Do You Worry That Your Second Baby Will Get Short-Changed?

Jenny Benjamin

boy with baby sisterIt's funny, but it seems like no matter how sweet or how devilish a family's first child may be, parents almost always decide to sign on for another baby. And from what I've heard, it seems that there's always a point in the pregnancy where a mom goes, "What the hell were we thinking?"

Now, I always figured it was because they'd snapped out of some newborn amnesia stupor, just in time to remember how tough it is to change two bajillion diapers a day, breastfeed all over again, and wake up for 3 a.m. feedings. But, it seems like the real issue is guilt that they won't be able to give this second baby enough TLC.

Hey, with twins on the way, I'm feeling that guilt in spades. A couple of weeks ago during our infant care class, they spent 10 minutes showing us a video on how to soothe a newborn. Well, not one of their various methods would work if I had two crying, wailing babies! Oh, okay, so just hold him against my body and pace and shush? Awesome -- now what am I supposed to do about his poor colicky brother? In my own mind, I prayed for some kind of Bewitched-style sorcery that might allow me to just wiggle my nose and voila -- an extra set of cozy arms would appear to lull my other little guy back to sleep.

It gave me a sad, sick feeling in my stomach to think that, although my sweet babies will have 100 percent of my love, they'll each only get 50 percent of my care and attention. At every feeding cycle, after my newborn boys have been fed and burped and changed, they may only have another 20 minutes of awake time to cuddle and play. So does one get a full snuggle session while the other enjoys solo time in the bouncy seat (and then we switch at the next cycle)? Or do I split the time up and give them each 10 minutes of my full, undivided attention?

Just yesterday, I was visiting my best friend's new baby boy and got to snuggle him for a good hour while he slept. I loved every minute of it and thought to myself, "Hey, I can totally do this!" And then I realized that, in order to do this for both of my boys, I basically would always have to have a baby in my arms. Woo-hoo for my super toned biceps, boo-hoo for my sanity!

But what I realize now is that this isn't a concern that just mothers of twins face. In the last couple of weeks, I've talked to several friends -- some who already have second or third children, some with another one on the way -- who all admitted that they feared their new little one would never get the same kind of special treatment as their first. As one friend pointed out, if you have a 3-year-old who needs Mommy's attention right now, now, now, and a crying baby who probably won't remember if you let her cry it out for another few minutes, you often choose the kid who will know enough to hold it against you.

It goes much deeper than that though. These moms-of-two confessed that, while pregnant, they worried if they'd ever love their second baby as much as their first, they felt guilty for bringing a "usurper" into the first child's life, they wondered if they might resent this new baby once they were going through the newborn stage all over again. Some even thought, "What if this one's not as amazing as my older one?" Ouch, it sounds bad, but from what I can tell, it seems to be a universal concern, probably felt by many moms on the verge of a new baby.

Thankfully, these moms-of-two reassured me that it all works out and that, yes, you do love your second child just as much as your first. But, do two children get as much attention as one alone did? Nope! Still, you do the best you can to give your children the most that you can. Maybe that means you divide and conquer with your partner, so each child gets one-on-one quality time. Some include their first child in bonding time with the second, asking the older one for help with bathing or feeding or entertaining the little one. Maybe you just soak up as much snuggling as you can while the older child is napping.

Once again, this is probably one of those concerns that will seem totally silly once my boys are here, and I realize that I can absolutely give two babies everything they need. I imagine that if you love them with all of your heart, and show them love whenever you can, that it just has to be good enough.

Do you worry that you won't be able to give a second baby or a set of twins enough love and attention?

Image via Weird Beard/Flickr

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