The way you feel about your first child will be unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. As child psychologist Ruth Coppard explains, “For many women, it’s the ‘real deal’ – they just never imagined they could feel a depth and breadth of unconditional love like this.”
So, even though you’ll no doubt be over the moon if you discover that you’re expecting a second bundle of joy, there might be a little niggling worry at the back of your mind: ‘Will I ever love this one as much as my first?’
You won’t run out of love
Independent midwife Joy Horner (www.birthjoy.co.uk ) is, however, quick to reassure second time mums-to-be that love certainly isn’t a limited resource. “Just think about all the different relationships that you already have in your life, and all the love you feel for different people, from your partner and family, to your friends,” she explains. “And when new people come into our lives, we don’t turn them away just on the grounds that we haven’t got any more affection to spare, because love is limitless.”
What’s more, your new baby will have her own unique personality and special qualities, so you’ll love her in different ways – but it won’t be any less deeply than your first or previous children. “The second time round, you learn to realise that the kind of love you felt for your first baby doesn’t divide – it simply multiples,” says Joy. “You don’t even have to work at it. Like breathing, it just happens naturally. Talk to other mums who’ve had more children and they’ll be able to put your mind at rest.”
The bump bond
How you feel about your pregnancy and birth is likely to be different though – and that’s not a bad thing. You probably focused a great deal of mental energy on your first pregnancy, but don’t be worried if you feel more ‘detached’ from this one. It’s perfectly natural: you’ve got another child to take care of, and you’ve also done it all before and so know what to expect.
Sharon Charlton-Thomson from The Parenting Coaching Company (www.parentcoaching.co.uk ) suggests a number of ways you can make a second pregnancy just as special as your first, such as setting aside some time each day for bonding with your bump.
“Massaging your tummy with some body lotion is a great way of getting to know your new baby,” she says. “The importance of touch cannot be underestimated. Treat your bump just as you would treat your baby, with lots of care and gentleness.”
She also suggests buying a special gift for your new baby to welcome him, and involving his sibling in your pregnancy by letting her stroke your bump and talking to her about the new baby.
Time for you
Having been through pregnancy once doesn’t mean you should neglect yourself, either. Make sure you’re still eating well and taking regular gentle exercise (unless your healthcare team advises against it), and get enough rest – leave all non-urgent household jobs and put your feet up instead.
It’s probably also a good idea to prepare for the birth by going to refresher antenatal classes – after all, no two birth experiences will be the same and you won’t know everything. Refresher classes can give you a chance to spend time with your partner and focus on the pregnancy together too.
Swotting up for labour
If your previous birth didn’t go as you’d planned, Joy says it’s worth chatting to other mums who’ve been in the same boat, but have had a more positive experience for subsequent births. (Online communities can be a great way of getting support so check out our forum pages). She also recommends getting hold of your previous medical notes and discussing with your midwife what happened last time, to see if things can be handled differently for a more positive experience.
Easing the way
Bear in mind, too, that you’re more likely to have a straightforward delivery. With first-time births, babies are often born in the back-to-back position, which can make things painful, but subsequent babies are more likely to turn themselves around. Even if they don’t, the pelvis is now more accommodating, so hopefully the birth will run more smoothly.
Second labours are usually less painful too: your muscles are now more pliable and, because you’ve been through it all before and know what to expect, you feel less tense (you’re also less likely to tear due to this). And if you had to have an emergency caesarean first time round and are now having a planned caesarean, you may recover more quickly both physically and mentally as you haven’t had the stress beforehand.
Second time lucky
If you had a positive experience of pregnancy and parenting with your first baby, then there’s every chance you’ll find it even better this time. And Joy urges mums-to-be who have had less positive times to try not to worry. “Every pregnancy and every child is different,” she stresses. “Complications that might have arisen during your first or previous pregnancy might not occur this time, and if they do, you and your healthcare team will be better equipped to deal with them.”
You’ll probably find parenthood less daunting, too – after all, you’ve already got some well-honed parenting skills firmly tucked under your belt! You’ve also had time to develop your own unique parenting style, so you’re likely to feel more confident about what works and what doesn’t. “Best of all, your first baby will be thrilled with her new brother or sister,” says Ruth. “Hopefully, you’ve brought two people together who will always watch out for each other and become friends for life.”
Sophie Matthews, 37, is mum to Isabel, 3 and Annabel, 18 months.
“My first pregnancy was straightforward, but when it came to the birth I went 18 days overdue. I was induced twice, but nothing happened, so I had to have a caesarean. I was slightly disappointed, but I instantly fell in love with Isabel and it was all worthwhile.
“My second pregnancy was good too, and although I needed another caesarean, this time was a much more positive experience. My biggest worry, though, was being ‘unfaithful’ to Isabel. I wondered if I’d have to divide the love I felt for her between two children. But the love is actually doubled, and just seeing how much happiness Annabel has brought her sister has made my love for her really special.”