Q&A: preparing a young toddler for a new sibling and second deliveries

Ladre writes:

"My husband and I are expecting our second baby in November.  Our first child will be less than 20 months old at that time - is there anything we can do to prepare him for the change about the come?

Also, just a quick question about second deliveries: any truth that they are easier/faster than the first? My Ob/Gyn said yes, but of course, there are exceptions to that.  My first labor was wonderfully easy and fairly quick (11:30 am at the hospital, 6:30 pm delivery) so of course I'm keeping my fingers crossed for at least a repeat of that.  Hoping to get some stories from others so that I have some idea what to expect."

Hmmm. My kids are 3 years apart, so I don't have any personal experience with prepping a toddler that age for a new sibling. I'm going to need Menita and anyone else with kids very close together to jump in and talk about what you did that was good, what you did that maybe you wouldn't have done in hindsight, and what you wish you'd done that you didn't.

About the second labors: I've heard tons and tons of birth stories, and it seem to me that vaginal second births (after first vaginal births) seem to go one of two ways. Either they start suddenly and are really forceful and short (6-8 hours from start to finish doesn't seem uncommon) so it's like having your first labor condensed into half or less of the time, or else you have on-off labor for days that annoys you and makes you think the baby is never actually going to come out but then all of a sudden things turn around and the baby's out in 1-3 hours. (I had the second type, with contractions every 12-15 minutes from Sunday evening 'til Tuesday morning, then suddenly I went into hard labor and he was out in an hour.)

But either way it's easier, because you know what to expect, you know you can do it, and you know you've got bigger fish to fry than the labor.

I can't think of a second labor story I've heard that hasn't been better, in some way, than the first labor story. Either you have an easier vaginal delivery, you have a scheduled c-section, or you try a VBAC and are proud of yourself for trying whether you end up delivering vaginally or by c-section. I really think so much of it is being prepared mentally and knowing you can mother a child.

Anyone who wants to share a story of a second birth (especially compared to a first birth), please tell us!