Expecting a baby is a new and exciting time for a first-time mother. Anticipation of pregnancy and delivery may occupy her time as she embarks on this novel and wonderful journey.
A second, third or even a fourth (or later) pregnancy brings joy in anticipating the new baby, and many mothers may think having already had a child they know what to expect. However, later pregnancies can be surprising, with some new challenges to face this time around.
When finding out the good news of a subsequent pregnancy, mothers should consider two major differences from the first time they were expecting. First, their body has experienced the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth, and second, all the ups and down of being pregnant and the immediate postpartum period must be balanced with the needs of the child or children already at home.
“Caring for another child makes a later pregnancy very different,” said Mary Lawlor, a certified professional midwife and the owner of the Monadnock Birth Center in Swanzey. “Mothers find they can’t rest as much as they need to, and they are more tired. They also say that the nausea is more difficult to manage with another child to take care of.
“People will worry they are not paying as much attention to the baby inside them as they are focusing on the child they are already taking care of,” Lawlor continued. “I usually tell them that the physiology of pregnancy carries on and they are still conscious of the baby inside.”
With a second or third pregnancy, making sure mom takes care of herself both to maintain optimal health during pregnancy and to keep up the energy to take care of a toddler or older children is crucial. As with any time in life, eating healthy is important, but finding the time to be sure to continue with a well-balanced and healthy diet can be the challenge. Fitting in a nap to deal with the increase in fatigue can be also tough, but one recommendation to keep mom going is to lay down beside a toddler during naps or use that time for a nap herself.
As a mom moves through her pregnancy and toward labor and delivery, a first-time mom relies on what Lawlor called “inherited cellular knowledge,” which refers to the human body’s inherent ability to grow a new life and then give birth. Second-time moms, however, have the added bonus of their body’s personal understanding of the process and knowing what to expect and how to react.
“Labors tend to be shorter for a second baby,” Lawlor said. “But third babies are notorious for being confusing. With the third, the build up with labor is long and then very quickly that baby is ready to be born.”
“Women might see a slightly faster labor with a second child,” said Renee Monteil, a doula and the owner of Keene’s Sacred Moon Doula. “It is easier pushing as the body knows what to do since it has been through it before and remembers what to do. However, with a second child, many of my clients are exhausted and wiped out during their pregnancy.”
Both Monteil and Lawlor said that one of the most vital areas of care they emphasize with their clients is the postpartum period where both feel like the fatigue of a new baby on top of the physical recovery from childbirth, coupled with the demands of caring for older children, can quickly become overwhelming if not carefully considered prior to delivery.
“I’ve found that there are not so many differences in pregnancy and childbirth between first and later pregnancies, but the lack of sleep as you get older is much harder,” Monteil said. “I was 33 when I had my first child and 38 with my second and the biggest difference was the recovery time afterward.”
“We spend a lot of time talking about the postpartum period,” Lawlor said. “That experience of going deeply inward of having the baby is meant to last beyond and extend into bonding with the baby. It is so important that we start talking about it even at the first consultation.
“We recommend that moms stay at home in their rooms for the first week. When they come out, it pulls them out of that one-on-one space with their new baby.
“We do home visits on the first, third and seventh day at home,” she added. “Those moms who are in their rooms with the pajamas on and breakfast on the side table (are) happy. Those who are in the kitchen with (their) clothes on are weepy.”
Lawlor said that sometimes with a family’s economic situation it can be difficult to make arrangements for a full week of seclusion, but it is so important to start thinking and planning for this time that she does bring it up right away when meeting with mothers at the start of their pregnancy. This gives families time to think of creative solutions and make arrangements.
“Also, ideally moms should have someone there with them for three weeks. No laundry. No grocery shopping,” Lawlor said. “It seems luxurious, but troubles with nursing, weeping, breast infections and more all happen when women become too externalized.”
For her moms, especially those with other children at home, Monteil has specific recommendations similar to Lawyer’s to help make the transition from the prenatal to postpartum period.
“Right after delivering, mothers should do nothing physical. They should get more help and have family come in to help with chores,” Monteil said. “Your body is trying to heal so it is good to get a team together and to make sure to take care of yourself.
“Try to put a meal train together or hire a postpartum doula. Anything you can do to get two weeks of rest. And above all, do NOT play hostess.”
“It is important to take care of yourself,” Lawlor said. “One of the things that comes up not infrequently is that society says to just carry on as always, but it is important to take time before the baby is born to get your body ready, and then after to give it time to recover.”
For more information about the Monadnock Birth Center, visit monadnockbirthcenter.com or facebook.com/monadnockbirthcenter. To contact Renee Monteil of Sacred Moon Doula, visit sacredmoondoula.com or facebook.com/Sacred-Moon-Doula-427785184064233.