The Silence After the Second Birth

I was wandering through the grocery store in our new(ish) neighborhood just a few weeks after our second child was born, dripping with sleep deprivation and exhaustion when I literally nearly ran right into my new neighbor right there on aisle seven.

I was in such a haze I hadn’t even recognized this woman whom I’d met just a few weeks before. She gently reminded me that our cul-de-sacs backed to each other’s and that our kids had recently played together. When she genuinely asked how I was doing, I not only realized that the answer was “not great,” but also that it was the first time someone had really asked me that, and I mean REALLY asked me that, since our second baby was born.

In all honesty, I was drowning. Her simple, yet genuine, inquiry into my wellbeing felt like a lifeline I so desperately needed at that very moment. We exchanged numbers and she invited me and baby girl over to a couple of events and group playdates in the weeks that followed. I was so deeply grateful that this near stranger had, maybe even unknowingly, extended me some desperately needed mom to mom support in the aftermath of birthing a second child.

When I look back on the birth of our first child, I am reminded of a lengthy meal train, countless friends coming by to help, and several out-of-town guests coming to meet baby and help take care of me. People were reaching out to see what we needed and although I was struggling with some birth trauma, I never felt like we didn’t have support in the transition to becoming parents.

So where was that support the second time around? I know there were a few meals that showed up, I got the occasional call or text to check in, the in-laws came for a quick visit and we had one rockstar of a friend who stayed with our son while we were birthing away at the hospital. I am so deeply grateful for all of that and certainly don’t mean to make light of those contributions. But I felt truly isolated and almost… abandoned during that overwhelming phase of life, especially in comparison to our experience after our first child was born.

I’ve often felt like we, as a society, do not do a particularly good job of taking care of new moms. But I have come to realize that moms in the aftermath of a second (and subsequent) birth are often even less supported.

Why is this? Has the novelty worn off? Do we assume that by a mother’s second (plus) child that she’s got it all figured out and she doesn’t need support for this go around? Have we forgotten that her entire world has been flipped upside down, that she’s suddenly not getting any sleep, that her spouse has likely shifted from her lover to someone she tag teams with to manage the drastically different demands of each child, or that her body is likely recovering from a long pregnancy and, even in the best of circumstances, a difficult birth?!

The next time your friend’s family grows - whether she fosters, adopts or squeezes that tiny human out of her own body - be a lifeline for her. Go above and beyond. Bring dinner, throw in a variety of snacks, take the oldest kid(s) outside to play, throw in a load of laundry, sincerely ask her how the hell she’s doing, hold that baby while she takes a nap and then a shower, and then take the dang trash out with you when you leave. Repeat as needed, preferably every few weeks for those first few months.

PS - Showing up with something special for the older kid(s) will likely win you lots of bonus points too.

Brooke WillardComment