Second babies: a (long winded) review

My second baby was delivered in late June, and now we’ve had a chance to get to know him I thought I should put out a review in case anyone else is thinking of getting one. Wondering if you should go for it? Thinking the first really needs a sibling before they become totally convinced they really are the centre of the universe? Sick of nosy relatives asking when you’re going to have another one? Feeling nostalgic about the newborn days of cuddles and that amazing smell on their head and being able to go to mums and bubs movie sessions? Wanting to go back to the days of being able to go out for coffee because they’re strapped in the pram and not going to run into traffic? When you didn’t know which malls had playgrounds or which playgrounds had coffee, because you didn’t have to know? Thinking a year spent away from office politics and dealing with bodily fluids instead might be nice? Read on!

Unlike a first baby, when you’re waiting for your second baby you actually do have a clue of what you might be in for. Will it be just like the first? The exact opposite? Toby, ever the pessimist, used to say, “What if we get a worse one?” and I, ever the optimist, would say enthusiastically, “What if we get a better one?”

They made it look so easy!

 

As usual, the pessimist was right. Sort of.

I’ve already discussed my crappy crappy pregnancy, way worse than the first. Then there was the birth experience, which was a great improvement on the first. So we were kind of fifty-fifty at this point.

I had an inkling we were in for a rough ride on Finn’s second night after he’d had his first proper feed once my milk came in. And he cried for the next two hours. I paced up and down that hospital room (thankfully a big one), singing songs and very thankful this wasn’t my first rodeo otherwise we both might have ended up out the window in despair. I tried everything I could remember, but nothing really worked until he just passed out in exhaustion, as did I. The next morning the midwives agreed that amount of crying was somewhat unusual, but we didn’t really talk about it. Babies are, after all, a huge mystery.

While Emma had jumped straight onto the boob after birth and never looked back, Finn did have some trouble feeding. Part of it was my fault – “You’re holding him like a toddler,” one of the midwives said gently, helping rearrange his little head in my elbow. But really, he just couldn’t figure out how to latch. Many memories of our first week together consist of trying desperately to get him to latch properly and have a decent feed. I was beside myself. It was incredibly frustrating (and painful) and the only thing that kept me going was knowing I had done it successfully in the past. If I didn’t have that previous experience giving me confidence, I’m pretty sure I would have given up. Which would have been totally fine. But after a week or so, he finally figured it out and we could continue on our merry way.

The crying continued though. He was so unsettled after feeds, with the worst period being the middle of the night feeds where he’d often be awake for hours afterwards crying and wriggling and just unable to relax. We tried natural remedies like Infant’s Friend and warm baths and different positions but it still seemed something was bothering him. He was also way more into spewing than Emma ever was. For some reason I didn’t think of reflux but instead I turned to a mums group on Facebook for advice. Several people suggested looking at my diet – caffeine, chocolate and dairy being key suspects.

I was eating a lot of all three so I figured it was worth a try. I gave up chocolate first, reasoning that if it was the culprit and it calmed him down then I wouldn’t need it anyway. I was chocolate-free for two or three days and didn’t notice any change. Caffeine was next with the same rationale and unfortunately the same result. So I finally gave up the dairy. And within a couple of days I had a new baby. Dammit! I’m a vegetarian who couldn’t imagine life without cheese or Greek yoghurt. And yet here we are, seven months later and I’m still mostly dairy-free (not completely – we seem okay with butter used in baking, or a small amount of cheese as an ingredient in a much larger dish, but no more slabs of haloumi on my burgers or bowls of ice cream). I also still avoid caffeine except on days where it feels like a life or death situation, and I avoided chocolate until very recently too. (On the positive side, the lack of dairy and chocolate probably really helped with my 12wbt journey.) And instead of taking the opportunity to become a better person vegan, I’ve started eating seafood instead. Something about losing dairy meant my body was crying out for extra protein and fuel. While I was pregnant with Finn I’d started eating a bit of meat anyway, just because it seemed to be what my body wanted, so I guess the seal had already been broken in a way. So for now at least I’m some strange hybrid vegequarian who doesn’t eat dairy. Or onions. Please invite me to your dinner party!

These issues also led me down the rabbit hole of worrying about food allergies, because apart from showing sensitivity to dairy, Finn also came with eczema – another new problem for us – which can be a precursor according to some recent research. So we became a nut-free household to avoid exposure through his skin until we started solids and made sure he isn’t allergic to anything. So far we’ve tackled eggs, wheat, seafood and several different kinds of nuts with no reactions. This week is the last major one – peanuts. All signs are looking positive though. And the eczema isn’t too bad, it’s only in a few spots and we can manage it with a combination of steroid cream, Sudocrem, and not bathing him every day. (It’s okay, he gets a wipe down. Most nights.)

What else can I say about the second baby? Oh yes – the pelvic floor. This is a public service announcement for women who have had babies (including you, Michelle Bridges). You know those ads on TV with women laughing about their lack of bladder control when exercising or coughing and how it’s okay because they can just wear these enormous pads OR EVEN PAPER UNDIES every day for the rest of their lives and that’s what freedom is? NO.

Freedom is when your lovely doctor says to you while filling out your discharge papers at the hospital, “You’ve had two pretty big babies and two lots of stitches – I’d be investing in some physiotherapy if I were you.” And so you do, because what else are you paying all that private health insurance for (but also, the ACT government provides a free physio service for mums and bubs, so everyone needs to get on this bandwagon), and the physio tells you you can’t run until your baby is over five months old. And you think this is RIDICULOUS, you are young and healthy and you don’t wee when you cough anymore and please can you run but then they show you an ultrasound and while you think you are doing awesome Kegels your insides are actually all soft and flat like the ocean on a really calm day. So you do your homework exercises and do what they say and when you do finally start running you are so glad you listened to the doctor and the physio. That’s what freedom is. Your pelvic floor is a muscle, you can heal and repair and strengthen it just like any other muscle. YOU DON’T NEED PAPER UNDIES.

You also need to rest after a second baby! I was so thrilled not to be pregnant any more that I threw myself back into things once I was home from the hospital. I may have been tired but I had 100 times the amount of energy I’d had the week before. I was doing the laundry, cleaning the kitchen, I even did the groceries all by myself on the second day I was home. Then six days after giving birth I noticed a pain right down in my belly and decided to lie down for a bit. While lying down I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw an article about running after baby. Which I started to read, only to be confronted by a warning about running too soon and the risk of prolapse which then continued to tell me the signs of prolapse all of which I was currently experiencing. I rang the hospital in a panic and saw a doctor the same day who said I was okay but for goodness sakes, women used to stay in hospital for 10 days after having a baby, you might not be sick but you really really need to take it easy and be horizontal a lot.

So yeah: see a physio, and take it easy. Your pelvic floor will thank you.

What else about this second baby? He has a little bump of cartilage on his nose that will need surgery (mostly for cosmetic reasons but also to avoid infection if it gets knocked). Had the uneven hip creases needing an ultrasound (they are fine). Had a weird thing in his hand that also needed an ultrasound (and was fine). Had a strong preference for the right side with his head and neck and rolling that needed a physio appointment (and is now fine). He is a really busy, wriggly little thing that gets himself stuck in odd positions and then cries until someone comes to fix it, which is super fun at 4am. Now he’s crawling I just cannot keep up. At all. Changing nappies and strapping him into the pram requires six hands. He also takes longer to make transitions. For example when we moved Emma from a swaddle to a sleeping bag I remember thinking this was going to stuff up her sleeping completely, and she barely blinked. The first night I put Finn in a sleeping bag he just screamed for half an hour until I put him back in the swaddle. This happened twice more, a week or so apart, until he finally got the hang of it. Teething is the end of the world, whereas Emma seemed to barely notice her teeth coming in, with maybe the worst bit being he likes to bite me while I’m feeding him. He’s sensitive to loud noises, likes to eat shoes, drinks from the dog’s water bowl, and enjoys smacking and scratching to the point where he can draw blood or bruise.

Toby’s prediction has certainly come to pass, in many ways.

And yet.

While Finn’s default facial expression might have been “mildly perturbed”, especially when he was younger, when he smiles it lights up the room. Did I mention he has dimples?! It’s such an infectious grin and makes everything seem better. His laugh is amazing, it’s bright and bubbly and is one of my favourite sounds ever. He doesn’t dwell on things – he picks himself up when he takes a tumble, he’s giggling at the mobile above the bed just a couple of minutes after screaming from his immunisation needle, he forgives Emma every time she takes a toy off him. He’s a total snuggle muffin; like a little koala bear who loves to get his face right into my neck for a nuzzle unlike his sister who always just wanted to look around. He just has a lovely spirit about him, which everyone comments on.

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Considering his sleep routine is all over the place due to Emma’s child care and play dates and swimming lessons, all of which clash with his morning sleep times, he is a pretty good sleeper. Given the chance to have a proper sleep in his cot, he’ll usually take it. And if I’m carting him around the rest of the day, he just deals. And while some nights he has me up every two hours just for funsies, he has already slept through the night a bunch of times. There’s no consistency yet, but I’m happy to just have a glimpse of the future. Emma showed no sign of sleeping through until she was eight months or so.

It’s so nice to look after a baby and not feel so overwhelmed about it all. I think with Emma it took me a good six months to feel like I had an even faint clue. With Finn, it was more a matter of getting to know him, rather than getting to know how to look after a baby. I had a few thoughts about what I wanted to focus on in terms of eating, sleeping and routines, and then it was just a matter of rolling with it. In fact I think it’s safe to say – assuming a “normal” healthy second baby – the hardest part of having a second baby isn’t the baby bit. It’s the having two bit. Which is a whole other story.

And of course – seeing my two babies together is a joy beyond any I could have imagined. They think the world of each other. I know that will change at some point in the future – hopefully not permanently – but for now I just revel in watching them. Finn thinks Emma is just the bee’s knees. Emma is so protective of Finn and she’s his greatest cheerleader as he learns new skills and hits the next milestone. It’s the best feeling to know they have each other no matter what, just like me and my sisters.

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So on weighing up the crappy pregnancy, the pushing a baby out, the no cheese or ice cream, nearly seven months and counting of thrice daily pelvic floor exercises, the juggling two children bit…Overall, I’d give second babies a ten out of ten. Eleven, if possible. Yes, definitely eleven.

 

 

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