I’m due to give birth to baby number two in just over three weeks and I’ve been scared through most of the pregnancy. I have to admit that now it’s so close I’m more excited than anything else (and maybe a bit relieved that I won’t be pregnant anymore) but I’m sure I’m not alone in these fears.
This is probably the biggest fear of every pregnant woman: will my baby sleep? Will I sleep? How will I cope with the lack of sleep? Only this time I can’t necessarily “sleep when the baby sleeps” because the baby’s got a big brother. I’m more nervous of how the tiredness will affect my ability to function as Mummy to a toddler than I am about my ability to function as Mummy to a newborn (let’s face it, they don’t know what’s going on!), which leads me on to my second fear…
Ted only turned two in July and doesn’t have great language skills yet so I’m not sure how much he understands or how well he’s going to be able to express himself once the baby’s here. My friend has a six month old baby who he’s interacted with in a variety of ways – the most recent being to fetch him loads of (mostly inappropriate choke-hazard) toys – but the reality of having a baby here twenty-four hours a day is a very different thing. I’m really conscious that he might feel pushed out, especially if I do manage to breastfeed this time, and I’m worried about our relationship changing if he feels jealous or if I fall asleep on his bed at story time before he does.
Then there’s the fact that Ted was such a good sleeper. He slept through regularly from twelve weeks and fairly often before then too. What if the new baby doesn’t sleep? Will I know what to do? What if he wakes Ted up? What if Ted stops sleeping because he’s so unsettled? How do I function at work?
Again, not an uncommon concern for women: how does going back to work change things? I was so lucky to be able to have a year off with Ted and I’ll always be grateful to my boss for being so supportive at that time. When I was due to go back to work she had a big chat with me about doing what was right for my family and not what I thought was best for my position in the organisation. She told me nobody would judge me if I had to go back full-time, nor if I worked the minimum hours for the minimum weeks to keep my maternity pay before running off to be a SAHM.
I didn’t want to go back to work but in the end I had no choice: financially I was screwed. It turned out to be really good for me and for Ted too. He loved nursery and his social skills picked up almost immediately. I had the company of grown-ups who didn’t just talk about nappies and boobs (well, not lactating ones) and settled in to my new role in a new area so quickly that it felt like I’d always been there.
This time around my options are very different and they largely depend on the cost of childcare and my husband’s irregular shift pattern. At £4.35p/h for each child it really limits the time we can put them in nursery for. My current job doesn’t pay much more than the required £8.70p/h and BabyDaddy’s pays less.
My other option is to pick up some teaching and work more hours, but then to have to put the boys in nursery more. And how do I cope with working two jobs with two children, limited sleep and extra work to do at home? I seem to spend every day chewing a pencil and staring at a calculator.
All of this, of course, is on top of the constant chewing of my insides of the knowledge that I can’t have a year off. Already I know the baby is missing out compared to Ted and even before he’s born I’m wracked with Mummy-guilt. How will it affect our bond if I have to go back to work when he’s 3-4mths old? Will he settle in at nursery when he’s so young? If he spends more time at nursery and with BabyDaddy will I cease to be the most important person in his life?
But then there’s the part of me who wants my boys to see me working and to know that women are more than just the people who cook dinner and wash clothes. If both parents are working part time, sharing the childcare and juggling the housework then surely they’re seeing that responsibility for families is equal?
4) Getting out of the house.
I know this one is daft and that we’ll fall into a routine but I remember with Ted it would take forever to go anywhere. I’d get him dressed, start putting things in his bag, notice that his nappy needed changing, put more things in his bag, unfold his pram, go to put him in it and see that he’d thrown up down his top (and in his hair), change him, put him in his pram, realise it was time for his feed and wonder if I could walk to town before he started screaming for it, lock the door, realise I’d left his bag inside, get back out and find his bottom lip trembling as he decided he really was hungry…
But this time there’ll also be an impatient toddler who already likes to drag me to the door when he’s ready to go, even if I’m only wearing my bra and pants.
I’m fairly sure that I’ll be much more relaxed this time, that I can cope if I’ve forgotten to put a spare muslin in his bag and that we’ll work out strategies to cover all of the above eventualities, and that I’ll be much more chilled out about them. As I spent more time with Ted I realised half of them didn’t matter anyway. But that doesn’t stop me being anxious and wondering if I’ll have a nervous breakdown before I get to that moment of realisation.
5) Labour, childbirth and sore bits.
Last time around this would probably have been at the top of the list, but this time it’s not something I’ve thought about much. It’s more the practicalities that concern me, like who’s going to look after Ted. I have to stay in hospital for at least three or four days afterward, and that’s if everything goes according to plan, and while I’m actually looking forward to that time with nothing to think about but the baby I know I’ll miss Ted and that BabyDaddy won’t be able to spend as much time with me, so I’m worried about feeling down and lonely and exhausted.
Then there’s the aftermath and the worries about coping with it all with a toddler. I’m going to be in pain, I’m going to have pulled muscles, I’m going to struggle to pick Ted up or sit him in my lap. I’m not going to be able to take as many painkillers and curl up in bed. And then there’s the hormones and the moods. How do I stop myself sobbing at adverts? Will I terrify Ted with my puffy eyes and tear- stained cheeks?
How will I find time to eat? How will I remember to feed Ted? How many times a week can I afford takeaway? Last time around I cooked up and froze meals for us to warm up but we hardly ever ate them. This time I’m too tired to go to the effort if I know they’ll probably go to waste.
Of course I know that all of these fears are what ifs and that they might not happen. I know that women have coped with much larger families for years and years. I know there will be a whole load more things to worry about as I settle in to my new roles.
But what I need to keep reminding myself is that this baby is going to be a real little person with a personality and that his gurgles and smiles and big eyes will make it all worthwhile. And I really can’t wait to meet him.