The Unexpected Magic of Second Babies

Do you know what’s been my go-to comfort recently to combat each’s days fresh horror on my front page news?

My five-month-old baby.

And it occurred to me the other day that I would never have referred to my first baby, now four years old, in the same way. A joy? Yes. A world-altering love never before experienced in my lifetime? You betcha. But a comfort? Not exactly.

The learning curve for a first baby is a bitch, y’all. For most people, myself included, it’s the first time that these two things converge:

...meaning that although I have a huge mental rolodex of beautiful memories from Eleanor’s first year of life, they exist against a backdrop of anxiety, exhaustion from said anxiety, and general cluelessness. I worried about how she slept. I worried about how she ate. I worried about whether or not she was using her pacifier enough, meeting milestones fast enough, and getting enough tummy time. In the absence of any close familial wisdom about baby-rearing (Nora was the first baby born on my side of the family in 26 years), I read entirely too many books and overloaded myself with conflicting advice that left me feeling crushed under the perceived weight of even the most trivial decisions.

On top of that, I was dealing with this whole “additional human” concept that was really throwing this solitude-savoring introvert for a loop. Wait what do you mean, she’s with me all the time? Like even on Sundays? Who holds her while I take a bath? Oh, no one does? I have to take a five minute shower instead while simultaneously making funny faces at her through a crack in the curtain while she sits in her rocker on the verge of hysterics? Cool, gotcha. Glad we cleared that up.

But second babies? Oh man. I just want to sing the praises of second babies from the rooftops. Although I did encounter my fair share of postpartum anxiety with Lucas, it wasn’t nearly as intense as it was with Eleanor, and the familiar feeling of having done all of this before was a much-appreciated tether to reality. I’ve long since relinquished any entitlement I thought I had to own stain-free shirts or pee alone for the next decade, so there’s no pesky mourning period there. And you know what’s a REALLY good antidote to spending too much time in your own head worrying about fatal baby diseases? A four-year-old standing on your feet demanding to know why God makes you send her to school, or why she can’t stuff cotton balls down the sink drain, or what the point of a sandwich is.

 Now that the first baby is four and can wield my camera, we get really artsy, avant garde photos of the rest of us! 

Now that the first baby is four and can wield my camera, we get really artsy, avant garde photos of the rest of us! 

So while I was secretly scared during my entire pregnancy that the stress of having two kids would result in me wanting to fast-forward Lucas’s babyhood, I’ve been surprised to experience the complete opposite. I am reveling in this baby, and seeing his dopey grin when I get home from work is the best part of my day. In a social climate that feels like it’s come completely unmoored, holding my second baby feels safe and secure. This, if nothing else, I understand. And I desperately need things that I understand right now. Things that are soft and cuddly with giant thigh rolls and finger dimples are a bonus.

Marc and I joke that we wish we could clone Lucas at this five-month point and keep a pocket-sized version of him with us forever while real Lucas grows up and has a normal life. That is most definitely a second kid joke. Partially because I’m enjoying his infancy so much, and partially because second-time mom knows that once they start walking it’s game over for your leisurely sofa snuggles and anything breakable eye-level or below.

But even that will be okay, because I've done this before. I just hope second babies stay sass-free a little longer than firsts, because I'm not sure I'm ready for round two of this: