I get asked frequently about what it is like to be pregnant and be the mother of an infant. I will offer this pearl of wisdom: It isn’t easy. Being a parent is not an easy job. Great benefits, sure, but you’re on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and quite frankly, the boss doesn’t cut any slack for sick days. And especially not for fatigue or, God-forbid, you want to work on the nursery for the other. But, with that said, it isn’t always hard either.
I was petrified when I found out I was pregnant again so quickly after the first. I mean it: outright, deer-in-headlights shock and terror. This quickly gave way to excitement, awe, and misty-eyed joy, but those first days of depression were still there. I will admit it. I didn’t think we could do it. I didn’t think I could do it, physically or emotionally. My hyperemesis didn’t help me. I felt I was spending these precious first months with my daughter hugging my toilet. I thought our life was over, and we had already failed before we even got to try.
I reached out to every person I knew that had ever been in my situation. I even reached out to people I didn’t know. I needed to know Cat wouldn’t grow up with a complex. I needed to know I would still have time to bond with my husband. I needed to be reassured that it would be okay, that we would all be okay.
A good support system helped me realize the following. My children will grow up loved. My husband will grow old with me and know he is loved. I can love D, and Cat, and Minnie. There is not a set time line for reproduction that guarantees or denies love. That’s an inside job. I have a lot of love to give. As a wife and a mother, that is the most important thing I needed to know and realize to be able to move on with my pregnancy with my head up. That is the number one piece of advice I will give any second time mother while she struggles in her head with how she will do it all.
Being at peace with my pregnancy doesn’t mean other people don’t pass judgment. They do so especially when you are a young mother with your infant in tow and you happen to forget your wedding rings at home. I see their eyes go from my wee one, to my bump, to my ring ringer. I see them whisper to their friends. Some will even ask me how old Cat is under the guise of innocent curiosity. Unlike when I was pregnant with my first, though, they do not ask how far along I am. I could, after all, very well just be overweight from the first one. Even people I know wonder if I am capable of handling a second child, they wonder if the baby was planned, and they do ask personal details about the circumstances behind the second child’s conception. But I don’t let this bother me.
I cannot be bothered by other people’s judgments, because I have already judged myself. I am, at times, overwhelmed with “mommy guilt.” I want to cry when I even think of spending less time with Cat. I sometimes feel like I am cheating on her. I feel enormous guilt when I shop for new baby furniture and when I plan out the Minnie’s nursery. I get upset when I want to do things I didn’t do with Cat, such as maternity pictures. I have to remind myself, every step of the way, that I can love two babies just as much as I love one.
I’m also just not as excited, which does feed into the guilt. The anticipation for the second does not compare to the first, especially because it feels like I just did this. Like, last year. I don’t follow the baby book day to day wondering what new body part is forming. I don’t know the exact fruit comparison stage my baby is at now. I’m not as Gun-ho about decorating the nursery. And I’m not really excited about the newborn phase all over again so soon, even though I get misty eyed when I hear newborn baby cries. But this is perfectly normal. Every little kick makes me love her more and I know I will overflow with gushy, mama love when she arrives in the world. The pregnancy is flying by, even though I really just want time to slow down as every day that passes Cat is a day older. And getting closer, and closer to not being my little, tiny baby anymore.
Remember how I said it wasn’t always hard? It’s not. I promise. Now that I have stopped vomiting every day, I usually hardly even feel pregnant. There is nothing that I can’t do with Cat due to my pregnancy. I still take her everywhere with me, and provide her all the experiences that I have dreamed of offering her as an infant. If anything, I have thrown myself more into these early months, as I know this is the only time I will have with just her. Although, tiny sweet kicks that grow stronger every day remind me that there is three of us partaking in all of our activities.
I am very fortunate in that I am able to be a stay at home mother and soak up my time with her. I’m also lucky that she is a fantastic sleeper, and enables me to have 8 hours of sleep a night. I have a lot of family around me to provide support and babysitters. Really, we are in an ideal situation to have two children under the age of two.
The truth is, it’s less the physical requirements that make being pregnant while mothering an infant difficult. It’s the mental battle that drains you at times. Every time I catch myself feeling anxious about my ability (or even, in moments of depression, my desire) to mother two children, I remind myself of how sweet my daughter is. How when I look at her smiling up at me and I just want to live in that moment forever. I think of when she takes a tumble and sits on the floor with a tear streaked face with her arms reaching up to me, whining “ma, ma, ma,” because my arms are a place of comfort for her. I catch myself watching my husband toss her up in the air while she grins and laughs with her drool soaked fingers in her mouth. I see and I feel the love, the sweetest love there is, every single day. And then I think, in every moment I catch my breath in awe of my daughter, that soon I will have two of them. Double the love, double the laughs, double the smiles, and double the moments that take my breath away.
Yes, being a mother is hard, whether its one or two or three, but it’s also the easiest and most natural job in the world. It’s a paradox that only a mother could love.
And I wouldn’t want things any other way.