10 Things I’d Tell My Best Friend About… Having A Second Baby
Top tips for best friends
1. It May Sound Obvious...
Horribly so – but don’t forget that a new baby is a new baby! i.e. a baby you don’t know. That you have never had before. With his or her own likes, dislikes, fears and delights. It’s really easy to fall into the expectation that Baby Number Two will be identical to Baby Number One. Which means you may well find yourself, bewildered, thinking things like ‘why is this baby still feeding all night? Little Tommy was sleeping eight hours by this stage...’ With the greatest of respect to Little Tommy – his schedule and personality are entirely irrelevant to Baby Number Two. The sooner you get over the comparisons, and start the process of learning about the latest addition to the family, the better, for you and them.
2. No One Offers As Much Help On the Second
Shame, but there it is. After your first baby is born, the world will feel like it is ready to bow down and worship you. Neighbours you have never spoken to will arrive with gifts and good wishes, offers of help will flood in from all sides. You are a nine-days wonder. Then you have your second baby, and the world shrugs as if to say ‘great, bravo you. Now get on with it.’ I have no idea why this is, but trust me, it is.
3. You Actually Have Learned A Thing Or Two
Sadly, it wont be of much use. Mostly, it will be boring things, like the value of going to bed at 9pm, foolishness of trying to do brunch with friends with a tiny baby, or the futility of tidying the toys up every night. And, worst of all, you have probably by now learned to take up the offers of help that come, only to find they aren’t forthcoming (see above).
4. There Will be Fall-Out
This is the sad bit. Your already-child may be affected by the new arrival in ways you may well not have expected. Often, the response is not as clear-cut and open as jealousy. Sometimes, your already-child will be kind and lovely to the baby, but distant and angry with you. This is heartbreaking. Or they may be kind and loving with you and the baby, but still very, very sad. This, in its way, is even more heartbreaking. I have known children to remain beautifully-behaved at home but act out terribly in play-school. There are many ways to manifest the trauma of displacement, but the good news is...
5. This Too Will Pass
Your already-child may well behave as if he or she wants to murder the baby, or you, or everyone in the entire world. May hit, shout, generally carry on like a small psychopath, but it will pass. He or she will move into a gentler phase within a few weeks. The heartbreak of watching his or her distress will diminish, and one day you will realise that finally, you feel like the family you wanted to be.
6. Your Previously-Delicate-Seeming Child Will Suddenly Look Like A Hulking Monster In Comparison With The Newborn
This is a shock. In the space of a couple of hours, your toddler will go from sweet and small to massive and threatening. And they wont have done a single thing except stand beside the new baby. ‘When did he get so large?’ you’ll find yourself thinking in panic. 'And why is his voice so loud…?’ This is what artists and psychologists call perspective. It will fade as the weeks go on.
7. If Anyone Had Told You How Hard the Jump is, You Would Never Have Had the Second
Which of course is why we didn’t tell you. Yes, it is all far more difficult with a second child. No more sleeping when baby sleeps, no more hours spent gazing at a tiny face and marvelling at every expression that crosses it. Now, you have an older child to tend to, a series of hoops to jump through devised, possibly, by a toddler. You will be staggered at how easy life with one seems in retrospect. You may even wonder what on earth you were doing with yourself all those years of being mother-to-one.
8. If You Thought You Were Tired Before, You’re Going To Need A New Word
That is the unvarnished truth. Especially if they are close in age (anything less than two years is ‘close’ to me). However, because you’ve been through this before, you also know that eventually the tiredness will stop and your life will start to return to some semblance of normality.
9. The Joy Of Watching Your Children Interact Will Be More Intense Than You Expected
There is nothing more lovely in the world than watching your two little ones play with each other, be kind to each other, teach each other things, laugh together, and form the kind of bond that will last a lifetime, and on which they will be able to depend through all the tough times to come. Also, I was never sure if one child counted as a family. Once the second came along, there was no doubt. The increase in noise, confusion, demands and chaos was matched only by the increase in hilarity.
10. Confess – You Had Forgotten How Exquisite A Tiny Baby Is
And now you are reminded, you cannot imagine how you have done without it for so long. The downy heads, the milky smell, the quiet moments of adoration – yes, this is what bliss is. Except now it is even more poignant, because you know how fast they grow.
What would you tell your best friend?