Alyssa Butler is the mom to a four year old and almost two year old, and she’s been one of my best friends since high school (15+ years). She is a Special Education teacher in Philadelphia, and hands down is one of the kindest, most generous people I know. She was 5 months pregnant with her second baby when she left her own two year old and husband for a week to fly to Ohio and stay with my two year old when I went to the hospital to deliver my twins. Alyssa then came back a few months later to visit with the twins and help out again! This lady is amaze-balls. She made welcoming my twins the most stress-free and wonderful experience because we knew Esther was with her at home. She also took my most favorite video of all time!
I asked Alyssa to share her thoughts on expecting Baby #2 because I cannot speak to what it’s like to have 2 kids. My experience is limited to a total of 6 minutes before baby #3 arrived (tushie first – she was breech).
Here is what Alyssa had to say about expecting Baby #2.
When you found out you were expecting your Baby #2, what were the first thoughts to pop into your head?
I was super excited at first, then around midway through the pregnancy I started experiencing the “What if” questions. What if this baby isn’t as easy as my first? How are we going to juggle two babies? Will there be enough time and love for everyone? Lots of conversations with my mom friends as well as my own mom eased my fears. It helped me to remember, I’m not the first person to have two children and I’m certainly not the last.
How was pregnancy with Baby #2 different from your pregnancy with Baby #1?
This pregnancy was extremely different! When I was tired or run down with #1, I would nap! I would get dinner in bed (courtesy of my amazing husband), get a foot massage, and call it a night! With #2, life was a lot busier. Daycare pick-ups and drop offs, dinner, bath, fun activities on the weekend really impeded upon my nap time!
As far as physically feeling, I felt a lot bigger on the inside but didn’t look as huge on the outside. I experienced a lot more nausea and vomiting with Baby #2, and was definitely more exhausted but that was due to keeping up with my two year old!
What were your concerns about introducing a Baby #2 to your family of three?
I was very anxious about nursing around the clock with a two year old. I was nervous about my son being bored while I was nursing because he was a marathon nurser. He enjoyed 30-45 minute sessions, only to be followed by a quick sleep and then ready to do it all over again. I felt like we were nursing constantly!
Baby #2 was much more efficient, so there were shorter sessions. Perhaps this was because I was an experienced nurser, but I was better about finding positions to nurse in and still have at least one hand free to entertain my two year old.
I was also very nervous about the lack of sleep. With Baby #2, you can’t “sleep when baby sleeps” because it is not always at the same time my older child is sleeping.
How did you prepare your young child to welcome a sibling?
We read a TON of books and looked for books specific for nursing. “The New Baby” by Mercer Mayer, “My New Baby” by Rachel Fuller and “What’s Inside your Tummy, Mommy” by Abby Cocovini are great.
The Birthing Center I delivered at was very family centered and encouraged siblings to come for prenatal visits. My two year old was a pro at helping take my blood pressure, holding the Doppler, and helping with measurements. There was also a Siblings Preparation class offered at The Birth Center but we were unable to attend.
I’m happy we were able to have many discussions with my two year old. He was the perfect age to discuss what would happen when Mommy and Daddy left for the birth center, who would be with him, and what the baby would do when it came home (cry, sleep, nurse, poop).
How did you prepare yourself for Baby #2?
I used Michelle’s wise words of lowering my expectations. I did the typical nesting knowing that it would be awhile before some of these tasks were done. I also splurged and hired someone to clean my house once a month. It was difficult to admit I needed help and to spend the money each month, but it was well worth it! The time I was using to clean can be used to bond with my children, husband or catch up on sleep!
I was also anxious about transitioning from one child to two, so I met with my therapist and made a game plan to help with my mental health. I remembered all of the negative parts of post-partum (anxiety, feeling overwhelmed with visitors, not trusting my mom gut, feeling overwhelmed with the lack of sleep) with my first baby. I wanted to be proactive and reached out to my therapist before Baby #2 was born. I made a plan to deal with post baby visitors, family dynamics and my own personal goals. It was a great way to prepare myself for a great but crazy time in my life before the post baby hormones kicked in!
What did you do differently with Baby #2 compared to your first? What were your lessons learned with Baby #1 which you applied to your second pregnancy and new baby phase?
I stopped worrying so much! I had natural childbirths for both of my births, and when asked how they were different I always say “With #2 I didn’t waste as much energy on fear!”
I was terrified when I went into labor with my first, and for my second I knew what was coming, knew my body was able to deliver this baby, and knew it would be over eventually. I was more relaxed, focused on my breaths more and didn’t spend so much time being terrified.
I also stopped doubting myself with nursing. I was always worried if my first baby was getting enough, if I was able to produce enough and pump enough, it was exhausting. I had so many resources (in person support groups, online support groups, a lactation consultant at the birth center) that eventually I realized I can overcome any nursing hurdle with my village of nursing resources supporting me.
With my second, I was much more relaxed. I pumped when I needed; I nursed on demand, and had so much more confidence and less worry. I was also extremely sleep deprived with my first baby, and was so worried about the sleep deprivation with Baby #2. How could I keep up with a two year old with no sleep? I ended up co-sleeping with my second baby which helped me get MORE sleep than the first baby. I researched a lot about safe co-sleeping (James McKenna is an excellent resource) and decided bed sharing and room sharing worked best for us. We used an Arm’s Reach Co Sleeper in our room. I slept more soundly knowing when my baby woke up I would just have to turn over, nurse her, and go back to bed. No more long walks down the hallway to get the baby, jumping around from rocker to guest room to our room. Co Sleeping safely worked for our family and allowed me to get the most sleep possible.
What did you find to be the most challenging part of having Baby #2 with a toddler at home?
Honestly, the first 9 months were so smooth! Baby Wearing (I’m a fan of Ergo and Tula) were a life saver. I was able to be mobile and hands free. My first born was at a sweet age of listening in public, so I was never fearful of handling both children solo. He was patient and understood baby had to nurse frequently. Baby #2 was a much more efficient nurser too, so our sessions were shorter than my marathon nursing sessions with my first baby. It was easy when the baby had the same routine of sleep, change, eat, sleep, change, eat, repeat.
Things started to get a little bit more complicated around 9 months. We were on a more solid routine with specific nap times. Little cat naps in the Ergo or car weren’t an option, she needed a legit nap in the crib. So our days got a little bit more complicated trying to juggle naps, quiet time for the 3.5 year old and also a mobile baby! As exciting as the milestone of crawling is, it makes things a lot more complicated!
Now I have two mobile tiny humans to entertain and supervise! Trips out to museums and kid related activities were busy now that I had a crawler and ‘cruiser’ as well as a walker. Each started to develop their own interests, and it became difficult to find activities that could entertain them both. It is difficult finding activities safe for my crawling baby and equally engaging for my older child. Originally I could go anywhere with my baby in the Ergo, and now I am strategically choosing our outings.
What were some unexpected surprises?
The love between my kids is amazing, genuine and unexpected! I don’t remember a situation where my older child was rough, unkind or obviously jealous of the baby. My pediatrician kept telling me “Prepare yourself for the worst and be pleasantly surprised when everything goes well!” My baby (who is now speaking!) screams her big brother’s name in delight at first sight, and he is usually the first person she asks for in the morning.
Knowing what you know now, if you could go back in time, what do you wish you could tell yourself?
Relax! Chill! Prioritize! You are going to have ups and downs in the adventures, but you are resourceful, have an amazing community of fellow moms to guide and help you. Use your mama gut and your research to guide you in making tough decisions!