Becoming a parent for the second time: your emotional wellbeing

When you become a mum for the second time, you know what to expect, don’t you? Well, the truth is, probably not.

After surviving your first pregnancy, labour and postpartum period, you may feel like somewhat of a pro as you look down the barrel of baby number two, however, your second experience may be completely different.

When Cathy O’Brien fell pregnant with her second child she got the shock of her life at her ultrasound.

“I fell pregnant with twins so it was like I was starting all over again,” she tells. The benefit of round two meant that Cathy observed when she felt she wasn’t coping and knew what to do.

“Emotional health-wise I recognised I was getting antenatal depression, so I got in touch with a mental health care nurse through the Baby Health Clinic. She helped me put strategies into place for when the girls arrived which helped me feel more in control of what was in reality completely out of my control. 

“But honestly it was like starting all over again and I was really bad at getting the help I needed with the practical stuff,” she says.

You don’t need to have the shock of multiple babies to feel out of your depth. No two babies are the same, so it stands to reason that no two pregnancies, labours, or postpartum periods will be the same, but there may be similarities.

“Many women are unaware of the reality of what to expect with baby number one, however after having experienced it previously, when number two comes along, parents have some insight into what to expect,” tells Beyond the Bump Parenting Support’s maternal and child nurse and midwife, Kylie Lannan.

The biggest difference between baby number one and number two, is now you have multiple children to care for, which can make baby number two seem much harder.

"The biggest difference between baby number one and number two, is now you have multiple children to care for, which can make baby number two seem much harder."

There is the constant juggle between the older child and baby. This presents internal conflict for some mums, which can make parenting difficult until the balance is right for them.

“Having an older child to entertain often makes sleep a lot harder. The old saying “sleep when baby is sleeping” becomes very tricky. Good quality sleep is vital for maternal mental health and must be a priority for new parents no matter how many children a family has,” tells Kylie.

Sleep deprivation with two small children under foot can be torturous so knowing when to ask for help so you can rest can be hugely beneficial. That said, for some parents, knowing that “this too shall pass” makes the experience easier. 

“Often knowing that each “difficult” phase does end in time, can help keep some parents going. With the knowledge they learned along their first journey they can find comfort. Some form of reassurance,” says Kylie.
Pregnant mother with baby - Blue Room - Bupa

‘Finding a tribe’ is something we hear often in relation to the early days of motherhood. Knowing that other mums are experiencing what you’re experiencing can help you through your days.

“Many mums have an existing support network set up from their first baby, which means issues like isolation and loneliness have less of an impact,” tells Kylie. If your mum’s group has moved on since baby one, finding a new tribe will help alleviate these feelings.

Although you may have honed the practical skills, and have more experience the second time around, there is really no comparison between babies as anything can, and often does, happen.

“Every baby is so different that no judgment or comparison should be made between first and second babies. So many variables can completely alter each parenting experience for the same two parents. Occasionally, the first birth can highlight areas that may be useful to consider next time round or supports that might need to be put in place,” tells Kylie.

If you suffered postnatal depression with your first child, you may recognise symptoms should they arise, however, this is another variable between pregnancies. You may have been fine first time around, but the darkness may creep in unexpectedly with your second bub.

The most important thing is to stay aware of how you’re feeling and coping. Bupa has developed a mobile tool called mummatters, which helps women who are pregnant, or who’ve recently had a baby, to create a habit of ‘checking in’ with their emotional wellbeing, get a clearer sense of how they’re going and find tips and resources to help them through this time.

Should things not be going as well as you hoped, it’s a good idea - for both you and your baby – to seek help. “It's important for expecting and new parents, as well as those around them, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of perinatal anxiety and depression and where to go for help,” says Terri Smith, CEO of PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia.

“It’s recommended that people seek help if their symptoms persist for longer than two weeks. Otherwise people risk suffering in silence for longer, reducing their enjoyment of what could be a very special time and potentially even putting their lives at risk.”

Your first child will definitely teach you one thing; that no matter how tough or easy your day with a baby was, every day will come to an end, and tomorrow you will start all over again on the amazing and unpredictable journey that is parenting.

Bupa mummatters

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