A friend asked me the other day if the memory of the pain of childbirth goes away. I was kind of surprised and asked why he wanted to know.
“We are thinking about a second child, and I wondered if women just forgot the pain or blocked it somehow to make it possible to go through that again,” he said.
“I can’t speak for all women because each birth experience is highly individual,” I said, “but my first childbirth was fairly pain-free with an epidural and so I was not at all mentally or emotionally prepared for the natural childbirth that occurred my second time around. It was tough.”
He asked, “What if the first experience was like the second? Would you have done it again?”
I had to think about that for a while because my first reaction was, “Heck no. I would have stopped at one. No doubt about it!”
But stepping past that first reaction, I thought back to the wondrous love and joy I have derived from both of my daughters, the good people they have become, and how much I treasure them in my life, and I realized that I can’t even visualize the world without those precious women in it. I also can’t visualize them not having each other.
When you start a family, it usually begins with the two of you joined by one more. (Unless you have multiples, and then all bets are off!) At some point, you have a conversation about adding another to the family, and it is usually at the apex of cuteness of your first child (or at least after they are out of the truly labor intensive stages). Things have settled in a routine, you love that first child dearly, and so you start picturing another baby.
Be sure you are communicating clearly about this with each other.
Children as surprises can be like puppies as surprises. Things can go South quickly if you aren’t prepared. Talk together, check out “Siblings Without Rivalry,” by Faber & Mazlish, and think through some of the logistics. Discussing the practical considerations will get you out of the purely emotional pull and will help you step back and make realistic plans. Those are usually good for everyone. Sometimes nature takes a hand and you have no control over the planning, but as soon as you realize that, these same conversations and preparation will help you deal with the changes that are coming in your family.
As for that second child, no matter how different the birth experience or how different the child is from your first, you will find that your heart can expand to fill with love for yet another member of your family. Women who experience postpartum depression will have a more difficult time with this and please don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support. It will pass, but it will pass more quickly if you have assistance.