Once I decided to have a child, I knew I’d have to have two. In part, it was because my mother, an only child, spent my childhood impressing upon my sister and me that it was unfair to only have one kid. She had always wanted a sibling and felt robbed of that experience. When my sister and I yelled at each other, physically fought, or declared our hatred for each other, my mom reminded us again and again that we were incredibly lucky to have each other.
The problem with my two-baby plan was that my first child was difficult. Scratch that – The Most Difficult. He didn’t sleep. Until we did “Cry it Out” at 10 months, he woke up hourly at night. But this progress didn’t stop his early morning waking. For the first year and a half of his life, he woke up between 4 and 4:30. Every. Single. Day. I went down a rabbit hole of depression and anxiety that took nearly two years to escape.
I love him, but my son tested my sanity and my marriage. But even on those terrible days – the days I didn’t think would end; the days I cried more than I didn’t; the days I didn’t think I’d survive – I knew I was going to do it again.
Now that my sister and I are adults, we’re extremely close, and I wanted my son to have the opportunity for a relationship like this. Also, as a stay at home mom, my life absolutely revolved around my son, as did my husband’s. I didn’t want us to fall into the trap of creating an entitled little prince. At the time, I can’t describe why, but my family felt incomplete without a second child.
When my son turned two, he was finally sleeping until 5 or 5:30. The anti-depressants I was taking made me realize that yes, I could get through the day and even (shockingly) start to enjoy it. Naturally, I took this small win and ran with it. It was time to try this whole baby thing again.
When I told my husband I thought I was ready to start trying for a second child, he looked at me, horrified. “Why would you want to do that to us?” he asked. I understood. After all, I had just started to get my body back. My mind back. My marriage back. My life back. I was finally starting to feel like a normal person – maybe even myself again – why would I want to ruin things by having another baby? I had no rational or reasonable answer, I just knew that I had to.
For the year it took me to get pregnant, I spent every month wondering if I was doing the right thing for myself and my family. Every negative test filled me with both frustration and relief, leaving me more and more conflicted. I wanted another baby. I didn’t want to relive the previous two years. I was afraid, so afraid, of breaking down again; of what another two sleepless years would do to me, to us. But still, we tried. And exactly a year after we started trying, right when my son turned three, I got pregnant.
I was thrilled and terrified. When I got pregnant the first time, I was worried because I was new to the parenting world and didn’t know how babies worked or what I was getting myself into. But getting pregnant a second time? I was no longer so naïve. I knew exactly what could or would happen. And that was even scarier than the unawareness of the first time.
When I was pregnant with my first son, I worried about everything I could possibly imagine. What if he was kidnapped? Murdered? Schizophrenic? If it existed, I worried about it. When I was pregnant with my second son, I worried about sleep. Sure, I fretted occasionally about the other stuff too, but mostly, overwhelmingly, about sleep. Would we ever sleep again? Would my husband and I fight every day for months about Cry It Out the way we had with our first child? Would the baby ruin our family by causing too much stress and not letting us sleep? Would I get depressed and lose my mind again? Worst of all – would I regret him?
Happily, that was not the case. Far from it. Sure, we’ve had hard hours, days and even weeks with our two boys, but it was nothing like I expected or feared. My older son loves his brother and tries to help whenever he can. And the baby? He is a joy; a happy, loving little boy. When I walk into his room in the morning (at 6! Or after! Like a normal baby!) he smiles and coos at me and I actually, literally think what a gift. What a gift this baby is!
I feel like I have been given the gift of a second chance at experiencing and enjoying a baby. Although I loved him and tried to appreciate him, with my first son, I merely wanted to get through the day; enjoying it was rarely an option. I actively wished away our days and months, hoping merely to survive.
With my second son, I relish his smiles. I get such pleasure from watching him learn new things. There is nothing better than hearing him laugh at something his older brother does. Yes, when my older son comes home from school it all devolves into chaos. But at least it’s (mostly) loving, silly, laughing chaos.
No one would describe me as an optimist, but my younger son has helped me change my outlook on life. My husband and I are completely different parents this time around. I’m not going to lie, my anti-depressants are a pretty big factor in allowing me to relax and “not sweat the small stuff,” as the saying goes, but learning what didn’t work the first time really helped us as second-time parents.
Having a second child is a difficult, challenging, and expensive decision. But for us, it’s been absolutely worth it. Having a second baby is the best thing I’ve ever done.