a second pregnancy because your first child is now a factor. I didn’t want Isabel to know too far in advance because she might get confused and probably wouldn’t remember it by the time her sister arrived. But a new baby is a huge adjustment for a sibling, so I decided the best time to explain it to her was during my 7th month, so she had enough time to get -- and stay -- excited.

Same path After my first C-section, I wanted to try another delivery method the next time. I attended a birthing class for second-time moms and read up on VBACs -- vaginal birth after Cesarean. But alas, Fiona flipped in utero during my last weeks of pregnancy and presented as breech. Though my doctor tried to perform an external version (the manipulation of the baby from the outside to encourage her to switch positions), Fiona wouldn’t budge and another C-section was my fate.

The Big Day Getting ready for the second birth was easier this time: I was ready for my several-day stay in the hospital, and prepared for the pain and recovery. My husband took Isabel to my mother-in-law’s house on the big day and then we toasted (with sparkling cider) our last moment as a family of three.