It is inevitable that parenting your firstborn will be vastly different to any and all subsequent children. With your first child you are completely and utterly thrown in the deep end. Sure you read all the books, attended parenting classes, did some extensive Googling in preparation. You have all the recommended apps and have armed yourself with as much knowledge as you can but despite it all your precious baby arrives and apparently they weren’t offering the same classes in El Utero: Population 1. The baby didn’t read the same books and they do nothing they’re ‘supposed’ to do – so you freak out.
Well, I did anyway.
My firstborn son was trouble from the beginning. Maybe it was all the Christmas Mai Tai’s I consumed in the six weeks before I knew I was pregnant. Maybe it was all the stress I was under upon discovering that I wouldn’t be covered under my newly acquired health insurance due to waiting periods. Or, maybe it was all the other people having perfect babies who slept and ate at all the right times making me feel like a total and utter failure. Regardless, he was born screaming his head off and now almost four years later he still hasn’t slowed down.
So, after birthing my wailing, sleepless joy, I was pretty much prepared for more or less anything my second child could throw at me. I didn’t realise this would include horrific Hyperemesis Gravidarum which is basically nine months of ‘morning sickness’ on steroids. I was in and out of hospital for fluid replacement therapy, I certainly didn’t anticipate hospital-in-home-care to receive daily antiemetic injections but I did expect a crabby wakeful baby. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when my darling youngest was merely wakeful but not cranky!
My second child actually sleeps worse than his older brother, which is a feat in and of itself. I sought professional assistance over the course of the first year and then I just gave in and accepted it. That’s the difference with the first and the second – by the time you get to your next child you have a pretty decent handle on this whole parenting gig and are much better at knowing which battles to fight and where to just let things go.
So, parenting with your firstborn versus parenting with your second? What are the differences?
In speaking with some of my Mummy friends we all had a few experiences in common:
- You’re less likely to run to the hospital when the second child eats his body’s weight in dog food. In fact, I celebrated. One less meal for him to refuse!
- You will realise that every temperature and sniffle doesn’t require an urgent trip to the GP. One time I took my second child to the doctor for his 18 month vaccinations and it turned out he was harbouring a pretty nasty chest and double ear infection. I thought he was just teething…Mother of the Year…
- With your first you will lovingly prepare organic home made puree’s for their first foray into solids. You carefully note down every new food they try and make sure to give it a week in between, in case of allergic reactions. When my youngest was a few weeks old his older brother gave him a peanut muesli bar to suck on, so, I went ahead and ticked a nut allergy off the mental list and his first proper try of solids was a whole banana that he inhaled when I wasn’t paying attention. Tick! Tick! Tick!
- Photos: when my first child was one I had to upgrade my phone before the end of the contract because I had run out of storage. Scrolling through thousands of photos of a spiky haired, red faced, crying child it wasn’t hard to figure out why. With my second child, there can be a few days where I realise I haven’t got any pictures of him so I have to quickly snap a blurry shot of him still wearing yesterday’s pajamas.
- Sterilising! With my first child I sterilised all his bottles, feeding implements, dummies, etc. until well after his first birthday. I carefully washed everything first by hand in hot soapy water and allowed it all to air-dry. When my second child started licking the dog pretty early on, I gave the steriliser away to the nearest willing recipient.
- Which brings me to baby items. With your first you sort and try to decide which things you want to keep and then you sell the others for good prices since they’re in such pristine condition. On your second child, you can’t give stuff away! You’re practically out on the streets begging people to take away your spew stained bassinet with teeth marks on the side.
- Clothing/Toys: With my first child he was in so many new outfits and had all brand spanking new stuff, my second child has all his brothers stuff or second-hand things acquired from the local buy and sell page. Why buy new when they’re just going to wear it for five seconds then trash it anyway?
- Lastly, milestones. I could tell you to the day how old my firstborn was, I could tell you exactly when he first crawled or sat for the first time and when he cut his first teeth. My second? I could probably find out if I have found a photo or something to jog my memory and give you a rough approximation but I wouldn’t be certain.
Overall, all experiences are of course totally different and no two children are exactly the same anyway, but my own personal understanding of parenting my firstborn in comparison to my second is that of a much calmer, relaxed mother.
Neither of my kids slept, both were/are fussy eaters and neither of them are chilled out now, but as a mother the second time around I was much more prepared to be unprepared. I didn’t sweat the small stuff. I knew enough about babies to know that they will more or less do what they do without any interference from me, and I just needed to ride it out. That in itself does a world of difference to people’s mindset. They all catch up to the same place eventually anyway.
So, to all the parents out there who are reading this and have just realised that their second born has a birthday tomorrow and you forgot to buy wrapping paper? Forget that you special ordered designer paper for your firstborn and remember that kids love reindeer so Christmas paper is a more than an acceptable alternative.
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