Pregnancy the second time around

Real moms and a nutritionist talk about being pregnant for the second time.

Pregnancy the second time around

‘Being pregnant the second time around is pretty different,’ says expectant Toronto mom Jess Rothberg, who has a toddler. ‘It’s easier in the sense that you’ve been through it before so you know what to expect and the whole labour and delivery part is less of a stress,’ she says. Often, the difference is that instead of spending your pregnancy reading anxiety-provoking pregnancy books and worrying about the hazards of every bite you eat, you’re busy juggling a kid-centred household.

Every pregnancy is different

At its most basic, there’s the fact that every pregnancy is different. ‘I found my second pregnancy to be easier for the first trimester and harder for the other two trimesters,’ says Carol O’Hanley, a mom of two in Charlottetown, P.E.I. ‘I’m not sure why this was, but I was extremely tired with my first pregnancy for the first three months and not so much with my second,’ she adds.

Time keeps on ticking…fast and slow

Another second-pregnancy phenomenon women comment on is how the passage of time feels different from a first pregnancy. ‘I found it harder to be pregnant the second time around and thought it felt much longer than nine months!’ O’Hanley says. On the other hand, for Rothberg this pregnancy is speeding by. ‘It’s going by really quickly, unlike the first time, which seemed to take forever,’ she says. ‘I’m sure it just feels quick because I am super-busy all the time running around after Oliver!  Which is what also makes it much more difficult,’ she admits.

Finding that already elusive ‘you’-time is also more of a challenge. ‘When I was pregnant with Ollie I had time to do things for myself like taking Pilates, getting my hair or nails done, and relaxing,’ Rothberg says. ‘Ha ha’that’s life before kids!’ she jokes. ‘Now I am so busy running around after a toddler and don’t really have time to think about the fact that I’m pregnant, never mind doing any sort of ‘pregnant pampering.'”

Body changes the second time

A subsequent pregnancy also means you’re at least a little bit older, which can play a role. ‘In my second pregnancy I found I was uncomfortable and had more aches and pains in the final months,’ O’Hanley says. ‘I attribute this to my age as I was 33 with my first child and 42 with my second. My second child was much more active while I carried him and kept me up often in the night with his movements,’ she says of her son, Jack, now two, who’surprise, surprise’continues to be more active than her eldest, Taylor.

‘Body wise it has been a bit different, too,’ Rothberg says. ‘This time I started showing a bit earlier, but overall I have been gaining less weight.  Again, probably because instead of sitting around eating ice cream, I’m chasing a busy two-year-old boy,’ she says.

Eating right

‘I see something really wonderful happening [in women] with the second pregnancy,’ says registered dietitian Mary Bamford, . ‘During the first pregnancy, many women get inspired to improve their eating habits. All those things they previously had great intentions of doing start happening. They eat regular meals and snacks, choose more wholesome foods, more vegetables, more fish, less junk food, less caffeine and alcohol. They love the changes and don’t find them hard. They see themselves carrying on this way for life,’ she explains. But when baby comes, some of those good habits slip out the window.

But Bamford sees a silver lining here. ‘With pregnancy number two, moms realize that the ease of motivation to be healthier during pregnancy does not magically stay strong post-partum.  They recognize that they need some extra effort and support.  They start planning to keep up their healthier lifestyle once pregnancy is over rather than expecting it to magically be there,’ she says.

The upside to being pregnant, again

It’s not always harder emotionally, either. ‘This time around, even though I have less time to focus on myself or the pregnancy, I feel more connected with the baby and find it easier to imagine life with another little one. I’m not so worried about caring for a newborn (they just sleep and eat, right?), but more worried about balancing life with two kids,’ Rothberg says. Still, she finds the impending addition thrilling. ‘I think until you have a child, you really don’t know what to expect’with Oliver, I didn’t really feel like we bonded until I was holding him in my arms. The second time around I can picture what it will be like, and it’s very exciting,’ she says.

How to prepare your child to be a sibling

One of the biggest worries is how to happily introduce the older child to the newborn. ‘Right now our son is the centre of our lives and it will be a big change for him to have to share us,’ says Rothberg. ‘I’m worried that I will not be about to spend as much time with him as I would like, and about his reaction to this.’

Experienced mom O’Hanley has been through this, and offers these tips. ‘It’s extremely important to remember child number one in the entire scheme of things," she says. "Before we had our second child, we prepared a room for his nursery. At the same time, we did over our first child’s room so he wouldn’t feel left out.’ (This is something Rothberg has done as well.) ‘We still try to make time for one-on-one time with the older child so we can ensure he still feels special and loved. We know he is old enough to understand we love him just as much, but it’s still hard for siblings of any age to let go of the attention they had all to themselves before the arrival of the new person,’ she says.

‘Include them in whatever capacity you can when you are caring for the new addition to the family," adds O’Hanley. "Our older boy reads to our youngest every night before bed. He sometimes feeds his brother and is very interested in how to take care of him. This gives him new confidence and makes him feel like an important part of the family,’ she adds. And most important, have confidence in yourself. You’re joining the formidable ranks of literally billions of women, past and present, who have had more than one child.