I couldn’t believe my ears over our third anniversary dinner when my husband told me he was ready to “start thinking about trying” for a second baby. Our first was just a couple months shy of her second birthday, and while I felt ready(ish) to go for it again, he’d always expressed concern about a second.
It’s not that we didn’t love being parents. Despite being a headstrong, unruly toddler, our daughter genuinely brightened us both up and gave us purpose from the day she was born. At the 22-month mark, though, we had just barely looked around and realized we (finally) had it pretty good.
She’d given up breastfeeding several months earlier so we were no longer as tethered to the home and could go out on date nights or even weekend jaunts without a ton of prep and drama on either end. She was feeding herself, starting to potty train, and had been sleeping through the night in her own bed for ages. We had it made. And the marriage was in a good place.
Even though I was desperate for another baby, a flicker of doubt and worry crept in once “thinking about trying” turned into really trying… and soon, succeeding. I truly was so excited to welcome Baby #2, but I was very worried about what we call “the state of the union.” Friends had told me that bringing a second baby into the mix at best complicated things and at worst ruined them. Every mom of two I knew was barely hanging on, hardly showering, and doing absolutely nothing for herself. Let alone her husband.
Would I be okay? Would we be okay?
It may sound trite, but my husband has always been my best friend. At times, he was honestly my only friend. We’ve picked up and moved halfway across the country together twice. Switched cities thereafter multiple times. Been through trauma, loss, medical scares, and some seriously core-shaking fights. Our foundation is solid, but we both come from homes of divorce. Sometimes I get scared about the boat of our union. Try to avoid things that may rock it. Would a new baby be one of those things?
The pregnancy was rough, but he was there. Making me pancakes at every meal for weeks on end because it was all I could stomach. Taking over the bedtime routine with the toddler because by day’s end I was done parenting. Listening ad nauseam as I tried to decide whether to try for a VBAC or schedule a repeat C-section. Never once casting judgment or shame over that topic or any other.
I was newly aware of my husband’s growing respect for me as a mother during our second daughter’s birth. Whereas the first time around, the delivery was terrifying for us both and at times I felt “alone” even with him there, this time he was strong enough for both of us.
After arriving home from the hospital and I was almost instantly rendered hopeless with PPA, he stepped right up. Again, a shift from the last time we were home with a newborn when I felt like I was doing the bulk of the work myself. This time, my husband was there to help in any way possible. He doesn’t have boobs, and I didn’t have time or energy to pump, so the feeding was on me. But the rest was a team effort. I felt my old insecurities melt away and was at ease revealing my chaotic feelings to him. I knew he was listening, he was there, and he would help me through.
And did he ever. Building a forcefield around us, being the strong answer of “no” in response to visitors we weren’t ready to receive, taking one or both kids off my hands whenever I needed him to, and handing them right back over when I needed them back. I couldn’t ever have projected needing so much help from him this time, or that my not-a-feelings-guy, minimal talker of a husband would be the first one to bring up the hard topics in the hope of working through them — as a team.
Rough emotional start notwithstanding, having two children has filled my heart and taught me the new, expanded bounds of what my body and mind are capable of. As a woman and as a mother, I’ve learned so much. But as a couple, it’s been just as amazing.
Though we “should” have less time for ourselves, doubling the workload at home has actually inspired us both to do more for ourselves. We now “tag team” so we can each get to the gym several times a week. We take turns going out with friends and have been more devoted than ever to going on dates together. The increase in chaos and decrease in sleep have given us perspective: life is rich and worth enjoying. The moments are precious. Spend them together and make sure we each get to spend some alone.
As parents, we’re more relaxed now, which has made us cooler people and better partners at the same time. With our first, I refused to give her any formula and set an alarm clock to pump in the middle of the night long after she’d been sleeping through, to build up a ridiculous freezer stash (most of which we never ended up needing). This time, we went to Europe with the kids and couldn’t transport any milk easily so ended up giving the baby formula when we went out one night. Guess what? Everyone lived.
A more laid-back attitude has meant less pressure and more fun. If you had told me when we “started thinking about trying” that it would strengthen our bond this much, I wouldn’t have believed it. But just like the love we have for our kids, I guess it’s one of those things you need to experience to believe. I’m just so grateful we did it.