the second kid is easier

Round Two is a series of posts about having that second kid. 

When it comes to the question of whether the second kid is easier or harder, nobody ever gives it to you straight. Everyone's all like well it depends on the kids and it depends on you and spiritual hoodoo and misty woo-woo and you do you and no matter what just try to stay present...

Everyone hedges. Except me. I'm here to tell you the truth about having a second baby. For I am a truth-teller. It's a blessing... and a curse.




Glad you asked.


First kid spits up onto the floor:

How can you tell if it's spit up or vomit? 
It smells like stomach acid! 
Oh my god I had cheese for lunch. 
He's allergic to milk. I read about this on BabyCenter.
Oh baby I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to poison you with my cheese milk. 

Second kid spits up onto the floor:

Hey-o! (wipes it up with sock foot) (eats more cheese)

(Quick note about the first-time-reflux-panic scenario: I loathe the "first-time-mom hysteria" trope. Everyone always talks about first-time moms like they haven't got the sense of a concussed chicken, worrying about things like "choking hazards" and "reflux" and "SIDS." Oh, those silly dum-dums, worrying about maintaining the lives of the people they created. Oh those sweet little twits, reading about lead. I've written about safety-shaming before, and I stand by what I said, that another mom's worry is only her business and it you feel like making fun of her for taking her responsibility seriously and doing parenting the way that makes her feel happy and safe, then you sir, are a garlic fart. The above scenario actually happened to me, so I'm not painting first-time moms with that garlic fartstick of a brush. Only myself.)

It's not that you care less about second kid's welfare. It's just that you know that the bodies of babes do a lot of wacky shit when they're gearing up and working out the kinks. Every breath sounds like a death rattle. They ooze fluids, poop all the colors of the rainbow, twitch, snort, and wheeze-laugh in their sleep. 

You will still find yourself in Urgent Care with baby #2. But it's not gonna be because of one energetic urp incident.

Milestones Schmilestones

With your first kid, you're like "so I should start solids at 6 months, right?" Exactly at six months, at the half-birthday party with party hats cut in half and a semicircle cake, you offer the first pureed sweet potato, and carefully note his response in your Baby Food Log: january 18: subject appeared confused and alarmed at the approaching baby spoon. When I inserted the spoon into his mouth, he kind of poked his tongue in and out, goggled his eyes in what I can only assume was shock and sensory overload, and began to cry. I think it must be the spoons. I have already ordered an assortment of new spoons.

we should try banana

With the second kid, you're smearing a fingertip of avocado on his tongue whenever he points to it. 4 months, 10 months, whatever. Kid's gonna eat eventually.

With your first kid, you're like, "He's already ten months old and he hasn't even walked yet. What if he never learns to walk? Should we call a specialist? That would be crazy, right? Or no, am I already too late?" and then he learns to walk and you're like, "Oh shit, God. You were totes right. We can wait on the walking." So with the second kid you're like "Madison, sit ya butt down, sister. You're only ten months old, which is the perfect time for the first lesson of womanhood: Don't be too eager; big winners make big targets. Play it safe."

So many of the guidelines and expectations that you cling to as a first-time parent simply fall away on your second go-round. When you're a first-timer, you seek out experts who have written books with vague estimates about when children usually do childreny things - it's the only concrete report card we ever get. Milestones are the SATs of parenting: in a process that is complex and personal, random and flawed, we cling to these finite little packages of data so we know where we stack up against the neighbors, and more specifically, the neighbors' kids.

Luckily, with the second kid you don't need those arbitrary data points, because you've already sat through a kindermusik class with 10 8-month-olds, and half were crawling, and 2 weren't even sitting up, and 1 was already trying to walk, and 1 slept the whole fucking time. And everyone wanted the sleeping one.

You Know Where the Goods Are Buried

When you had the first baby, you struggled to maintain your self-respect, even as you were forced to demote your own needs from first to second place. Even as you looked back on a day in which nothing - NOTHING - got done. 

When you have the second baby, you've already mastered the art of giving no shits about self-respect, so moving your needs from second place to third is a piece of cake. You no longer keep a list. Every day's goal: stay out of the news.

Let me clarify: it's not that parents don't have self-respect. It's just that we don't store it in our stylish hairstyles and/or chiseled abs anymore. We've read The Three Little Pigs enough times to recognize a house made of straw. We know what happens when the wind picks up.

Nope, we build houses of stone for our self-respect. Mine lives in my children's lips when they pucker and grin as they pronounce the word "please," at the table. Where do you keep your self-respect?

right here
in my giant mane
of dirty hair
that stands up by itself
like tin pants
on my head
that are made of hair

i went to hot yoga
that's why it's dirty

i went to hot yoga
two days ago




When you were pregnant with the first kid, you had to scrap a whole team together, like the first third of every sports movie ever, except without the punchy soundtrack, and rarely does adorably grumpy Tom Hanks pull you aside to tell you that you have a gift and you owe it to yourself to see this thing through. You had to get a pediatrician, a lactation consultant, a dentist, a play gym, a zoo membership, a friend with a baby around the same age who you actually trust and respect and enjoy... that shit is exhausting and takes an enormous amount of time and energy.

Having your second? Girl, you are hooked up. Not only do you have all your health care providers on lock, but you've probably already popped your Urgent Care cherry, so you know where to park and which elevator to take if there's a minor emergency on a Saturday night.

You have a friend, or two, or ten, with kids the same age, and between all of those friends you are one degree of separation from all of the following:

- pediatric allergist
- pediatric asthma specialist
- pediatric physical therapist
- pediatric occupational therapist
- postpartum psychiatrist (for you, ya nutty squirrel)
- bilingual nanny
- reliable babysitter
- sleep consultant
- postpartum doula
- meal service
- cleaning service

With your network, you can borrow a pack'n'play, a stroller, a car seat cover for the airplane. You can borrow a Moby, and Ergo, a Gemini, just to see if you like it.

You have someone you can have this text conversation with:

You: !!!!!!
Her: <3
You: WTF
Her: you've got this mama
You: thanks girl
Her: xo

If you're reading this blog, I'm in your network, too. If you want.

Done Is Better Than Perfect

With your first kid everyone told you not to try to be perfect and you smiled and nodded and said,"That's great advice. You're so right," but we all know that on the inside you were thinking, "That's great advice... for you, who could not hack it on the perfect mom track. BUT I AM STRONGER. The world will never know a better mother. Every time I nurse it's gonna be 14 minutes per side and he will never spit up and he will be sleeping three days from today, mark my words, and he will always be wearing harem pants and beanies and HIS FIRST WORD WILL BE NAMASTE."

Second kid? You've already internalized the fundamental truth that the only "perfect way" is the way that fucking works this time.

You already know that consistency is a pipe dream, that in fact it does your kids a disservice when you refuse to adapt, flex, verbalize your decision-making process.

With the second kid, you're free from the burden of perfection-seeking. Not just because you've done it once and made it through, but because you have the aforementioned network of friends and they all did shit differently from you and they all made it through, too.

Parent Identity? Check.

By the time you're pooping out #2 you've read enough books and witnessed enough parent triumphs and fails to have a sense of how you're generally going to handle things.

You already know whether it's more important that you cook organic low-sugar meals from scratch, or more important that you write a blog. FOR EXAMPLE.

When Chicken was born I didn't know much about who I wanted to be as a parent, other than perfect, obviously. By the time Buster was born I knew a few things for certain:

1. My #1 priority is not a clean house, laundry, dishes, bathrooms, or yard.
2. I don't co-sleep.
3. When kids feel better, they do better - I'd rather spend time working on the emotional foundation of a problem than distract or bribe our way out of it every time it comes up.
4. I am not too good to leave a full cart of food in the middle of the cereal aisle if there's a blowout, meltdown, or other natural disaster.
5. I do not judge my parent friends for anything. Ever.

Sure, I had to remodel that identity once the second kid arrived - I'd just created another permanent family member and that shit has CONSEQUENCES. But it was a relief to not have to build myself from scratch again.


"I'm a bit of a control freak" is right up there with "I hate radio commercials," and "I love french onion soup," on the list of "Things Everyone Says As If It Is Unique To Them, But It's Not, Because It's True For Everyone On Earth You Guys Because French Onion Soup Is ABSURDLY Delicious."

Babies are antithetical to control. New babies know fuck-all about routines, consistency, predictability. In fact, their total disregard for human habituation is one of the things that makes new babies such weird fucking aliens. AWAKE and HUNGRY at 3:47 am? That's not a mealtime I've ever heard of, unless you're getting a lukewarm slice of cheese from The Boot on your way back to the dorms with vodka crans leaking out of your pores. 

Most new babies don't do routines, and they don't respond to structure, and they just do fucking baby explosion all over your life and before you know it you're awake all night and scrambled eggs are for dinner and up is down and it's snowing in July. For a species that rises with the sun, this kind of chaos is a foundation-cracker.

The first time the baby sleeps 6 hours straight you text everyone you know and say, "I think we've got a sleeper!" And then your fragile hope is crushed under the tiny sock embroidered to look like a steel-toed construction boot, when the baby does not sleep again for seven days and nights. TELL ME WHY! you scream to the heavens. And the heavens shrug and say, "It's a fucking baby, dude. Wait it out. Babies turn into people eventually."

Your first time out of the gate, the chaos feels apocalyptic. Your second time out of the gate, it's just fucking Wednesday.

Say what you will about the challenges of the second kid, but at least you're at home in the tilted world by now.

Top Gear: A Prayer of Thanks

Dear Sweet Baby Jesus, thank you for your endless mercy in sparing us from the eye-clawing agony of having to re-learn how to open and close the stroller, install the car seat, set up the pack'n'play, wear the Ergo infant insert, use the breast pump, operate the sanitizer, program the white noise machine, not strangle anyone with the swaddler, clean the high chair, get through airport security, take a rectal temperature, and change the batteries for everything.


Familiar Territory

Think of yourself as a self-taught mountaineer who is gearing up to summit Everest... again.

Unlike the first time, you know your body weather the storm.
Unlike the first time, you know how it feels to be the only person on Earth you can see through the snow.
Unlike the first time, you know that if you get in a tight spot, you are smart enough, tough enough, resourceful enough to survive.

Climbing Everest will never be easy. Every time you do it will be a test of your endurance, strength, and cunning. But you've done it once already.

You're An Addict

No other way to put it, my friend. 

You need this. You need the baby smell. You need the warm face, the puckered sleepy lips. You need the downy hair, the belly as round, good, warm, and full as a cake you baked from scratch.

The second kid is easier. Because you're hooked.

So, okay. Obviously, no question about it. Second kid is easier.



1 comment:

  1. Is there a not-weird way to ask a stranger whose blog you fell in love with and have been archive reading for the last 2 days if they want to be best friends? (Just kidding, I know there isn't)