Ask Anna: Was It Harder Transitioning To Baby #1 Or Baby #2?

I’m excited to share an Ask Anna post (it’s been a while!), and this felt like the right one since it’s a question I’ve gotten a good bit lately and, of course, it’s incredibly top of mind for me these days! I’d been meaning to write about my postpartum experience/Vance’s newborn weeks here, so this is good timing. Let’s dig in, shall we?

I’ve heard other second-time moms talk about how the transition to baby #2 was far easier than baby #1 because that new-parent anxiety was gone and the lifestyle/routine with kids was already in place. While I definitely understand and can appreciate that perspective, for me there’s no question that the transition to baby #2 has been FAR more challenging than the transition to baby #1.

When I look back on Maggie’s newborn weeks, the word that comes to mind is “bliss.” I know it can be easy for things to seem rosy in retrospect, but in this case I know I’m remembering it accurately. Maggie was SUCH an easy baby. She slept through the night starting at four weeks, she never cried unless she needed something (and she stopped crying once she got it), she was content to be put down in her lounger, crib, car seat, etc., she didn’t have any digestive issues/never spit up — you get the idea. She was smiley and seemed to feel good almost all the time, which made caring for her a delight. (The fact that we were sleeping great just a few weeks in helped a ton as well!)

From a postpartum standpoint with her, I’ve honestly never felt better in my life. (I know — that’s the craziest thing to say about postpartum. But for me it was true, and I dug into it a bit in this post.) I had heaps of energy, I was so happy all the time, my body went back to the way it had been pre-baby just a couple weeks after I gave birth — it was all pretty remarkable (and not at all what I’d expected, in all the best ways).

I was working a traditional office job, and so I had a 10-week maternity leave. Although I was getting my Beautycounter business started during my maternity leave, in large part my work responsibilities were totally absent for 2.5 months. That left me with lots of time to just be with Maggie, and to bond with her and transition into this new lifestyle of being a parent. The connection with her came quickly and easily, in large part because she was so easy to be around and seemed to enjoy us as much as we enjoyed her.

Fast forward four years, and we have a new baby and I’m navigating a second postpartum period. This time around, things are different.

“Bliss” is the word I’d use to describe Maggie’s newborn weeks, but for Vance the word that comes to mind is “slow.”

He’s been a much more challenging baby than Maggie was, often crying for seemingly no reason and being hard to calm down. Though he’s (finally!) getting more consistently smiley, he frequently has bouts of discontentment. He hates to be put down, which is really hard (especially with another child to manage this time, too). Connection with him has been slow, as a result. I feel like every day we make a bit more progress when it comes to that connection, which I’m so grateful for, and we have a few routines in place (like our daily walk with him in the baby carrier, which he always loves) that help move that connection needle forward. But still — it’s been slow going, for sure.

From a postpartum standpoint, things have been slower as well. I definitely don’t have the boundless energy I experienced last time, and we aren’t getting great sleep yet, either. I haven’t experienced the strong assurance I had parenting Maggie in those early weeks (funny, given she was our first child), and I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve felt incredibly overwhelmed and ill suited for this whole gig. While I can’t complain about my postpartum body (I’m back in my pre-pregnancy clothes and feel really good and strong physically), this time around there’s some lingering weight around my midsection that I didn’t experience last time, so it’s taking me longer to feel like myself in that way. (I’m not complaining. It’s just different. It’s slower.)

We have another child this time — one who is a delight, and who we’ve had four years to get to know — and I think that’s slowed things down when it comes to Vance feeling fully integrated into our family, too. We have our routines and interactions set with Maggie, and none of that is in place yet with Vance. The fact that things are so comfortable with her almost seems to emphasize the fact that we have so far to go with him. And though SO many moments between Maggie and Vance are sweet, there are also times when I’m trying to give her the attention she deserves, but he distracts from it by crying continually.

I’m self employed now, so I don’t have a maternity leave. While there’s a lot that’s good about this (for one: I’m so grateful to be able to turn to work when I want to feel competent and energized, especially when I’m feeling like I’m dropping the ball when it comes to parenting, and I’m also grateful for the flexibility of my work and the fact that it will remain very flexible as Vance grows), it also brings its own set of challenges. Often, my days are bookended by work — trying to squeeze in some freelance writing before everyone gets up, and working to get things checked off my list after Maggie goes to bed — which leaves me feeling depleted. It’s made more complicated by the fact that Vance has yet to have a real routine, making finding a rhythm with the work piece slower going.

So yeah, for me this transition to baby #2 has been infinitely more challenging than the transition to baby #1.

And yet…

I’m so, so thankful for the gift of perspective.

It’s only been eight short weeks. In the scheme of things that’s nothing, even though while we’re in the middle of these challenges it feels all consuming. (The other day, Kevin commented, “This has been such a long three months,” and I had to remind him it had only been two.) It makes sense that we aren’t in a solid rhythm with Vance yet. It makes sense that my body is still dealing with plenty of physical and emotional elements in this very newly postpartum stage. It makes sense that I haven’t caught my stride with this whole “working mom of two” thing. Note to self: Deep breaths, Anna. You’re just two months in.

I also know firsthand just how quickly children move through stages, and although while you’re in a stage it can feel endless and completely overwhelming, it really does end relatively quickly. Vance is getting more and more sweet and interactive with us, and I can sense there’s this happier baby juuuust around the corner. (Poor guy — I can tell he doesn’t feel good some of the time, particularly after eating, which I know makes things hard for him, too!) Before we know it, my guess is he’ll really start to move into a new phase — one where he’s happier and just generally more content. In the meantime, I love those little moments of joy I get to share with him. They are helping me get through the more challenging times for sure!

I’m also trying to hold onto the sweetness of this phase — and there’s plenty of that. After all, Vance will be our last kiddo, and I want to be as present as possible. (I also think my ability to be more fully present will improve a whole lot once I’m well rested!)

Things are slow this time, which is okay. But it’s also hard. And there’s guilt. And there’s joy in starting to discover this new little person I get the privilege of loving. And I’m so, so tired. And I’m grateful. And it’s new and different compared to my last experience. There are so many feelings. (Of course there are.)

Plus, Vance is his own person — and he’s letting us know that right from the start! And by the way…I sure do love this little guy, challenges and all, and I feel like because our connection has taken more work to develop, it will be pretty darn special as a result. I can’t wait to see what it turns into in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

P.S. If you have a topic you’d like me to address here on my blog, I’d love to hear about it! (It can be about anything — really!) Just shoot a message my way using this form, and you just might see it answered in an Ask Anna post…

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