A good friend of mine recently became pregnant with a surprise second child. Before this, she was decidedly on the one-and-done-side of parenthood, but in talking to her, I realized that while she is certainly in for a real surprise, there are several other surprises about having a child that makes it all miraculous and beautiful in a different way.
Are you thinking about having a second child? Are you currently pregnant with your second baby and feeling the overwhelm of “what’s it going to be like” when baby #2 is born?
Here is what to expect if you are expecting your second child.
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How Will I Be Able to Love Two Of Them?
Maybe it was the hormones.
Maybe it was the fact that I was expecting my second child with a toddler (they’re 21 months apart), but this was a burning question for me.
Up until then, I’d only known the experience of having my heart outside my body once when my first was born.
And every day that neared closer to my second’s due date this question seemed louder.
I’d heard the moms of multiples say things like “your heart just splits in two/three,” and I was like “well what the fuck does that even mean!”
The truth is that’s the best way to describe it.
As my second baby was born, it felt as if my heart split in two. Two equal parts of my body, living outside of my body that I couldn’t imagine loving more or not having in my life.
There was also this sense that my second baby had always been here even though I just met him.
As if it was pre-destined in some way.
You Will Be More Tired Having a Second Baby
Whenever my husband and I would discuss, “should we have a second baby” this would be the first thing that could come up.
Everyone will tell you that you’re going to be tired because it’s the most obvious statement of the century but no seriously.
You will be so dang tired.
I’m sorry I can’t fake this or make you feel like you can handle it, but you will handle it because you are a badass, momma. But know. It’s gonna suck.
I look at pictures of me when I only had one child, vs. pictures of me a year into two and I look as if I’ve aged ten years, in one year.
Much of this is because of the close-together-in-age thing so neither of my babies were sleeping super well, and the oldest was potty training so the stress of navigating that bested me in my best nights.
Oh, and they loved to play a game I like to call “Mommy Doesn’t Get to Sleep” by tag teaming me to be awake when I least expect it.
If you have kids who are close in age like mine, the odds are good you’re going to be blessed with the two of them trading off as to which one will sleep in, and which one will be up off and on all night every few hours.
If by some force of sheer will and luck, they end up sleeping through an entire night, never speak of it to anyone.
I’ve learned the fastest way to ruin a good thing with your sleep, and your children’s sleep is to start talking about how good it is.
As if the sleep gods won’t allow a good word.
Even if you wait to have a second baby several years later, you will still suffer the consequences of being so dang tired.
First, because you’ve been pregnant for nine months.
And secondly, perhaps you got used to sleeping through the night, and the adjustment to the every 2 - 4-hour wake ups for feedings and diaper changes is a hard one that takes a getting used to. Like a callous.
Thankfully, I hadn’t been far from it, so I was just tired all the fucking time.
Your Babies Will Surprise You With Their Love For Each Other
The bond that my boys share is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before.
They are completely and totally annoyed with one another and are also so obsessed and in love with each other and both feelings exist in the same space at the exact same time.
I relate to that feeling of being obsessed with my baby brother and wanting him to play with me all the time and also leave me the fuck alone you are so fucking annoying.
The Mom Guilt And Anxiety You Feel Will Get Worse, And Then Better
If you are a working parent or if you’re navigating the stress of running a home there is inevitably a growing to-do list of shit you need to handle which may make you feel so incredibly overwhelmed and exhausted on a mental and emotional level.
And that guilt of wondering if you’re good enough will creep in.
You are a good mom.
You are doing your best.
Give yourself space and be gentle with yourself.
I think a good rule of thumb is to talk to yourself as if you would a trusted good friend. You might never say half the negative things you’re saying to yourself to someone you love.
Then there’s also this weird balancing act of trying to allow for the same circumstances that your first baby had:
It’s impossibly hard not to compare the two of them, even harder not to feel guilty about these comparisons.
My second eats far more sugary sweets than my oldest ever did at his age.
He also watches far more TV than his big brother ever did at this age.
On the flip side (and bonus side) my younger baby is far more advanced in his language development, and he’s not even three yet.
In fact when he was two he was already saying 5-6 word sentences riding scooters and school tricycles, and also could throw a ball with a semi-perfect aim. His best buddy in school is a second child and his teachers tell me they have advanced in similar ways with potty training, language development, and motor skills.
We believe that having the example of an older brother pushes him to experience more than his peers.
Time Will Speed Up So Much Faster
Suddenly baby #2 will lift her head and roll over, and you won’t even know she was trying to do it because you were too busy with everything else.
Gone are the days of staring at your new baby studying every single curve and inch of skin and all the sweet movements and sounds they make.
You will do this. But it will not be as leisurely (or dare I say it, enjoyable) because you’ll have a giant to-do list.
The exception to this is if your kids are spaced out in such a way where one is in school for a big chunk of the day, so you have hours to bond with baby #2 without the distraction of someone needing a snack, or having to thoroughly entertain another kid.
I was lucky that my baby’s teachers and caretakers never told me if he did something “for the first time” in daycare (I think they’re trained to do this).
I wanted to live in the suspended reality that I never missed any of his firsts (and I’m grateful that when I did get to witness something for the “first” time, like when he pulled himself up to stand, they never corrected me or gave any hints that he’d done it before.
I’m pretty sure he may have, but I loved believing he saved it for his family.
You Will Be Much More DGAF About Everything With Your Second Child
Baby hasn’t bathed in a week? I DGAF.
Did you leave the house without three changes of clothing and an extra burp cloth? No biggie, you can improvise.
This has a weird downside because all the milestones will come and go so quickly and what used to be documented in effigy all over social media may come and go, and you’ll be lucky if you post a “baby is seven months old” picture on time.
You Will Throw What’s Left of Your Modesty Out the Window
Because you’ve been at this rodeo before you know that all the nurses and doctors are going to be so far up in your vagina and your body that it’s almost expected.
Remember peeing for the first time in front of a nurse?
Remember having to report back about your first poop after baby?
Round two will come with a renewed confidence and a legit feeling of not giving any fucks at who sees what.
This is the true gift of motherhood.
The gift of less fucks.
Your First Born Will Become Quite Jealous
I like to warn parents who are expecting a second child that the first two weeks with a new baby are like a honeymoon phase for baby #1.
And then it sets in that this is real life and this baby isn’t going back in Mommy’s belly, and the acting out begins.
Whatever age your oldest child is, expect some major resistance to set in when your second baby is about two weeks to a month old.
If they’re potty trained, that means accidents.
If they’re sleeping through the night, sorry. More wake-ups for the whole family.
If they’re relatively mild-mannered and follow directions, you may get some notes from the teachers that they’re acting out in behavior ways at school.
They will be more clingy. They will be more emotional.
Their entire world view of their parents is shifting. They don’t get all of you all of the time and never will ever again.
That’s a huge transition for them, and it’s worth being gentle with them about it.
This is all supernormal (and super expected).
The trick is to lean into it and offer as many hugs, and as much attention as your exhausted body can muster (but not too much as to create a new expectation).
My hubby and I used to call it the “jealousy juggle” where my oldest would suddenly desperately need me, and so I’d pass off his baby brother to my husband (and then the opposite would happen, and we’d pass them back again).
Because I formula fed both my babies this was much easier.
If you’ve got a little one attached at the boob it’s going to be harder to give them your undivided attention while you’re nursing.
I’ve heard from some moms that setting up a “big sister/big brother” game or toy that’s specific to when you’re nursing could have some benefits/potential to distract them from their overwhelming feelings.
Say Goodbye to the Expensive Mommy and Me Classes, and Hello to The More Expensive Reality of Two Kids Doing Anything Together.
I did enroll Sam in a mommy and me class (just as I had for Jack), but he was done with it after about six weeks because I was heading back to work and didn’t have the luxury of time like I once had.
Where shit gets real is when both kids want to do an activity like soccer.
Or both kids want to sign up for the new art class or dance class or sports class or gardening class or whatever-fucking-money-making-scheme the daycare has conjured up to get more money from me.
(And honestly, I’ll take it I kind of have a love-hate with these enrichment courses.)
It’s only going to get worse too, I imagine, as my kids continue to get older.
Last night my baby boy told me he wants to ride a horse, so there’s a real potential that if we can swing it, horseback riding lessons may be in his future.
The Curse of Birth Order Doesn’t Spare Anyone
Some things are just inevitable when it comes to having a second baby.
According to this article in Psychology Today, the order in which children are born is (not surprisingly) directly related to emotional, physical, and mental developments that are long-lasting.
To help your second child adjust to being number two they recommend,
“Explain to your secondborn that he cannot do the same things as his older sibling because he is younger. His sister could not ride a two-wheeler when she was his age. Over time his legs will get longer, and he will be able to ride a two-wheeler, too.
Praise his abilities and celebrate his successes, even when he wins a soccer trophy and it is the second time around for the family.”
“Help your younger child to assert himself with his older sibling and monitor their relationship. Make sure that the older child does not dominate him and that the younger one gets an equal chance to choose the game they will play and be first.”
When it comes to your first child adjusting to not being the only one receiving all of mom and dad’s attention:
“Avoid pressuring your firstborn to be perfect and show her unconditional love. (98% is really good enough.)
Reassure her that you have enough love for her and your new baby.
Show her pictures and videos of all the care you provided for her just as you do for the new baby.
Help her to obtain privacy when she needs to play with a friend, by arranging a play date or a special activity for the younger child.
Encourage your oldest to speak about any anger or jealousy she has about her younger sibling(s). These are normal emotions and it is better for her not to keep them inside.”
Your Babies Are, and Will Always Be Entertainment For Each Other (and it will be Awesome)
When Sam was about 20 months old Chris, and I looked up at each other and realized we’d been eating dinner together for a solid 15 minutes, while the boys had quietly been playing together.
“We’re on a date!” I exclaimed!
The truth is this continues in a monumental way and being able to do all my chores while my babies entertain each other is incredible.
I even wrote part of this blog post while they covered my floor with all of the sea life pieces from a 75 piece bucket, effectively turning my office/living room into an underwater oasis.
There will also be lots of fights, but there’s something about the built-in ability to learn how to deal with conflict at this age that only having a sibling can provide.
I believe my role is more of a mediator than a referee (although I do need to do both from time to time).
I encourage them to work out their disagreements with each other first. If they can’t, then I can help mediate.
But if they come to me first without talking to their brother about what’s upsetting, then I suggest they start there.
You Will Become an Expert Multitasker and Delegator
Odds are good if you’re a mom already, you’ve got systems and plans in place to handle your mom life duties like a boss.
Expect to double everything you do.
I like to believe that my years of working in production in TV prepared me for this monumental feat: Managing two children under two by myself.
Or two children at all, by myself.
When you have one, you can be fully present and attentive to every waking (and sleeping) need of your baby.
When you have two, you have to figure out who gets you first.
The first time both babies were crying hysterically was my THIS IS HAPPENING moment - the baby was only a few days old and needed both a diaper change and a feeding.
Big brother was having a meltdown about SOMETHING that toddlers meltdown about (I honestly can’t remember now).
When this happens, you will inevitably work with speedy precision and execution.
For me, I ended up talking to my toddler while changing the baby and prepping his bottle lightning fast.
Once I got baby set up with the bottle, I went and gave my half attention (because I was holding the baby) to my oldest.
This is how it is currently too. When they bonk heads accidentally, and both want mommy to hold them while they cry.
They both desperately need something at the same time - and I have to navigate who gets what when.
Surprisingly this has made me a stronger worker too.
I can see small problems before they turn into big ones.
I can anticipate things like a sick kiddo impeding my productivity. I’m on my toes in a very particular way, and it’s equal parts badass and exhausting.
You Will Be Shocked at How Much You’ve Forgotten
If you’re wondering, “should I have a second baby?” because you’re littlest is super young and you can access everything you know about having a newborn and a teething baby…guess again.
Even though my babies were only 21 months apart, I was shocked at how much I had forgotten from simple things like how much does a 2-month-old eat (and how often) to when they should be rolling over and doing developmental milestones.
The one thing you will never forget is when they start to sleep through the night.
Or in the case of the dreaded four months sleep regression, when they stop. (And also hey, there’s an eight month, and a 12-month sleep regression so don’t get too comfy momma!)
I am legit writing this piece about three years after my second was born, and I’ve forgotten what I’ve forgotten.
It’s a weird time/space/continuum feedback loop I’m in, but I remember that I forgot everything and then had to relearn it again and felt strangely silly that I couldn’t remember.
Maybe that’s what mom brain is?
So that you forget everything and then have another because you’re so blissfully unaware of how stressful and overwhelming it can be at times, enjoy it while it’s all hazy momma.
You May Attain Baby Wearing Goddess Level from All That Baby Wearing
You will need two hands and the only way to get two hands with a baby and a toddler, or slightly older child is to wear baby #2 like a champ.
And honestly if wearing your baby isn’t a thing for you, it may become a thing. It’s hella convenient, and there are as many types of babywearing contraptions as there are strollers and other baby gear. You can find something that is so easy to throw on, is supportive of your back, and also totally gorgeous.
Leaving the House Becomes a Win
You need two of everything when you leave the house with a baby and a toddler.
If you have a young one not potty trained yet then you’re gonna wanna get a bigger diaper bag.
Wipes, diapers, formula and bottles (if you formula feed) and water, changes of clothes for everyone who could shit themselves or spit up all over themselves.
Extra bibs and burp cloths. Is there a chill in the air? Extra sweaters for both just in case. And so on.
The stroller, the baby wearing carrier, hats? Sunscreen.
If you’re a working mom with kids in daycare, pile onto that everything they need for daycare (bottles, wipes, diapers), as well as your own work bag/laptop, etc.
It can be overwhelming and make you feel like you never want to leave the house ever again. And honestly, I wouldn’t blame you.
But you will become a master of this.
They say that necessity is the master of invention and you will become a master inventor of how to get everyone and everything the fuck out of your house.
Your multitasking mastery plus your invention of systems to get going will be on another level, and they will stay that way until your kids can get themselves dressed, put on their own shoes, and wipe their own buts.
And then you’ll be leveling up on other things like homework assignments and notes for your teachers.
So in other words, it’s gonna be a minute before you can have a lovely leisurely morning before getting ready for work or going out for the day.
At the same time…
You Will Become a Minimalist Mom
Because you’re packing for two now, being selective about what you bring on that 20-minute walk around the block (only what is absolutely needed) becomes a thing.
Same thing for going to the store.
Or making a quick run to pick up big brother at school.
Your Maternity Leave Won’t Be The Same
I was lucky to be able to keep my oldest in daycare for the three months I had before returning to work.
I was incredibly grateful for it because for several hours every day it was just me and my newborn and once he started smiling and engaging back, I was able to enjoy our time together.
Not all moms get this luxury, so I recognize that maternity leave will probably be a hot hot mess of sorts (in a beautiful way).
There will be far less “sleep when the baby sleep” type naps because you’ll have an older child who has been patiently waiting for your attention.
Gone are the days of long leisurely walks whenever you want to with your baby because you’re juggling two different nap schedules (if they’re young) or an older toddler who may refuse to be in a stroller.
While it’s undoubtedly a fantastic time for your newly expanded family to connect and get to know each other, it will be a far cry from your first time at home with your baby (and in some ways, it will be so much more lovely. Just slightly more tiring).
The Sheer Amount of Laundry Your Two Tiny Humans Create Will Astound You
I did laundry and dishes nearly every single day for all three months of my maternity leave.
Have you ever had co-workers ask you about your “time off” with a new baby?
If you feel like sharing that sentence about the laundry and the dishes with your childless co-workers before you take off to have baby #2, I think it will go a long way toward them changing their tune about how “maternity leave must be so nice! Like a vacation!”
You May Also Like: Life Changing Laundry Hacks to Handle Your Laundry Mountain for Good
Things That are Easier the Second Time Around
You will be a more confident mother when it comes to taking care of a newborn.
You also know precisely what baby gear you need and what baby gear isn’t necessary and luckily you have most of it already.
You’re more attuned to your mommy gut feelings about sickness, developmental issues, and any of those nagging worries that keep you wondering if the baby is “okay.”
You’ll also be keen to know exactly what baby needs whether it be to eat, to be burped, to sleep, or just to be held.
Your mommy instincts have matured, and your first baby gave you the great gift of teaching you everything you need to know to be able to do this all over again.
Extra bonus? Your partner will likely also be a pro at this point and can take over in most any facet: changing the diaper, making a bottle (if you bottle feed or formula feed), rocking to sleep, whatever.
And even better? You’ll be less likely to question their every move or even need to give them too many instructions because they’ve been there done that at this point.
If you have a toddler or a younger older child (weird sentence construction, Beth), they will revel in being your helper.
My toddler used to spend 30 minutes sorting and organizing all the bottles, lids, nipples, and caps that came out of the dishwasher for his baby brother and we did this daily for weeks (to his absolute sheer delight).
For many of the baby clothes, pajamas, etc. you can re-use them!
If you have two of the same gender, then you’re set for a while on clothes (especially if you haven’t donated or given most of them away yet!)
Feeding Your Baby Will Still Be Hard (In a Different Way)
I had significant trouble breastfeeding my first born and even though I didn’t think it was possible every Lactation Lucy on the block told me that it would be easier the second time and the famous catchphrase of “every baby is different.”
This second part is very true, but when it came to feeding my baby breastmilk, I had the same issues with a different baby.
For the breastfeeding goddesses out there, I’ve heard stories of everything from baby #2 being a champion breastfeeder when their older siblings weren’t, to baby #2 having horrible acid reflux and being allergic to everything under the sun.
I’m a big believer in the phrase “happy mom, happy family,” and if mom is struggling emotionally or physically and breastfeeding is a big part of that, then please consider the wonderful alternatives of combo feeding, pumping, and straight up formula feeding.
I loved loved loved that my oldest could feed his brother (and he loved it too) and it became a huge bonding experience for the entire family to be able to contribute to this.
You May Also Like: How to Know When Breastfeeding May Not Be Best For You
How do you feel about your second baby? Shoot me an email or subscribe to my mailing list. I’ve got more for you about this new chapter in your motherhood journey you’re gonna want to know.
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