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New Mom Dispatch: Second coming

When Baby No. 2 arrives, a lot of things rush back in a wave of familiarity

Learning the parenthood ropes one month at a time


Leading up to the early March birth of our second daughter, two main concerns kept me up at night (in addition to the discomforts of late pregnancy — I hope everyone knows by now to never torture a pregnant woman with the “advice” to ”get your sleep now!”). These worries, I imagine, are likely universal.

The first was who would care for our 2-year-old, Fiona, when we went to the hospital and how that hand-off scenario would occur. At bedtime she always asks if we’ll all eat breakfast together, and I’d feel my voice catch as I disingenuously promised “yes” while wondering who might take our place.

Second was the drive to the hospital. For us carless folks, it would take place in a Lyft and last anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes. Nothing extraordinary, but definitely something.  And if there’s one thing I kept hearing about second labors, it was how much faster they progress.

But in the end, neither concern was well-founded. Labor started only after my mom, the best Fiona caretaker we could wish for, flew in on a one-way ticket. We went to the hospital on a traffic-free Saturday morning while the contractions were still relatively mild — the dramatic second-time speediness did occur, but only later.

Indeed, when Clara Raphaela Bull decided to appear, she did so slowly, and then seemingly all at once.

The second time around, plenty of things are different. Yet especially postpartum, many things — things I had all but forgotten — rushed back in a wave of familiarity:

The feel of a baby’s impossibly soft, downy new skin. The painful uterine contractions when first breastfeeding. The slow trips to the hospital bathroom and the first halting walk around the block. The warmth of a baby asleep on my chest. The mewing and purring and squeaking and coos and gulps. How much they initially sleep, anywhere and anytime, and those sleep smiles and phantom nursing suck-suck-sucks. The fuzz that accumulates between toes and the perfection of tiny ears and slender fingers. The skin that flakes off their feet and the acne that mottles their cheeks. Eyes that drink in the big world one minute, then roll back, milk-drunk, the next. Chunky arms and legs creased like croissants. How the hours blend together and sleep goes from linear to snatched two-hour chunks. Long, difficult nights and calm, cuddly afternoons. The agony of that blaring, red-faced cry and the ecstasy the minute it stops. The endlessly amusing sight of a swaddled baby burrito. The sore wrists and tight shoulders and perpetually swaying motion of a new mother. The middle-of-the-night hunger that has me gulping down bags of trail mix (and yes, maybe finding a sunflower seed hidden in her neck folds). The way a baby’s body curls into a soft ball in my arms or drapes over me like a content monkey on a branch. Having to do everything with one hand.

Remembering the glass of water is still by the sink every time you start breastfeeding. The giddy joy at having something so precious and the spikes of anxiety that something might happen to it. The tired tears over nothing and everything. The smiles of strangers and the pride about what you’ve created.

The quotidian miracle of it all.


[Related: Books for when a new brother or sister is on the way]

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