I’ve always maintained that children have such individual personalities that it is sometimes unfair to make blanket comments over their behaviours and developmental progress. I have also been aware that the differences even between siblings can be so different that parenting for the second time can be a completely new experience. Yet, despite being a believer of this philosophy, I still fell prey to the mistaken assumption that handling Gareth would be a breeze now that I have had the experience of handling Gavin under my belt.
Perhaps I could be forgiven for the oversight as both my boys do look incredibly similar at birth…
From the moment he was born, Gareth instinctively knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it. He was incredibly vocal about it, too. He was also perpetually at my breast, suckling non-stop – for which I attribute to the fact that he is a big baby with a somewhat larger stomach than the majority of most newborns.
Being more confident the second time around, I had Gareth room in with me as soon as the nurses were able to release him. I kept him with me overnight and nursed him lying down so we could both rest together. I expected it to be a breeze. Indeed the nursing part was a breeze. Gareth latched on like a pro and had a much easier time breastfeeding compared to Gavin. I think this is partly to do with the fact that I am now a more experienced nursing partner and feel more relaxed and confident this time around. The other reason, I believe, is because Gavin has already pre-shaped my nipples through nursing which has made it a lot easier for Gareth to latch on.
Nursing aside, there were still things I didn’t know. For instance, Gareth would nurse wonderfully during the day time and fall asleep easily and comfortably. I would let him co-sleep with me while I rested in bed. On our first night together, he was incredibly fussy. Despite nursing at my breast and co-sleeping with me, he was still upset about something and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Perplexed beyond a solution, it was needless to say that I didn’t get much rest that night.
That said, I did manage to employ certain tactics which I learned from my experience of motherhood the first time around. For instance, I used Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s to help settle Gareth when nursing and co-sleeping were unable to calm him.
I also found that it was easier to pick up the signs of what could be wrong since the foundation of my parenting database was already in place. For instance, on the second night, Gareth became very fussy again at about the same time as the first night – during the wee hours of the morning of about 3-4am. Nursing did not help. Rocking did not help. “Shushing” did not help. Gareth was wriggling so much he kept breaking out of his swaddle. I tried to burp him but that didn’t help either.
Finally, after shifting positions, he went back onto the breast and seemed to settle down after a while. He fell asleep for a while and then I noticed he tugged his legs up to his chest. It was followed by a soft, liquid sound and I realised he had pooped. Shortly later, the sensation of poop woke him and I opened his swaddle to check his diaper. Indeed, there was an enormous puddle of dark brown poop.
From that experience, I realised that it was true what they said about babies and natural infant hygiene – babies (some more than others) have a strong instinct not to soil themselves and get extremely fussy in a dirty diaper. Gareth is one of those babies. One of the reasons he fusses is because he needs to poop or he has soiled himself.
On the third night (just moments ago), when Gareth started to get fussy again, I noticed him tugging his legs to his chest. He was wriggling around a lot and fussing quite a bit despite being on the breast. I knew one of two things was happening – he was either about to poop or he had already soiled himself. Sure enough, there was a little bit of poop in his diaper. Once the nurse had changed him, he seemed much happier. He went back to nursing and promptly fell asleep.
Conclusion? Second time motherhood is definitely easier because of the experience and knowledge gleaned from looking after the first baby, however, it is far from the “walk in the park” that I had initially envisioned.