Dealing with the roller-coaster of a second pregnancy

If anyone remembers our delightful Nanny B from several years ago, she got married over the weekend and the boys and I flew to the West Coast to be in her wedding. We’re so happy for her! 

An anonymous (because she hasn’t announced her pregnancy yet) but regular reader writes: 

“Have
you written anything about how not to be totally overwhelmed with
second pregnancies?? I’m in such a bad place right now and even the
smallest of symptoms is causing me to panic.

It’s like I had forgotten how rough pregnancy is physically.

And emotionally.

Gahhh”

I left the “Gahhh” in because I thought that was the essence of the email. 😉 

To give some background, her first pregnancy was uncomplicated and her child is a preschooler now, but she was worried throughout that pregnancy that something bad would happen.

I was the same way. I wasn’t relaxed for a second until the baby was out and I could see that he was fine, either time. And I had depression during pregnancy both times. So those nine months were a time period to slog through to get to the goal of having the baby, not something I could enjoy. 

So the first thing I’d say to Anon is to cut yourself some slack about feeling bad. Some women love pregnancy and enjoy it, but others do not, and there’s nothing wrong with being either way. Liking or not liking pregnancy doesn’t mean you’ll be a better or worse mother. 

I also think that once you’ve gone through pregnancy and labor and delivery you’re not as fearful of the delivery because it’s not unknown anymore. So if you’re a person who enjoys pregnancy you can enjoy it more, but if you don’t like pregnancy it seems even more interminable and every symptom is both insult and injury. 

I’ve really got nothing for Anon, because my coping technique the second time was just to complain constantly. While I think it was the right thing for me at the time, I don’t recommend it to others.

So, what do you have for Anon? And yes, she does know she’s lucky to be pregnant and to have a live child already. She’s thrilled about both of those things, just not about the actual experience and emotions of pregnancy. 

22 thoughts on “Dealing with the roller-coaster of a second pregnancy”

  1. I am RIGHT THERE AT THIS MOMENT. My first pregnancy was tough and totally unpleasant. I hated 90% of the time I was pregnant. So I sort of knew what I was getting myself into with this second, but so far it’s been worse! I’m early (only 11weeks) but already I have this crippling indigestion that’s making it so I can’t eat, and my back pain has flared up, and I’m not sleeping even though I’m even more tired than I was with my first, and my skin has erupted into one giant, permanent pimple. And what terrifies me most is that it IS so early, and I know things are probably only going to get worse. I’m honestly wondering whether I should have done this at all. Of course, exhaustion and hormones don’t make thinking clearly any easier.

    So, no advice, just absolutely, unquestioning commiseration. 🙁

  2. I hated being pregnant. Yes, I wanted children, I wanted to have biological children, but I knew I would hate being pregnant. In my case, I tried to stay positive. I was tired, sick, I had infertility issues with my first, I lost one between the two pregnancies, and I had post partum depression in the first pregnancy. I had ante-partum depression in my second. To be honest, I did a count down and I complained. Mostly I complained to those who knew I was thankful to have a second pregnancy, but they knew I needed to complain.
    Hugs….

  3. I had a very difficult time emotionally each time, and it got worse each time. It didn’t help that I lost a 15w pregnancy between children 1 and 2. So my advice would be to talk to your doctor and make sure you’re not struggling with ante-natal depression. If I were to do it again I would talk to my doctor in a different way and see if I couldn’t get more help.

  4. No advice, just sympathy. BTDT. I’ve got two children, both pregnancies involved scary complications, and I was not a shiny, happy pregnant person. I think it’s too bad that NOT enjoying pregnancy is another one of those things that we’re made to feel less-than about, but many, many women can’t enjoy it for whatever reason. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Ice cream helps.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with this comment. I struggled with infertility (double whammy male & female factors), so you’d think I’d’ve been the world’s happiest pregnant lady. I was MISERABLE — physically and emotionally. (I had constant anxiety about miscarrying, since I’d miscarried my first pregnancy.)

      Ice cream DOES help. I prescribe lots and lots of it. Also, go easy on yourself. It’s totally OK to not love this experience.

  5. I feel you. My second pregnancy seemed like an insult because I was expecting it to be easier than the first. It was not. And I don’t know why I had the idea that it would be, because most of my friends agreed that subsequent pregnancies are tougher than earlier ones. I spent my first trimester having panic attacks and just trying to survive. The way that I got through it was to enlist the help of my mom and dad in taking care of my preschooler. I also looked forward to finally having the home birth that I didn’t get to have with my first. And guess what. I didn’t get to have it with my second either. Nope. Emergency c-section. But now that time is almost four years behind me and I can see that I needed to get low so that I would finally take the time to address a medical issue that was being under treated. So yes. Hang in there. One day at a time. This too shall pass. You are doing great.

  6. I had a 2 year old when I was pregnant the 2nd time. I’d describe myself as a doesn’t-love-it-doesn’t-hate-it pregnant person. I was definitely NOT one of those glowy serene earth mothers, and absolutely hated a lot of the symptoms, but seemed to get through okay. Both times. I was so nervous and afraid that the symptoms wouldn’t allow me to care for my oldest the way that I really wanted to. And you know what? Maybe they didn’t, but no one seemed to know the difference (except for me). The exhaustion hit me so hard during the first trimester that one evening I fell asleep in the middle of the kitchen floor as my husband made dinner. My toddler brought a blanket in and covered me up. Seriously. I remember the excruciating drives to and from picking him up from daycare, because I felt nauseous and had forgotten to bring water or crackers to help. All this just to say that you’re definitely not alone. It’s so hard, but be gentle with yourself, and remember to ask for help when you need it. I’m horrible at asking for help, but forced myself to take it easy and let other people in during that 2nd pregnancy, because otherwise there’s just too much going on and it can get really hard to cope. Hang in there!

  7. I didn’t have the same experience with my second, but I did decide to lighten up the pressure I put on myself to eat perfectly because I was very nauseated and had completely lost my appetite. I didn’t go all complete McDonald’s, but my very healthy and happy second child spent his first trimester on CPK pizza and a more than occasional (but not more than 1x a day) Coke. I ate along with my cravings – potstickers one night, chicken pot pie the next. Once I felt more on track after 14-15 weeks or so, I got a bit better with the food. Since I normally eat a balanced, "clean-food" diet, I also stopped taking prenatal vitamins because I felt they were contributing to my ill-feelings. So my kiddo had a few weeks of pizza and coke, and then back to clean food. It made a HUGE difference in the way I felt about things. Good luck….

  8. I got nothing except commiseration (and maybe reassurance).

    I suck at being pregnant. I don’t know if I actually had depression, but it makes me cranky and unpleasant to be around and really truly not even able to look forward to the baby at all, because All The Bad Things. Also I pretty much felt physically like crap-ola (Hm, come to think of it, that does sound a lot like depression.)

    BUT! The moment that baby is on the outside! Hooray for that adrenaline rush that I gather not everyone gets, but I Sure Do! It’s payback, I’m sure, for the indignity that is having naturally wavy-but-not-curly hair. I can do anything after that baby arrives. And (she said modestly), I’m quite good at it.

    So there you go. Just remind yourself that (thank God) pregnancy is temporary and you can stand anything for X more weeks. And I’m living proof that there is no correlation between enjoyment of pregnancy and enjoyment of pretty much any other part of parenting.

    Hang in there, anon!

  9. Nothing but sympathy for you. (Pregnancy s&#* is hard!) I found it hard to find the time to take of myself like I did with the first pregnancy (ie: I couldn’t rest, eat well, drink enough, exercise) since I had a 2.5 yo to take care of plus I had the feeling of "been there, done that" so the feeling of awe and novelty of growing another human ceased to help me endure. My second pregnancy was marginally more complicated but I was exponentially more grumpy. The only thing that helped me was remembering that pregnancy is only 9 months: long when you’re pregnant, only a blip in your life when you’re not. (I suppose this is cold comfort for you, however. Note: I was even grumpier the third time but demanded the husband step up more. And he did. 🙂 )

  10. I can understand Anon and join everyone in sending her lots and lots of good wishes! My first pregnancy was uneventful, medically speaking, and I did spend a decent amount of time absorbed in the Amazingness of It All. My son was also the first grandchild/nephew on both sides, and I was the first of most of my friends to have a kid, so I got lots of great attention and it was lovely. When I was pregnant with my second, however, it all felt different: nobody inquired solicitously about my health any more; the big kid (then 3) ran me ragged; I both knew better than to worry but also felt like, What if I was only lucky once?; and – most of all – the aches and pains of pregnancy were just WAY worse the second time around. I had twinges in places I’d never felt, hip pain really early on, just a general feeling that everything was looser and achier and less-in-place than before.

    I found that acupuncture & chiropractic adjustments really, really helped, both with the physical symptoms (aches, pains, reflux, nausea, etc.) and with my mental state. I felt so much more relaxed and at peace, especially after my acupuncture sessions. I think part of it was just that I was doing something for myself, in a space where nobody could reach me or ask for anything. I also think that the sessions themselves just helped my physical body in ways I don’t really understand but was really grateful for! I don’t know if these are your cup of tea, but it might be worth a try…?

    Lots of sympathy and solidarity from over here!

  11. Yeah, pregnancy is hard. I agree with other posters that say just get through it. Don’t worry about not being a happy pregnant person. And definitely figure out which friends/family are safe to complain to, and go to town complaining if it helps! 2nd pregnancy was harder for me, too (I was two years older, which at almost 40 made a difference.) It did eventually end. I now have a baby and I’m not pregnant. Life is good! (And Zoloft is my friend, or I’d probably have a horrible case of PPD again.)

    Also completely agree that being a good/happy pregnant person has no bearing on the goodness of one’s mothering of the baby after birth.

  12. My second is now 10 months old. He was a ‘surprise’ baby that I really didn’t want. (seriously contemplated abortion for a good few days in the beginning) The pregnancy sucked; fatigue, not pooping, food aversions yet having to feed a 2 y/o, just generally feeling like shit. AND not really wanting the baby. I mean, I knew I’d love him when he came and believed that he’d be awesome, but I really wasn’t a happy pregnant lady and for some reason that’s not allowed. We’re supposed to be all glowing and planning the nursery, I guess? Anyway, I totally agree with Moxie. Cut yourself some slack. Pregnancy is relatively brief and IS really hard, you don’t have to be glow-y and happy. Find some (a?) friends who understand or are able to tolerate pregnant ambivalence and vent to them. Or vent here. It does get better… maybe not immediately once your baby is born (cuz that newborn shit is hard, too). Speaking for myself- my sweet little boy is the joy of my life. It’s weird to have to reconcile both parts of me now, but I’ll willingly manage that.

  13. My first two pregnancies (after the obligatory 14-16 weeks of nausea) were of the "glowing earth goddess" type. I loved it. I felt empowered, beautiful, in awe of my amazing body. La di dah.

    My THIRD pregnancy was total suckage. I blame it on the boy hormones. I was full of stress and angst and rage (oh, the rage and the yelling at small children that I did). I truly believe testosterone poisoning is a real thing, and I had it! I also had horriblehorriblehorrible carpal tunnel. My hands were completely numb from about 4 months gestation to 3 months post partum. I could not tie my shoes. My ring still doesn’t fit, actually.

    I hated pretty much every moment of my boy pregnancy. I felt like this miserable host to a soul-sucking parasite. I was resentful! I wasn’t sure I even wanted to have another baby if it was going to be so bad. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to love a baby who caused me so much trouble in utero! All of the insane thoughts of the insane pregnant woman. But I seriously felt so insulted! I was under the impression that I was a pregnancy and birth goddess.

    So anyway, I guess we just suffer through it. Find safe people to complain to and complain away. Try taking very high quality non-synthetic B vitamins for the nausea. I got mine from my Naturopath; the Premier Research Labs brand. They helped me immensely. So did acupuncture (although temporarily).

    Also, I was in a constant state of anxiety during my third pregnancy – my husband was jobless and we weren’t sure if we were going to get to stay in our current house, let alone our home state. There was an unbearable amount of upheaval and stress during this pregnancy, and I worried that it was going to affect the baby and break his little psyche as it was being formed. Well, guess what? This is the mellowest, most peaceful baby I’ve had. SO THERE. 😀

  14. I’m here now. 16 weeks and I have a 2-yr-old and I just feel fat and bloated. I am certain that I got to stay in my real clothes for longer last time, and I know that my abdominal wall was just waiting to slack off, but I can’t help feeling fat. Bless my husband for continually reminding me that I’m not fat, I’m housing a mini-human, but still. At least the nausea has waned.

    I now feel a strong urge to tell people who are pregnant for the first time to WALLOW in their misery, because there is no coming home and collapsing on the couch when you have a toddler in the house.

    My coping strategy thus far has been to give in to most of the lazy and junk-food whims. And to whine. Best of luck to you!

  15. I have no advice, and I only have one child so I can’t commiserate. I have to admit, though, that this all makes me absolutely TERRIFIED. I had a fun, easy pregnancy with my first and am planning to start trying for another in the spring, when he’ll be 2.5. He is still nursing and sleeping with me, and when I read about all these difficult second pregnancies, I wonder how I’ll survive if mine is hard. You all deserve big pats on the back for getting through it in one piece!

  16. Ah, I wish I had known three years ago that the panic attacks, the dread, the insomnia, the hormonal crazy-making stuff, the HUGE fight or flight instinct was not uncommon in pregnancy. My first pregnancy, at 39, was pretty mellow. Not earth mama, but fine. At 43, I became pregnant again (?!) and completely flipped out. I am not using that term lightly. I needed help bad. I did not get the help I needed in time. In a desperate need to get off of the roller coaster, I had an abortion. How I wish I had had the presence of mind to do any number of things to take care of myself-like acknowledging how much it sucked and how much I resented it, like getting on anti-depressants sooner, like talking to people in my life who can talk me off the ledge. I would have loved LOVED to have had another child.

    So YES complain all you need to. Bitch whine and moan here on this site or to a friend who gets it. Do whatever you need to do to honor yourself. It is okay to not love it or even like it. You are OK. All the best to you.

  17. I also had a tough second pregnancy (though my first wasn’t really a walk in the park either). It seems harder when you still have someone else to take care of. I especially had difficulty maintaining my cool around my first (who was about 4 at the time). He would have a tantrum and then so would I. I just had to apologize and try to do better the next time. I would recommend you find your support network. You’ll need help after the baby anyway so you might as well know who you can count on. I had people bringing me food, keeping me company, going shopping, and picking kid 1 up from school. My dad would get my son and take him to the park or the library. I felt bad that I wasn’t well enough to play with him like I wanted to, but at least he was getting played with. I also had my husband help out more than he did before I was pregnant- he would make dinner, do dishes, fold laundry, go to the store and play with our son (my hubby is pretty awesome). The only thing he didn’t have time to do was clean the house. A few weeks before my second was born, we found a deal on groupon for a house cleaning. It was worth every penny. Good luck and take care of yourself.

  18. I had a very difficult time with my second pregnancy. Although the baby was 100% planned, I began to have doubts about it literally the second I saw the positive pregnancy test. I had a great first pregnancy and birth and I was very upset by how worried and not-excited I felt about baby #2 while I was pregnant. Now, I think it is normal to be less excited about baby #2 than baby #1 and to worry over how #1 and #2 will get along, etc. HOWEVER I had so many people tell me that such worries were normal that I completely missed the fact that I was suffering from severe pregnancy depression which not surprisingly morphed into a raging case of postpartum depression. So I would advise anyone who is pregnant to try to reflect on what is normal for them (rather than for everyone else). If you are truly feeling bad emotionally then it might be a good idea to talk with a therapist. At the very least it would be a good idea to talk with your partner and/or close support system about your feelings and give them a heads up that you are having a hard time. I didn’t do this and regret it immensely. I spent a great deal of that pregnancy stressed and crying and I wish I had gotten help.

    During my third pregnancy I was very proactive about negative feelings and did lots of things that helped me have a great experience despite some challenging circumstances and worries about baby #3’s health (we had a significantly elevated risk of DS come back on one of the screens). Some of the things I did to counteract the negative feelings:
    1) Gave myself permission to be a slacker, i.e., kids #1 and #2 watched a fair amount of DVDs while I napped on the couch (I didn’t do that when I was pregnant with #2 despite feeling awful), we ate a lot of take-out, and, truthfully, I wasn’t all that productive at work.
    2) Exercised throughout my pregnancy. I found that if I could just overcome my desire to sit on the couch and go for a workout that it improved my nasuea and exhaustion.
    3) Talked to my husband – a lot. I did not hide my feelings from him this time and I was very clear to him when I needed help and I expected him to give it. Asked for help from my mom and my sister.
    4) Retail therapy. I am normally quite anti-consumerist, but when I was feeling blue I would go out and buy a cute baby or toddler outfit. I put them all on little hangers and hung them in MY closet where I could see them every day and get excited about the baby.
    5) Despite throwing up nearly every day, I like the way I look pregnant and so I did something rather out of character for my conservative self and I had professional pregnancy pictures done – some without clothes. It made me feel so good about being pregnant. The only people that will ever see those pictures are me, my sister, and my husband, but it was some of the best money I have ever spent.

    I am sorry you are feeling so rotten. Pregnancy can be so hard – both physically and emotionally.

  19. Omg, yes. I am pregnant now with my second and my first trimester was AWFUL!! I was instantly depressed, even in that first couple of weeks before I knew I was pregnant. Even though it was planned I felt like it happened too fast and I wasn’t ready and I wasn’t even sure I wanted another one anymore. I had to pee 6 times a night, I felt exhausted and on the verge of throwing up all day long, and I felt like I wasn’t being a good mother to my 16 month old or appreciating her like I should. It all seemed seriously bleak. Now that I’m in my second trimester things have gotten better and I don’t feel depressed anymore but I’m still not looking forward to being big as a house or frankly, dealing with a toddler and a newborn at the same time. I feel like I was just getting my equilibrium as a mom and this has totally thrown me off again.

  20. I told my husband that the human method of having babies is pretty terrible. I would MUCH rather have a baby kangeroo-style. Just imagine…you birth a tiny baby and then it lives in your pouch for a long time. I could do that. And after the baby is old enough to come out? Built-in purse!

    I did not love being pregnant. I had unending nausea with both pregnancies and I hated the unwelcome attention from strangers. There were 3 miscarriages and 2 live births, so that’s a lot of morning sickness to get 2 kids! I complained, bitterly, to my husband. Luckily, he agreed with me…pregnancy secretly kind of sucks. Even if he found it beautiful and sexy. Whatever.

    2nd pregnancies are even harder, because, hello, now you’re supposed to take care of another actual person instead of getting home from work and falling asleep at 7pm on the couch.

    BUT…I definitely DO love having a 1-year-old, then a toddler, then a preschooler, then a elementary school kid. So for me it’s short-term pain for long-term gain. Complain to those who will listen without judgement…eat what your body says it wants…listen to positive affirmations about birth and pregnancy…meditate…sleep a lot. It seems like forever, but then the baby will come and you’ll be very distracted with how to parent an infant AND another kid. And then it’ll all change again. Hugs.

  21. Sending love! You are doing it right!!

    We only want one child, and my pregnancy was so horrible we are not changing our minds, but here’s how I got through my first (& only) pregnancy:

    • Once I realized that pregnancy, for me, sucked in every way humanly imaginable, I gave up trying to have an enjoyable pregnancy, and instead worked on making peace with the reality of having a shitty pregnancy. I adopted the very un-hippie mantra "PREGNANCY IS BULLSHIT" and gleefully shouted it to the handful of friends I trusted enough to share that with. It was oddly comforting and satisfying.

    • I learned from my naturopath that folic acid, of the sort that is found in most vitamins that pregnant women swallow by the bucketload, can sometimes be a serotonin inhibitor — that is, it can make you extra depressed. My naturopath switched me off of conventional vitamins and onto a brand that still has folic acid, but in a different formulation, and I felt instantly better. I had been severely depressed in the first trimester, and the switch enabled me to continue the pregnancy. (If you think this might be an issue for you, feel free to be in touch and I can connect you with my naturopath – she’s fantastic.)

    • I made a countdown chart — instead of counting how many weeks pregnant I was, I counted how many weeks I had left. I loved watching those numbers go down, and I really loved it when my boy was born 2 weeks "early".

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