So you’re gonna be a dad. Again.
What were you thinking? You’ve already made it through the psychological minefield that is midnight feedings, inconsolable infants, and sixteen weeks of house arrest once. Now you’ve gone and done it again.
That’s ok, it won’t be as bad the second time around.
Ignorance is only bliss until you learn all the stuff you didn’t know. The very first day we brought Bubby home was the absolute worst day I can remember since becoming a parent. Before we left the hospital, we had to make sure he was strapped in the car seat. [How do you strap a baby in a car seat?] When we walked into the house with this brand new child, we placed him in his crib and stared down at him. [What the hell are we supposed to do with him now?] Feeding and burping him were still a new adventure. [If I pat his back too hard, am I going to break him?] And then there was this foolish notion Wife and I shared about both trying to sleep overnight. At the same time. [Seriously?]
Now you would think adding a second child to the mix would exacerbate the problem. Two mouths to feed, two butts to wipe, two boo-boos to kiss. That’s all true, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was with baby #1. There are a ton of examples of how much more relaxed and mentally prepared we were for the arrival of Boo, but the few below are some of the more impactful.
Baby #1: We “had” to register for baby stuff, assemble the crib, baby-proof the house, paint his bedroom, sanitize everything, and search countless car seat reviews. Everything had to be perfect and in the perfect place before Bubby got here.
Baby #2: Boo got the spare bedroom with hand-me-down clothes and furniture.
Baby #1: The first tooth, the first word, the first step. As a first-time parent, you can’t wait to see your baby reach all these milestones. And you not so secretly judge your own baby’s progress against that of others his age.
Baby #2: Meh, he’ll get there. Only he usually gets there faster than his older brother because he has a role model closer to his size who looks like he’s having a lot of fun.
Illness and Safety
Baby #1: Oh, God, he just coughed. Did you hear him cough? I think the flu is going around. Did that sound like a flu cough? Does the flu even make you cough? Where’s the number for the after-hours pediatrician?
Baby #2: If this coughing keeps me up all night, I’m going to be really pissed.
Baby #1: Until the child reaches about three months old, wants and needs are the same thing. So if your baby is crying at that age, it’s probably OK to pick her up and comfort her. First-timers tend to keep answering that call well beyond what is completely necessary and find themselves stuck with a ten-month-old who is still waking up six times a night.
Baby #2: Wife and I sit firmly in the middle of Camp Cry-it-out. If the kid keeps crying for more than ten minutes, there might actually be something wrong. Maybe.
Baby #1: This is probably the biggest difference for me. Wife and I both really wanted Bubby to be breastfed. After about a month of terrible results, we switched to formula. And by the time we got the hang of the bottle routine, it was time to introduce solids, which mangled all our plans. Once we figured out solids, we had to take away the bottle and actually start feeding him real food, which was another shock to the system.
Baby #2: All bottle all the time. Which meant we got to actually sleep overnight at the hospital because the nurses handled nighttime feedings. We also introduced new food much earlier. He was eating cereal by two months, small bits of grown-up food by six months, and completely off the bottle just shy of twelve months. And all the transitions were seamless because we initiated them on our terms, not because it was just time to make the switch.
Never will you ever be prepared for everything parenthood will throw at you. Even for us as experienced parents, our boys have their own personalities and navigate the same waters in different ways. The difference with the second child is that you at least have some idea of what is headed your way before it actually gets there.
That or the tedium of parenting has saddled you with an overwhelming sense of ennui through which not even the most surprising of surprises can reach you. Maybe it’s that second thing.