By Adina Newman
With my second child due to arrive in less than a month, I’ve been fielding a lot of the typical questions you might expect from both friends and random strangers alike. How are you feeling? Are you excited? How does your son feel about it? And my favorite: Are you ready?
Looking at each face eagerly anticipating my answer, I have prepared boilerplate responses that are general yet provide just enough intimate details to satisfy inquisitive minds. These include variations of “It’s harder this time,” “Yes!,” “He has no idea,” and “Still a lot to do, but getting there!”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m flattered that people are interested and take the time to check in with me. But what if I were to provide more honest, no holds barred responses?
How are you feeling?: “Overwhelmed and exhausted. Baby’s head is fully engaged in my pelvis, so I’m walking around with a bowling ball between my legs, unless I’m chasing after an active 2-year-old who shows little mercy for Mommy’s plight and has decided recently that naps are optional. Not to mention, I’m already not sleeping because the bowling ball is lounging on my bladder and its legs are submerged in my lungs, making it impossible to get comfortable, let alone breathe.”
Are you excited?: “Yes, I’m excited to meet my little girl, but I’m also nervous to go through this process again. Will labor and delivery go smoothly and/or look like a scene from a Quentin Tarantino film? Is having this second child going to break the bank? Will breastfeeding come naturally this time, or will we have several nights balancing a screaming child, a breast pump, and supplemental formula, all while praying the toddler will suddenly become a sound sleeper?
Giving birth is like joining Fight Club; no one told me what childbirth and those early days were really like before I went through it myself, so second time around, I am supposed to have the advantage of all the answers, right? However, veteran mom status also tunes me in to the less attractive underbelly of childbirth and mommyhood for which, no, I’m not really excited. In fact, I’m terrified.
How does your son feel about it?: “He’s two and doesn’t show any interest or understanding when I try to explain it to him. Attempts at showing him my oversized belly have consistently resulted in him pulling my shirt down to its natural state. My guess is that when he initially meets his sister, he will poke her in the face and laugh at her, similar to interactions with other babies on the playground. But when she doesn’t go away? He will tell her ‘bye-bye,’ which in addition to a polite farewell is also his passive aggressive way of uttering ‘piss-off.’ Of course, I hope I’m wrong, or that he will embrace her in time, but I worry how he will handle the transition on a regular basis.”
Are you ready?: “Honestly? No. Sometimes, I even forget I’m pregnant because my son or job occupies all my attention. My brain simply doesn’t have the bandwidth or caffeine necessary to tackle adding an infant to the equation. The car seat is busy collecting dust and cobwebs in the attic, and the new bassinet I finally purchased at 35 weeks is still sitting in the box next to the front door. However, we may finally have someone to watch our son while we’re in the hospital. Progress!”
Besides physical preparation, I also can’t imagine how I’m going to care for a second human being when the struggle is real with the first. How will errands work when they already result in tantrums? How am I going to balance two children two and under? Will the television need to step in as a temporary parent while I navigate my way through caring for number two? I really worry about how the new addition will change our family dynamic after we finally seem to be getting into a predictable rhythm.”
I envision that possible responses to such brutal honesty would produce unsolicited advice, uncomfortable laughter, or an unequivocal side-eye. However, before I’m asked if this child was even planned, there’s a question that has yet to be asked, but should be added to the conversation:
What are you looking forward to? “My heart exploding with love when my newborn nuzzles against me and coos adorable noises in her sleep. I think about her first smile and laugh and whether she will share her brother’s dimples and mischievous grin. I picture how she will wrap my husband around her tiny, pudgy fingers, and I fantasize about what mother-daughter time might look like in the years to come. I imagine her interactions with big brother and what adventures they will embark on as a duet. I wonder what kind of person she will be and who she will become as well as her interests, hopes, and fears. Most of all, I dream about her future and the memories we will make as a family of four.”
Becoming a mother for the second time is absolutely terrifying. But when my daughter finally makes her debut, I will be ready for all the love she will bring. That, and a lot more caffeine.
About the Author
In between chasing after her toddler son and preparing for her daughter, Adina Newman likes to write and doesn’t discriminate according to genre or topic. Her work has recently appeared at Kveller, and she has previously blogged for Moment Magazine, written poetry for several online and print publications, and is currently working on her dissertation. You can follow her musings on Twitter @adinacate.