(This column is the first of a two part series.  The second part will run next week.)


So, the thing is... there's a baby boom going on right now.   

At least six of my friends are either expecting their second children or planning their second pregnancies.  And for some reason, they all wrote to ask me questions recently.  I guess just having survived qualifies me to tell you everything I know about welcoming a second child into your family.  Okay, here it is.








Just kidding.  E-mail gives so few opportunities to do visual jokes, I couldn't resist.  Seriously, though, I am more than willing to share my scant knowledge but I would like to preface this whole column by saying that at some point, maybe four weeks into my journey as a mother of two, I called my friend Linda (mother of three) and I asked her "So, is the deal with parenting two kids that you just sort of DO it?"  And she said "Exactly."  On this ever ever-so-clear-and-helpful note, here's everything I can remember that's fit to print. 

The first thing my friends keep asking me is about spacing one's children.  Now, I will say that although I had given this some thought at some point and even gathered some data from my own friends, my children were more the product of a lot of red wine and inattention than they were of careful family planning.  (This approach seems to work as well as any, frankly.)  

Ana and Jane are two years and seven months apart.  I now think this is the worst possible spacing.  If I had it to do over again, I would have either waited until Ana was closer to four, or I would have had them even closer together.  See, if you wait a little longer, your oldest can conceptualize that a new sibling doesn't REALLY mean the ruination of her life and she might even be willing to help out by fetching a diaper every now and again.  At least she probably has some sort of life outside of you and the house and there is also the well-made point that you won’t have both of them in college together.  (Theoretically.)   

If you have them closer together, yes, you have two in diapers and it's a lot of sheer physical work but the oldest hasn't really realized what an enormous act of betrayal you are committing by bringing her a new sibling.  She can't think much beyond the current moment and she's not yet smart enough to think of devilish plots like, oh, standing at the top of the stairs blowing her harmonica when you have finally gotten the baby to sleep after three hours of walking her. 

The problem with two years and seven months is that it means your oldest is more than likely still in diapers.  So you have the sheer physical demand on you of two tiny imps who depend on you for everything from food to being carried around all day to potty training.  AND, the oldest is also in the most negative time of her whole Toddlerhood and as such, she can mercilessly play on your guilt for introducing this STRANGER into your lovely little life together.   

I don't know, maybe it's horrid for your firstborn no matter how old she is.  I can't remember who first said this but it's been quoted before: Imagine yourself sitting around the kitchen when your husband gets home and introduces you to HIS NEW WIFE.  He carefully explains that this new wife is there for BOTH of you to love and nurture and the addition of her to your family will not mean one iota less love for YOU.  You will, however, have to share your toys --and look, isn't she the cutest thing?? 

I can only imagine my reaction, and let's just say it has “Jail Time” written all over it. 

So anyway, I have no real advice on the spacing of the kids.  Whatever you do, it'll end up being the best thing for your family.  Of course, it might take about thirty years for you to appreciate that fact but there ya go. 

I CAN tell you that everything you remember about your first pregnancy --and that won’t be much-- will be completely different this time around.  For one thing, no one cuts you any slack.  In fact, when you go to the grocery store, the clerks just assume from the way you are slinging your toddler about that you don't need any help carrying your groceries to the car.  Your husband is less likely to treat you like a precious vessel --in fact, he might just be a bit bored by the whole thing.  He's not spending the evenings talking to the baby through your stomach or reading up on the latest how-to-be-a-father techniques.  He's upping his life insurance and trying to figure out how he can manage to transport his family around safely without actually having to be seen in a mini van. 

You yourself, although you look pregnant about six minutes after the test comes back positive, have absolutely no time to contemplate the emergence of your belly button as an "outie" because you are directing your every non-nauseous moment to preparing your firstborn for her new sibling.  And your hormones cut you no break the second time around either, so you alternate between losing your patience with her and spoiling her rotten to make up for it. In the end, there's one totally confused little kid who greets every visitor with the question "Did you bring me a Big Sister present?" 

So, you're pregnant and suddenly you simply can't believe that you are willingly doing this to your oldest child.  You start to read everything you can get your hands on about going from a family of three to a family of four.  These books are very helpful but since you have pregnancy brain, you forget everything they say immediately and resolve to read them again before you give birth.  HAH!   Because you have just entered into the Sibling Preparation Zone and you spend the last six months of your pregnancy reading “Zaza's Baby Brother” by Lucy Cousins to your toddler six thousand times.  Seriously, to prepare your child, you buy every single children's book out there about becoming a big brother or sister.  I can still recite them all. 

Next week, we'll bring the second baby home from the hospital.  And then the fun of the baby boom REALLY begins. 

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(c) Barbara Cooper 2001 

Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (3) and Jane (eight months).  She lives in Austin, Texas and is grateful in a daily basis that she never had twins.