The gut-wrenching anxiety of growing your family

There are so many things to worry about as a parent. I sometimes feel as if I’m struggling with a new one each and every day and sometimes I wonder if this new kid will just push me over the edge. Like, will I just give up all together and say “I can’t take it anymore! You kids have to fend for yourselves! Pour me another.”

Probably not. But I really don’t want to let worry get me down either. It’s one of those things about parenting that I didn’t fully expect- how much I’d worry, how much I’d care, the sleep I’d lose over what is going on in my daughter’s life or what I am perceiving at that point in time.

I used to think having an infant, a baby, was the hardest part and once I got through that everything would be gravy. Those times are surely filled with anxiety and adjustment and sleeplessness. But the older my daughter gets, the more emotional needs she has and I often find myself wondering if I’m handling them appropriately. And that, to me, is harder in a lot of ways.

Did I say the right thing? Did I help her in a positive way? Did I give her enough space to let her figure it out (whatever it is)? Did she get her feelings hurt? Does she feel heard? How will she adjust to her new sibling? Will there be enough of me to go around? Am I doing it all wrong?

Sometimes I feel stretched so thin with one kid. How can I possibly have enough love and compassion and concern for a whole other being? I know that I will. I know I will find it, that it will be yet another soul-wrenching, heart-wrenching turning point in my life, literally bringing this new person into creation, making them from scratch and then having no choice but to give a shit about them every day for the rest of their life. I know that.

I know I will step up because motherhood forces you to over and over again. But this fear is partially why I kept my family the way it was for four years. And now here it is. In my body and almost in our lives forever and ever.

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But I don’t know this person yet. He’s not totally real to me even when he pushes on my ribs so hard it wakes me from a deep sleep or stretches out so wide across my torso I feel like my entire body has been hijacked. Like there’s no way he’s only 4.25 lbs and the size of a pineapple like the BabyBump emails say. He’s everywhere. And soon he will be here.

It’s so hard to imagine but for a mother when it comes it’s like meeting someone you’ve always known; that’s been with you your whole life. For my daughter, it might not feel the same. It might feel like a betrayal, a jealousy she’s never known, sadness, anger, and yes, hopefully, love. So many big feelings for such a small person. And while I know it’s “normal” it’s also still very frightening because it’s very, very real and it will change us all.

I know it will make her a better person, it will shape her life in a lot of ways and help her to grow. To move into that role of big sister, to learn to be mama’s helper and one of two, instead of our one and only. But if I said there was no fear, only joy, I’d be lying.

Making a family is totally worth it. Watching love grow where it needs to grow is amazing. I’ve done it once before and I have no regrets. But it’s also scary as hell because nothing will ever be the same. And you have to learn to believe good things will come, to grow and simply, to breathe.


“It’ll be FINE. People have babies ALL the time.”

Having your first baby is not really scary. Well, it is in some ways (like ‘holy shit how am I going to not take shots for nine months?! Are you effing kidding me??’) But you don’t exactly know what to expect and I mean that in a good way. The fist time pregnant moms I meet (and once was) are generally so blissed out on picking baby names and paint colors that the stark reality of parenting is so so so incredibly far off.

I don’t mean this negatively at all. It’s exactly where you want to be when you’re expecting for the first time and it’s a warped reality we should all allow these mamas-to-be (hopefully none of whom are reading this). But no one wants to hear about how they are never going to sleep again or how their lives will change so much more than they could ever wrap their prenatal heads around. NO ONE. And they won’t believe you anyway so don’t even try.  It comes off kind of mean, as do labor horror stories. I remember confidently not batting an eyelash thinking, “well, that won’t happen to me.” Or, “I’ll train my kid to sleep the right way’ and most importantly, “it’ll be FINE. People have babies all the time!”.

I totally remember thinking, ‘I can’t wait till this baby comes, then I’ll actually be able to get some sleep!’ BAH. Then I was awake for days between labor and delivery and our hospital because who can sleep in a hospital between nursing and visits and people coming in every hour or two to check you. Then I got home and never slept again. Well, never through the night again. Pretty much. My kid is four and still comes in at least twice a night, once because she needs to potty and once because “I just love you too much” and how can you argue with that at 3 am? Even though it’s so not as cute at 3 am as it sounds now but still kind of cute. Kind of.

There was a long, long period of time when I thought baby two would never be. I didn’t have that call to procreate. In fact, I’d never ever felt it, not in the slightest and I sort of doubted I ever would. But then the word “never” started to catch up with me. When my daughter was 3 1/2 I started realizing that if I didn’t want kids more than five years apart, now was the time. Like, yesterday was the time. I really did want her to grow up with a sibling, not that I believe that is the best or only way to raise kids. I think only children can be quite content. There is actually a lot of research that says many are better adjusted and are less lonely later in their lives because they’ve grown accustomed to entertaining themselves. And financially, we’d be able to do more for one child than for two. There were a lot of practical reason to only have one kid and really only one reason to have more.

I didn’t feel done.

So we jumped. Leapt. I really feel that this time, like it was a giant leap of faith. Because I have so much more fear and anxiety about having a second baby than I did a first. Knowledge is not always power. Knowledge can be a mean, evil taunter. It reminds me how hard it is to be awake all day and then all night with a new baby who nurses constantly and retain any level of brain activity. It reminds me how difficult it is to do simple things like get dressed or shower or eat a sandwich with an infant attached to your boob. It reminds me that everything I own will be soon covered in baby vomit once again and how I’ll feel guilty about doing almost anything that doesn’t involve nursing, swaddling, rocking or playing. Oh, and how getting poop in your mouth is really not all that abnormal. Plus, this time I’ll be doing it all while wrangling my OTHER kid and trying to remain some semblance of a work/life/mamahood balance. Uhhhhh. Whaat.


Sure, I know how to warm a bottle and I know the The Five S’s (swaddle, shhhing, sucking, swinging, side/stomach, OKAY FINE I just googled them because I forgot). But ignorance is also totally bliss and knowledge is also totally frightening. Apparently, women’s bodies produce a hormone that makes them forget the pain of labor and the difficulty of new parenthood. I read that somewhere but I mean, it must be true because we just keep doing it over and over and over again. But I think my body missed that hormone. I make too many of the pukey kinds and not enough of the forgetting kind.

So I do what any fearful, sane mama-to-be (again) does.

I smile, OM, and tell myself “it’ll be fine, people have second babies all the time.”