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Joan Leonard's Twice Blessed offers everything you need to know about having a second child--preparing yourself, your marriage, and your firstborn for a new family of four.
Just when you thought you were finally adjusting to being a parent--your stretch marks have faded and you've packed away your nursing bras and maternity clothes--you decide to have a second child. And although by now you may feel like a parenting expert, the second time around brings its own set of questions, quandaries, and chaos, from tighter finances to new routines.
Drawing on the expertise of pediatricians, gynecologists, and family therapists, as well as the anecdotes of mothers everywhere (tips from the trenches), this book includes both the psychological and physiological aspects of a second birth. It covers how to prepare yourself for a different pregnancy and birth, your marriage for another dramatic change, and your child for a new brother or sister. With warmth, inspiration, and humor, it looks carefully at the brand new family of four and what to expect as it evolves during the first weeks, first months, and first year.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.57(w) x 8.47(h) x 0.52(d)|
About the Author
Joan Leonard is a former contributing editor of Parents magazine and the author of What to Do to Improve your Child's Manners and Tales from Toddler Hell. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers.
Read an Excerpt
By Joan Leonard
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2000 Joan Leonard
All rights reserved.
Deciding to Do It ... Again
Just when we thought we were finally getting the hang of it. Our stretch marks have started to fade; we've packed away our nursing bras and our maternity clothes. Occasionally, we made time to shave our legs, pluck our eyebrows, moisturize our neck, paint our toenails. Our face was beginning to lose that deer-in-headlights look of perpetual panic. Our body — well, although it never actually went back to its old tight self, at least it was beginning to go back a little bit. It even looked as if we might be having sex with our husbands again on a somewhat regular basis. Some of us were at the point where we could sail past the diaper aisle at the local supermarket. Or have a few free hours during preschool. Or even full-day kindergarten. Others were not only back at work with solid child care but proceeding nicely on the fast track to promotion. And sometimes ... sometimes we actually slept through the night.
Just when things seem to be returning to normal, boom — we decide to do it all over again. Even those of us who had horrendous labors and whose first words after giving birth were, "Well, I'll never go through that again!" end up changing our minds.
Why do couples decide to have a second child? One thing is for certain: Never before in history has the two-child family been so popular, and the trend appears to be continuing as we enter the millennium. A century ago, it was common to have four or five children to a family. Back then, birth control didn't exist, and more children meant more help on farms and in family businesses. However, these days, family-planning education, the increase in living costs, and the energy needed to raise a well-adjusted, well-rounded child have led to smaller families. The Bureau of the Census reports that today the average woman is more likely to have two children than any other number. Why is that the case? Factoring in all these considerations, why aren't couples satisfied with only one child? While each case is individual, parents are motivated by several common factors to have a family of four.
"I Want My Child to Have a Sibling"
This appears to be the strongest argument for having two children. Many parents think about their first child when they decide to get pregnant again. It seems it isn't so much that couples want the experience of a second child as much as they want their own child to have a playmate. "I didn't want my son to grow up as an only child like I did," says one mother. "It's just too hard to be the only kid with two adults"; "I'm so close to my own sister that I wanted my daughter to experience that closeness," says another. A father says, "I knew we'd really spoil Kevin rotten unless we had another. We were just too focused on his every whim. It wasn't until we had Kristen that we took our eyes off of him."
"We Wanted One of Each Sex"
Although definitely a gamble — we all know of families with three boys or four girls! — some couples try for one boy and one girl to "make things even." Each wants to identify with his or her own gender. One mom says, "I dreamed of going shopping for clothes and makeup with my daughter when she grew up." Another states, "After our son was born, my husband seemed more involved with child rearing than he had been with just our daughter." On the other hand, talk to mothers of two girls or two boys and often you will find no regrets. Whatever happens seems to work out for the best, and most couples adapt their own expectations to their children's personalities, not their sex.
"One for Me and One for Him"
Some couples feel that two children can even out a family. "Of course we both love both kids, but I'm closer to my son, and my husband is closer to our daughter. It seems like there's one for each of us now," says Barbara. Her husband agrees: "Once my daughter was born, I understood that really strong bond my wife had with Eric. I feel that way about Beth, and it sort of balances everything out."
"A Real Family Means a 'Family of Four'"
Although my friends with one or no children would take umbrage with that definition, to many couples, you need two kids to constitute a family. As my neighbor explains, "With one child, we were a couple with a baby. With two, we're a family!"
Whatever our reasons, however much we all try to control our family and our fate, nature, in the end, takes over. Your second child will be his or her own person, and your experience with him or her will be new and challenging in its own way.
FIRST THOUGHTS ON FINDING OUT YOU'RE PREGNANT
"It's a miracle." "Oh, God, I have to go through labor again."
— Darcy, East Northport, New York
"It's a miracle." "This time I'm getting the right doctor."
— Laurie, Phoenix, Arizona
"It's a miracle." "When will I sleep?"
— Cynthia, Hollywood, Florida
For many of us the second pregnancy is meticulously planned to fit into our lifestyles. There are fewer pure "accidents" with our second than with our first. Although there are some completely accidental second pregnancies, most second births are planned pregnancies. That child may come a bit earlier or a bit later, but the idea of a second baby is in the cards. In fact, in one study done by David Knox and Kenneth Wilson, professors of sociology at East Carolina University, almost half of the mothers surveyed (45 percent) reported that they had already decided when to have their second baby before they had even had their first!
Timing Is Everything
With a toddler or older child at home, most couples try to figure out the best time to add to their family. School teachers plan babies for the spring in order to have the summer off with their new family. Accountants may shoot for any time after April 15. Others study the birth order books and try for their kids to be "ideally spaced" at 2.5 years apart. I know of sisters who planned each of their pregnancies together so that their kids would have each other to play with.
Finances also enter into the picture. Some couples feel the need to wait for the big bonus or the promotion before they try for number two. Studies show that the real dent in a family budget comes with the first child, and that the second child may cost only half as much in the beginning, considering the fact that many expenses such as cribs, car seats, strollers, and so on can be recycled with the second. However, having two children can still mean needing another bedroom, so saving for the bigger home or a house extension can also be a real consideration.
Some parents, on the other hand, just let their second child come along whenever it wants to. I envy people who are that relaxed. In my case, though, I was already plotting away in the maternity ward, nursing my daughter, Annie, and planning for what I thought would be the perfect time to have my second. I remember looking up the next two years in the back of my Filofax — how's that for anal retentive? In the end, it was all for naught; I ended up having my son, Alex, a bit earlier than planned — only eighteen months after Annie was born! So for a few moms like me, the second pregnancy comes as a bigger surprise than the first. "It took us four years to get pregnant with Tyler, so we just figured it would be a long time before I got pregnant again," says another mother with closely spaced children. "Then six months after Tyler, I got pregnant with Lindsay! It just shows you can't predict nature."
All parents have hopes, fantasies, and expectations about what their children will be like. Even without realizing it, you may already have tried to shape your firstborn's traits. You may want your daughter to be more assertive than you were or your son to become a leader in his Cub Scout troop. As an experienced parent of one, though, you probably have already figured out that you have very little control over what kind of personality your child will develop. While certain character traits are blamed on environment or "taking after" one parent or the other, often the real characteristics are attributed to either plain old genetics or to birth order.
Experts believe that the birth order and the spacing of your two children can directly influence what kind of people they become. Most parents will admit that even though they swear they raised both of their children the same way, they turned out as very different and unique people. The years between your children is another variable that shapes their personalities.
Although some experts will tell you that there really is no such thing as ideally spaced siblings, parents do have opinions on this subject. According to a recent survey conducted by the Wirthin Group (affiliated with Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical) published in Baby magazine, 64 percent of women plan their families by spacing their children. And more than one thousand women polled say the ideal space between children is 2.5 years.
The latest study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that spacing your children two and a half years apart may be ideal for producing healthy, full-term babies. The study, conducted by Dr. Bao-Ping, and published in the February 1999 issue of New England Journal of Medicine, found that babies conceived within six months of their sibling had a 30 percent greater chance of being premature. Mothers who waited ten years before becoming pregnant again were twice as likely to have an unusually small baby or to deliver prematurely.
Joseph Rodgers, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, has done research in birth order and family size; and he points out that while he believes kids can adjust to any sibling birth order, there are a few generalities that can be made about their subsequent relationship.
"The closer two siblings are in age, the more likely they will both view themselves as friends as well as rivals," states Dr. Rodgers. "That's why so many parents complain about bickering and competing between their children. But the up side is that they are often very close with each other as a result of being so close in age."
"The bigger the age difference, the more likely the younger child will try to model himself after the older," he continues. "The older sibling can become a kind of hero to the younger."
In terms of sharing, Dr. Rogers divides age spacing into three general categories: (1) Children twelve to thirty-six months apart share friends, family, toys, and sometimes even playpens; (2) children three to six years apart share family, but not playmates or toys; and (3) children more than six or seven years apart have nothing in common until early adulthood.
My own theory, based on my relationship with my sister, born six years after me, is that although widely spaced siblings may practically ignore each other during childhood, they can become extremely close when they become adults. My sister and I actually began to get to know one another in our twenties. Now we speak on the phone at least once a day and plan our vacations together.
Frank Sulloway, a research scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, & Creative Lives, believes that birth order does matter greatly in determining human behavior. Here are some of his findings:
Firstborns tend to be high achievers, assertive, and hardworking.
Most female executives are firstborns.
Firstborns are more respectful of authority. They pick up on what their parents value.
Firstborns are less agreeable than later borns.
Second children (with only one sibling) are more fun loving.
Second children are more open to new experiences.
Second children are more creative and more neurotic.
Remember, though, that knowing these traits will not automatically guarantee a certain kind of child. That is still in God's hands. In terms of timing your children's births, it is most important to consider your own needs. Many parents of two adult kids can look back on their child-rearing years and give what I believe is the best rule of thumb for spacing your children: Think about when you and your husband are emotionally and financially best ready to have another child. It will be better for you, your marriage, and your children.
One more study may be good to keep in mind. Robert B. Stewart, professor of psychology at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, reports in his book, The Second Child: Family Transition and Adjustment, that parents with closely spaced children wished that they had spaced them farther apart, and the parents with spaced children wished they'd spaced them closer! It may simply mean that given the degree of work involved with raising children, the grass may always seem greener on the other side of the fence. Whatever the spacing of your new family, you will find that just as no children are alike, no two pregnancies are alike either. The second time around can be even more exciting, overwhelming, terrifying, thrilling, exhilarating, and joyful than the first.
The Thrill of the First Pregnancy ... Remember?
We tend to go through our first pregnancy in some kind of dreamy haze. The thrill of it! Since we've never had a baby before, all we have to go on — besides the dozens of pregnancy books out there — is the powerful romantic images promoted by our culture. Remember the way TV shows used to handle pregnancy and childbirth? Mom goes into the hospital, smiling serenely in a wheelchair manned by silly, nervous Dad, and after the commercial Mom is being wheeled out of the hospital, holding a brand-new, perfect baby, still smiling serenely. (Thank God for the reality of Murphy Brown's pregnancy.) Even most films skirted around the issue — except in that scene in Gone With the Wind in which Melanie writhes in pain while Atlanta burns to the ground, but that was during the Civil War (I do have a friend who compares her experience of childbirth with that scene, however).
At any rate, the first pregnancy does feel like a kind of miracle. To me it felt like a religious experience — my husband and I had created a life! I was the first offspring pregnant on both sides of the family, so I had the added attention of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all focused on me. I had four baby showers in all. The stroller, the crib, the car seat, the diaper bag, the baby monitor, the electronic ear thermometer, the portable playpen, the hand-embroidered Christening outfit — I had it all. All my girlfriends wanted to go shopping for maternity clothes with me; and even though I didn't start to show until my fifth month, I began wearing those maternity jumpers at the beginning of my fourth. For nine months I felt as if I was the center of attention. My husband pampered me and even my high school English students seemed a little bit more accommodating. All in all, I felt like the star of the show.
This Time Around ... Same Old, Same Old?
I remember telling my mother I was pregnant with my second and her response was, "Ooh, that's wonderful ... a playmate for Annie ... how's her ear infection, by the way?" Well, so much for the miracle of life. While the announcement that you're pregnant again is greeted with congratulations, the news, in a way, is old news. Gone are the balloons and solicitude. Just when we really need some pampering — we're pregnant and we're taking care of our first — we find ourselves being slapped on the back and told, "Hey, you're an old pro now — you'll be fine!"
The second pregnancy has its advantages and disadvantages. The good part is that you've done it all before. The bad part is that you've done it all before. In other words, knowing what to expect can lower your anxiety (those "funny" kicks in your stomach, the mood swings) as well as increase it (another ten weeks of throwing up? another fifteen hours of labor?).
However, knowing what to expect the second time around is complicated by the fact that this time you are trying to care for your first child while getting ready for your second. That can be the single most difficult part of a second pregnancy. Mothers say:
The OB-GYN appointments were the worst! I had no sitters available in the afternoon, so I'd lug Alexis in her baby seat into the office and ask the receptionist to watch her while I was in with my doctor. I couldn't even concentrate on the sonograms or my baby's heartbeat because I was so nervous over what Alexis was doing out there in the waiting room.
— Amy, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
My son was just great when I had morning sickness. We'd play "doctor," and he'd get me a damp washcloth when he heard me puking each morning. Then when I'd lie down, he'd lay it on my forehead and hold my hand. Believe it or not, I have fond memories of throwing up!
— Corrine, Seattle, Washington
Excerpted from Twice Blessed by Joan Leonard. Copyright © 2000 Joan Leonard. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
I: Parenting Your First While Expecting Your Second,
1. Preparing Yourself,
2. Preparing Your Marriage,
3. Preparing Your Child,
II: Childbirth ... the Second Time Around,
4. The Labor,
5. The Birth,
6. The Hospital/Birthing Center Stay,
III: A Family of Four,
7. The First Weeks,
8. The First Months,
9. The First Year ... and Beyond,
Also by Joan Leonard,
About the Author,