The Bitter-Sweet Second Baby

From the moment we saw those little pink lines appear on the pregnancy test, I knew this experience would be nothing like the first. Not quite in the way I do now, of course – I really should have amended that title to say ‘Second Babies’! But I still knew deep down that we were embarking on something completely new, despite the fact we’d done this before. And this surprised me a little, I have to say. I had always imagined that a second pregnancy would be different, but only in the sense that all of the unknown would be taken away, and perhaps I would find it easier to just enjoy the inevitable magic. We were pros at this now, right? But I quickly realised that was not the case. Just like the first time, this was very much on purpose. And just like the first time, I didn’t feel the rush of joy I expected, but a whole range of emotions, not all of them positive. But while back then any negative thoughts were fleeting, this time they were a lot more intense, and lingered for an uncomfortable couple of weeks. I wanted very much to feel excited about what I knew would be the result, given that I’d been struggling to keep down my breakfast for a few days already, but as I looked at Dan, grinning from ear to ear while trying to wrestle the test from Bailey to prevent him putting it in his mouth, I had an overwhelming and horribly unwelcome thought – ‘What have I done??’

It hurts to read that back. No-one wants to believe that the first thing you feel upon discovering what should be happy news is that you don’t want it to be true, and I’m already bracing myself for the onslaught of ‘OMG YOU SHOULD JUST BE GRATEFUL!!’ comments, but it’s the truth, and ever since I first embarked on this journey of becoming a mother I committed to being honest about every aspect, no matter how unsavoury, so there it is. The uncomfortable truth. Instead of collapsing into happy tears of joy, I cried instead because I wasn’t 100% sure this was what I wanted, and that’s incredibly hard to admit. As with everything you feel in this scenario though, it wasn’t quite so black and white as it sounds. There was a whole array of thoughts and feelings tied up in it, so perhaps if I’m to help you understand, I need to rewind a little.

It took me much longer than I thought it would to feel ready to try for another child. Having both been raised with multiple siblings we’d always said we’d like to have more than one, but while I’d enjoyed pregnancy so much and had found life with a baby agreed with me, it just wasn’t something I felt ready to rush straight into doing again. Memories of the birth – while thankfully straightforward and complication free – stayed with me for a long while. The specifics of the event have softened over time, but to this day I still vividly remember watching Dan cradle our freshly born son as they stitched me back up, wondering how on earth I would tell him that there was absolutely no way I’d be willing to do that all again. Ever. And even to me that seems a little dramatic now, but I know it was very real at the time. Even a positive birth has a lasting impact on a woman, as do the early days of motherhood, so it’s only natural that many will feel hesitant about going back into the water, so to speak. I was still breastfeeding, still coming to terms with the sense that my body didn’t belong to me anymore – I didn’t quite feel as though I’d had time to recover fully. And of course, we had Covid on top to deal with – I’d managed to secure a part time role at work that I was really looking forward to and hoped to get at least a year under my belt before taking more time off, but after three weeks of settling in I was furloughed, and have been ever since, so was filled with anxiety about whether or not I could be happy with a much shorter return than I’d planned, as well as the (mostly imagined) perceptions people might have about me being pregnant again so soon. Then not one, but two, Wedding dates had to be cancelled, throwing the order of our life plans into chaos, and I couldn’t help but feel as though I was suddenly being rushed into making this huge decision. The honest truth is, while I’m happy that this was definitely the right age for me personally to start a family, if we had been a few years younger I wouldn’t have been looking to have another baby just yet.

But we weren’t younger. My thirties were rapidly passing me by and the closer I got to 40 the more I worried about the possible effects that could have on both my getting pregnant and the health of any baby that may come to be. Plus, I didn’t know for sure if i would feel ‘done’ with two children. That probably seems daft considering all of this paragraph has been about feeling unsure about a second, but l felt as though I would at least like the opportunity to be there if we decided we wanted to take it, rather than potentially always feel like we missed our chance. And I couldn’t ignore the obvious positives. We had been blessed already with the most adorable child who had brought a joy to my life I never even thought possible. How could I not want to do that again? He was growing so quickly, and it was exciting and fun filled to see him change and progress each day, but I missed those baby days acutely. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t ache to feel that familiar flutter of a baby moving in my tummy again. To hold a tiny newborn and breathe in that intoxicating scent. To feel that sense of utter contentment as my child fell asleep nestled into my neck. Pregnancy announcements had started to once again fill me with a tinge of jealousy, and the arrival of two new bundles of joy to my friendship circle had me feeling broody as hell. I knew things would be different this time – there wouldn’t be the long lazy days of doing nothing but cuddle with a toddler in the mix – but gradually the thought seemed less and less scary. I still had my concerns, of course. What if the next baby was the complete opposite of Bailey? We’d always joked he’d eased us into parenting so well that we were bound to spawn the devil child next time around to balance the scales! And I’d managed to give myself a real complex about whether or not I could handle a more complicated labour and birth after so many people telling me mine was ‘easy’. But we’d put life on hold for so long already over the past Covid-ridden year, so that (plus a few too many gins in the hot tub on New Year’s Eve and a sudden, drunken sense that it would be pleasing to me to start this new project on the first day of the year…) was the decision made – I stopped taking the pill. I didn’t feel 100% ready, but I’d come to realise that perhaps I never would, and I felt strongly I was more likely to regret not having a child than having one, so we let nature take it’s course.

“I felt as though my guilt would show through the facade and I’d instantly be outed as the unthinkable – a mother who didn’t want her baby…”

Which brings us neatly back to my bathroom, just shy of two months ago, staring back at my delighted partner holding our positive test and our first born child, who suddenly looked so tiny and innocent. I had hoped after the months on end of painstaking consideration that all my worries would be washed away in a wave of happiness, but instead something else descended. Something I was all too familiar with, but that I had never felt with quite such an intensity – the Mum Guilt. Suddenly I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow doing wrong by Bailey, despite the fact I’d loved having siblings as a child and always wanted him to have the same. I felt as though I was stealing precious one on one time from him, that I was forcing him to grow up too quickly. I feared I would struggle to find enough time for him with a newborn in the house, that he might feel as though I didn’t love him any more. For the first time, I started to question my desire for another child and what that meant about me as a person. Was I being selfish? Why did I think I needed another child? Did this mean I felt my darling boy wasn’t enough for me? All of the ‘you should just be grateful’ comments I’d seen liberally spewed all over social media for the last 18 months came back to haunt me and I wondered, were they right? Shouldn’t I just be grateful for the blessings we already had? I wish I could say these feelings quickly passed, but instead they followed me around like a dark cloud, and the happier and more excited Dan seemed, the more guilty I felt. At night I began to dream about unwittingly letting Bailey wander off at a shopping centre, accidentally abandoning him in the middle of Birmingham city or forgetting to collect him from somewhere. I would wake to discover in horror that he wasn’t in his bed, then realise I was dreaming all over again, and wake for real in a hot, sweaty panic. I would catch myself supressing the urge to cry regularly, as i woke him up from his nap, as I watched him play with his Daddy, as he climbed into my lap and asked me to read him a book. We would be happily chatting over dinner and suddenly it would hit me that before the end of the year we would no longer be a family of three and it was all I could do not to weep. My little boy was completely oblivious to what was to come, and I felt as though I’d be subjecting him to some sort of cruel punishment. Unlike Dan, who was overjoyed and desperate to tell our loved ones, I didn’t want to share our news. I felt as though my guilt would show through the facade and I’d instantly be outed as the unthinkable – a mother who didn’t want her baby.

Of course, that wasn’t true. I didn’t not want this child. Instead I was dealing with the realisation that life was about to dramatically change. What it really confirmed was just how happy I was with this little life we had built ourselves, and a part of me wasn’t quite ready to let that go. But this child was very much wanted, and all it took was seeing a flickering heartbeat on a screen – well, two flickering heartbeats, to be exact – to remind me just of how much. I had let the completely natural and understandable fears about expanding our family, and the flood of hormones to my system (which we now know was double the normal dose!) to take over and had forgotten just why we wanted to do this again in the first place. I had forgotten the amazing feeling of the world falling into place as they handed me Bailey for the first time. I had forgotten how magical those first few months were, despite the challenges. I had forgotten the immense sense of pride and love I felt each time I saw Bailey achieve something new. And as I lay back on that bench in the clinic for an early scan, it all came rushing back to me. As the Sonographer declared we had a strong and healthy baby wriggling around in there all that anxiety, fear and uncertainty was released and the tears flowed, and this time they were undeniably tears of joy. I realised that had she been delivering bad news my heart would have been utterly broken, and never again would I question whether or not I wanted this baby in our lives. Not even when she delivered the bombshell that there was another little surprise wriggling in there too! Without question, discovering we were having twins brought a whole new set of worries to the table, but in a strange way it quelled those I had been feeling previously. This was suddenly so much bigger than we’d thought, it made my fears seem small by comparison. And while it took us some time to adjust to the news – I have soooooo much more to write about the journey we’ve been on already – in just a few short weeks it felt as though I couldn’t imagine things any other way.

So here we are, almost through the first trimester and slowly coming to terms with the fact that this Christmas there will be 5 of us around the table. Life really is about to change, but while change is sometimes sad, it can also be incredible. I can’t lie and say there aren’t days when I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier if there were just one baby on the way, but mostly I think about just how lucky we are. I don’t just get one little baby, but two, and I get to be mother to three, beautiful children! It’s going to be one hell of a ride, but I can’t wait to get going!

Love,

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