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Before O (my second baby boy) was born I couldn’t really fathom loving him like I did, F (my first born).  I’m not alone in this, I know.  One of my friends recently told me she was so bewildered by the idea of number two that when she, her husband, her first son and her brand new baby were on the way home from the hospital, she leaned over from the passenger seat and whispered, “I’ll always love you best,” to her first born.  Whew.

It happened though.  Just like everybody told me.   I really love number 2.When I found out I was pregnant with him (got fat, felt cruddy, realized I could barely make it an entire day without a nap or an extra 12 snacks), I had a difficult time trying to figure out how to prioritize the pregnancy while my first was whirling around in front of me.  My kids are 23 months apart.  So during the early part of the pregnancy while O was making his kidneys and brain and heart and spinal column, F was running around like a lunatic; he was about 16 months old.  I didn’t feel talented as “mom” while making a baby. Especially when nauseated.  I had a hard time figuring out how to do right for baby with him tucked neatly inside. I guess he didn’t feel as present, important, or needy.  I didn’t get who he would become.

Recently, I saw one of my best friends who is pregnant with her second child.  Unexpectedly.  Imagine me saying, “Surprise” and rolling the R extra long and saying “zuh” at the end of the word. It was a shocker.

She texted me a photo of the pregnancy test to let me know (photo credit above). That’s a text for the archives. It was just sitting there in my phone one morning with a little bubble around it and, “an interesting turn of events.”  She and her husband had just spent time with a bunch of families with two kids.  They had been congratulating each other with high-fives about how smart they were to wait until their first child was about 3 years old before having another. How do you say jinx?  I’m superstitious to beat any band.

Two seemed like chaos to them. They have a 6 month-old baby and that feels like a lot (of course).  The baby is still breast-feeding and we were discussing what she should do about nursing now that she’s pregnant.  I told her to ask her OB as I feel there is no clear consensus out there but a lot of OBs tell the moms of my patients to wean.

My friend is trying on her pregnancy a little like a new outfit for the dance.  Trying to make sense of time and space and how it will all look in low light.  When discussing possibly weaning the baby from breastmilk, she said to me, “how can I prioritize the little baby (in utero) when I have this baby, right in front of me who needs me, my breast milk, and time with me?” Her voice trails off, because she is so stressed about this.

My non-pregnant self says it should be easy for her to prioritize the littlest of their family.  Of course, I think.  And prioritize herself.  All so very easy from my perspective.  That little growing baby (fetus) is vulnerable and by definition, very needy. I feel she needs to do whatever she can to rest, feed herself, reduce her stress, etc.

Findings out of Wisconsin reported this past week may put data behind this little instinct of mine. Maternal well-being is essential when making another human.  Sometimes science sounds obvious, huh? This data makes me feel better about my response to her.  A recent NYT article reports of incredible progress in a Wisconsin county with no clear explanation. Infant mortality among black babies has dropped from 19/1000 births on average to less than 5/1000 births in one particular county. Physicians and scientists involved in evaluating the county’s progress feel it’s possibly because these mothers are more supported, respected and experience less strife in life.   Basically, improvement in the mother’s physical and mental health, exposures to stress and their connection in the community may have reduced the likelihood of premature birth or poor outcomes in their children. Being loved and feeling safe and being fed is protecting little babies.  Life really does come down to simple things.  It’s just that sometimes, they are not simple to attain.

  • Take care of yourself when you’re pregnant.  Let people help you.
  • Calm down (slow down) when you can.
  • Surround yourself with nice people.
  • Eat.
  • Sleep.

Prioritize number 2 or 3 or 4 or whatever number child you or a partner or a surrogate or a friend or a sister or a co-worker is having.  Prenatal time may be just as or more important as the time when that baby is out bouncing on your knee. And remember that all those annoying smirks and smiles from fellow parents, telling you that you’ll love your second, just like your first, are true.