A first pregnancy is a time filled with wonder and excitement. Your body is doing something it has never done before. Every experience, from the first fluttery kick to the first visual proof of life via sonogram, is incredible.
Fast-forward to the second—or third, or fourth—pregnancy. You’re still thrilled to be growing life, still amazed at what your body can do. But, it’s different (in ways both good and bad). Here’s what to expect when you’ve already had some experience with expecting.
While each pregnancy is different, many women feel like they adjust to their expect- ant state a little more easily the second time around. “Although my second pregnancy was pretty physically similar to my first, I wasn’t able to sit around and dwell on how I felt,” shares Lauren Hufnagl, the mom of two behind children’s design blog A Lovely Lark (alovelylark.com) in York, Pennsylvania. “Even if I was completely nauseous or exhausted, I had to put on a ‘happy face’ for my toddler.” So while the symptoms of pregnancy—both big and small—are usually still there, they’re somewhat easier to overlook for many moms. We can probably thank the little ones for that: “Playing with and caring for [my daughter] distracted me,” explains Hufnagl.
Of course, there’s an exception to every rule. The one side effect that seems to be even more pronounced in round two is exhaustion. Mothering is a tiring job, and you’re probably not privy to those little luxuries—like afternoon naps and sleeping in—that you enjoyed your first go-round. Hufnagl recalls, “[During] my first pregnancy I could come home from work, take a nap, and veg out on the couch for the rest of the evening eating cookies.” But when there’s a toddler (or child of any age) at home, lounging around isn’t an option. Luckily, most moms learn to plow through the tiredness and just keep on keepin’ on.
Body of evidence
Remember how you managed to evade maternity clothing until late in your second (or maybe even third) trimester with your first pregnancy? That probably won’t happen this time. Even though many seasoned moms-to-be gain less weight with subsequent pregnancies (perhaps because they’re never given the opportunity to actually sit down), their bodies tend to begin “showing” a little earlier. I like to joke that my belly popped with my first baby somewhere around month six; with baby number two, it was about 20 minutes after I took the pregnancy test. There’s obviously a little exaggeration there, but it’s no lie that I broke out the stretchy pants before my first trimester was even over. It’s like my body just knew what was going to happen and gave up the fight. (Plus, when you’re chasing a toddler all day, comfort is key.)
Gone with the wind
I almost felt cheated at one point during my second pregnancy, because it seemed that everyone around me was just kind of ho-hum about the whole thing—happy for me, but not nearly as excited as they had been while I was expecting my first. Hufnagl experienced the same thing. “During my first pregnancy,” she recalls, “I had co-workers, friends, even random strangers in the supermarket coming up to me and rubbing my belly. I was thrown not one, not two, but three showers, and I felt like pregnancy and babies were the only topics that people wanted to discuss with me. The second time around? Let’s put it this way: A co-worker who I ate lunch with every single day didn’t even realize I was pregnant until well into my third trimester. And trust me, my belly wasn’t tiny by any stretch of the imagination.”
While you don’t really need a big shower for your second or third baby since you already have most of what a baby requires (although bring on the diapers, friends!), it’s the camaraderie that makes a baby celebration so special, not the gifts. And for many moms, there’s an element of that missing in second pregnancies. Luckily, we’re normally too tired and busy to dwell on it for long. Plus, “I received a huge outpouring of help, food and support after I had my [second] baby, which wasn’t the case with my first pregnancy,” Hufnagl shares. So maybe they’re just saving all that affection and attention for when you really need it.
Where the heart is
One fear plagued me almost my entire second pregnancy: Would it be possible for me to love another baby as much as I loved my (amazing, perfect, beautiful) first? The short answer: Yes. Every bit as much. And as soon as that little newborn is placed in your arms, you’ll never doubt your devotion again.
Don’t feel bad, however, if you’re a little less involved in this pregnancy. Moms tend to overdo it the first time, and take it a little easier in pregnancies after that. “With my first, it was practically all I thought about—I read all the baby books, pored over names, researched like crazy to write my birth plan. Each night before bed, my husband and I read from What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I knew precisely how many weeks and days pregnant I was,” recounts Hufnagl. During the busyness of her second pregnancy, however? “It sounds sad, but I sometimes actually forgot I was even pregnant.”
None of this means that you love this soon-to-be baby any less, or that a second-time-around pregnancy isn’t as special as the first. Looking back, I actually feel like I enjoyed my second pregnancy much more, since I was less obsessed and worried about every aspect. I knew what not to eat and what to expect; I worried about labor less since I had been there before (a sentiment Hufnagl experienced as well); I was less concerned with doing pregnancy “right,” and more confident in my abilities to carry and bear a baby. And when I would lay down at the end of the night and feel that little guy start kicking around inside me, reminding me that he was there, it was touching and tender and beautiful—and just the connection I needed to remember that having a baby is awesome, every single time.