Baby on Board

“I can’t believe how many of my friends keep having babies—and then act like it’s a good thing!” One of my Facebook friends had posted a lengthy rant that enumerated the many reasons people should stop having kids: war, famine, explosive population growth, guaranteed heartbreak, and so on. “Uh oh,” I thought.

I’d been feeling kind of weird—a little sick, a little tired. I’d chalked it up to everyday wear and tear. But suddenly, reading this anti-kid diatribe, I understood the real cause of my malaise.

A drugstore test confirmed my suspicions—I was pregnant again. “This is so soon!” I thought. “Lydia is still a baby! I’m going to have two babies at once! Babies are so much work…” I got a little panicky.

Pregnant, again

Of course I was getting ahead of myself. While a second child will certainly add a new layer of joyful complexity to my life, there was something else more immediate to address—the fact of another pregnancy, and all the challenges it can bring.

“A first pregnancy can be almost a little narcissistic,” said a friend of mine, a mother to two daughters. “There’s more time to focus on yourself. But with a second pregnancy, you realize that your needs almost never come first.”

She was referring, of course, to the needs of one’s existing child (or children). And it’s true—while I spent the initial trimester of my first pregnancy completing a Pilates teacher training program and generally marveling at my exceptional physical fitness, this pregnancy has been characterized by other milestones—for example, trying not gag as I prepare my daughter some mediocre excuse for a meal or sprawling on the floor, exhausted and ill, while she flings tea bags around the kitchen.

In other words, things change. And while in many ways this pregnancy has been more difficult than the first, I’m actually really grateful that I’ve already been through this before. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

It is better not to compare

During my first pregnancy I could eat anything and assumed that “pregnancy cravings” were just an excuse to eat a bunch of junk. This time I felt queasy day and night for weeks on end and only certain foods would suffice. “Why do I feel this way?” I wailed silently to myself as I rang up Pizza Lucé for the third time that week.

And you know what? There’s no good answer. The cliché is true—every pregnancy really is different. Accept what you have and try to focus on the good stuff.

You are not in control

Nothing drives this point home more than a pregnant woman’s changing body. Last time around I was super active during my pregnancy. This time, the constant nausea of the first trimester didn’t just turn me off food, but virtually all exercise as well. By the time the nausea passed, I’d developed excruciating lower back pain that was made worse by any sort of physical activity.

At first I ignored the pain and carried on as usual, and of course it got much worse. So I had to adjust my activity and slow down. It was a blow to my ego, but I felt better and finally wasn’t grimacing in agony all day long.

But you are in control of some things

Should you close on a house in the hospital the day after you give birth and then move two weeks later? No, you shouldn’t. Plan ahead and do what you can to minimize stress. This also relates to the next point:

The postpartum period
is a really big deal

When I was pregnant with Lydia, I spent much of my time preparing for a “natural childbirth.” Then we found out she was breech and I ended up delivering via C-section in a sea of morphine. I think our culture spends a lot of time and energy focusing on pregnancy and childbirth while downplaying the arrival of the actual baby and what happens afterward.

The postpartum period is no laughing matter. Breastfeeding issues could arise. Your baby might scream inconsolably night and day. Your body may be unrecognizable and none of your pants may fit.

I encourage you to prepare for these realities! Have the name of a good lactation consultant on hand. Purchase a Velcro-supported swaddle blanket and a fitness ball (so that you may bounce your screaming infant all night). Stock up on leggings. Because what you’re really preparing for is your new life as a parent, right? Labor and childbirth will come and go, but your baby is here to stay.

Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband, 
Nick, and daughter, Lydia. Send questions or comments