To be pregnant is to carry creation inside you. To realise that your body is not completely yours. It is to surrender to the mystery. To surrender your own control. No one can control if and when they become pregnant, you have no say over whether you carry a boy or a girl, you do not know for sure that your baby will be healthy, you do not choose what type of pregnancy you have – whether you glow and breeze through it or whether you struggle through every pregnancy symptom in the book, you rarely choose your birth. And once the baby is conceived inside you there is nothing you do to grow him or her, as you sleep little arms and legs sprout, tiny fingers and toes, skin and ears and lungs. It truly is life’s greatest miracle.
Pregnancy is very much a season of preparation, of waiting, of looking to the future, of letting go of the past. For your first pregnancy it is about you becoming a new person – becoming a mother. It is starting on a journey that is long and unknown, the only known thing is that you must commit to it, commit to the journey for the rest of your life.
And as I carry my second child I realise that even though I am already a mum, this pregnancy and baby is no less significant than my first and this little one will change our lives just as dramatically. And yet, despite this realisation I have felt that I have had so much less time and so much less focus for this second child of mine. Everyone says the second pregnancy is different. And it certainly feels different to me, (and I’m not just referring to how much earlier and faster my belly started to grow…).
My first pregnancy was a beautiful time. I was able to change my entire life so that I could focus on the baby that was coming. I wrote letters to my unborn baby (one which you can read here), I got acupuncture to prepare for the birth, I did prenatal yoga, I read and read and read about pregnancy and birth and newborns, I bought a pram and a cot and room décor, I wrote birth affirmations and drank birthing tea, my husband and I attended birthing class together, we met with our doula, we went on a babymoon, we did a pregnancy photo shoot, we had a gender reveal party and a baby shower, I sorted through piles of gorgeous newborn clothes that were given to us, I journalled so I wouldn’t forget how it felt to carry a life inside me. And all of these things were important to me because they acknowledged and celebrated the huge change that was about to happen and they prepared me for the journey ahead.
This time, I have actively tried to recreate that focus and calm that I had but it just hasn’t worked. Now I am more likely to read a book about toddler behaviour than about birth or breastfeeding. My firstborn is still the one that takes us through uncharted waters. I feel, that compared to my first, I have put very little time into preparing for this one. Yet she is just as significant, just as loved. So much of the preparation is not about the baby, but about me. Though it seems strange, painting a chest of drawers is mental preparation for the sleepless nights. This is the reason that when I made my daughter a santa sack for Christmas I felt I had to make two. My mum said, ‘I don’t really understand what the rush on the second one is…’ But it is about my mind moving from being a mother of one to a mother of two. It is about giving my second everything I have given my first.
But, though I would love to repeat everything I did for my first, I know that being pregnant with my second is simply different. It’s different for me and everyone else. It was different right from when I first told people I was pregnant. Because they have celebrated this before. Because they think I already know everything and already have everything. Because this time I already have a child to chase after. Being pregnant for the second time means getting a pregnancy massage and then crawling on the floor to pick up food my one year has thrown on the ground. It is trying to remember to tell my husband when our baby is moving so that he can feel her. It is loving the magic of carrying a baby inside me and not wanting it to end too soon.
Two weeks before my first daughter was born I went on maternity leave from work. It marked the end of something and the beginning of something new. It was significant and celebrated. It transitioned me to a time of waiting, it gave me time and permission to rest, to focus on me, to nest, to get ready. But when you are a stay at home mum there is no maternity leave, there’s no break before the baby arrives, one season doesn’t end before the next one starts. You are supposed to seamlessly transition.
With this pregnancy I have noticed just how much of what is written about pregnancy, birth and newborns is tailored towards first time mums. Photos in baby magazines are always of a mother and one baby. Always. Magazines and books are full of advice like ‘get as much rest as you can before the baby comes,’ and ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’, information about what to expect for a first time labour and birth. Perhaps by now we are simply supposed to know it all.
People have told me the second baby is easier, because you know what to expect. And yet, for me, it still feels just as unknown. The unknowns are two fold. Firstly, the baby and birth are just as unknown because they say every baby is different. But secondly, I wonder how the way I mother my daughter will change and how it has to. How will it be possible to sit and snuggle my toddler to sleep when I have a newborn? How will I entertain my toddler when my newborn needs cuddles and feeding on the couch?
I recently was reminiscing with a friend about my first birth, about how I had a birthing candle and so many evenings alone with my husband to prepare, how calm and lovely it was when I bought my first home from the hospital, how I could fully embrace the long days and nights of breastfeeding. And my friend said, ‘you have to let the first one go. This one wont be the same, but it will be beautiful in a different way.’ And it already is beautiful in a different way. Like when my one year old points to my belly and says ‘baby’. In some ways it has been easier because I have known what to expect, how to get through the awful days of sickness, and there’s been less preparation because I don’t need to spend as much time researching baby carriers. And in some ways it has been harder because the world didn’t stop this time when I got pregnant, because I have a one year old to look after and because, as I race towards the finish line, I’m reminded of what a big deal welcoming a child is, whether that be your first, your second or your fifth.