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The Realities of Pregnancy Number Two

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This week's highlight email made me chuckle. Not in a bad way but in an "oh honey, do I remember that feeling" kind of way. My e-mailer didn't give me her name so I'm going to call her Jessica (based on her email address). Here's her story: She's pregnant with number two, has a six-month-old baby daughter at home, works full time and is worried about how exhausted and nauseated she is all the time. She's also worried about not giving either of her babies enough time and attention. Again I say, "Oh, honey."

Of course you're exhausted. This is pregnancy Number Two and you've barely gotten out of your maternity pants from number one. I doubt your six-month-old is sleeping through the night yet and you're working full time. You didn't say how far along you are with this new baby but if you're still in the "nauseated all the time" stage, you're probably in the first trimester—the yucky one. You're probably still trying to catch your breath from the cold splash of water we've sweetly named "motherhood." Two babies in little more than a year plus a full time job is a whole lot of work and stress on the body. Exhausted is exactly where you ought to be.

First pregnancies are such an indulgent time of life. Second pregnancies are totally different. Sure, there are a lot of similarities in terms of symptoms, excitement and anticipation, but most of us don't get the royal treatment the second time around. Becoming a mother is life's way of taking the focus off your self and turning it squarely onto someone else. Just because you're pregnant again doesn't mean that once again it's all about you. It's all about the babies and you're just along for the ride. It kind of sucks but that's the way it is, honey.

When I was pregnant with my first, I had a ravenous craving for the "House Special Shrimp" from a tiny dive restaurant in downtown Los Angeles' Chinatown. I was pretty sure I couldn't live without it. It was a five-mile freeway drive from our apartment and my husband willingly made the trip several nights a week, indulging me every way he could. Baby number two came along the following year and by that time my cravings had shifted to Haagen Dazs bars. If my husband wasn't too busy helping me tackle our one-year-old, he'd happily drive down to the corner store and buy them for me. Baby three—he might go downstairs and get me a bowl of corn flakes. Baby four? "You're on your own babe. I'll give the other kids their baths." I got less and less custom-care with each kid but, oddly enough, I needed less and less too. Motherhood has a way of toughening us up.

With baby Number One, we notice every twinge, burp and wiggle. Our partner, friends and family are as enthralled with our new adventure as we are and pamper us silly. The shine wears off with subsequent kids and though there's no doubt our loved ones are just as thrilled as we are and want to support us, they've kind of been there and done that. They're more focused on the byproduct —the kids. Maybe that's how it should be. Baby Number One is still about us. Once you've got him/her in your arms, you quickly find out, it's all about Baby.

Almost every mother alive worries she isn't giving her children enough of herself whether she works or stays at home. Join the club, Jessica. We mothers-of-more-than-one will raise a glass in your honor and toast, "we've been expecting you." Now, let me ask you a few questions: Are you doing your best to provide for you children? Are you taking as good care of yourself and your little ones as possible? Are you getting enough help and support from your family and partner? If the answer to these three is "yes," than quit worrying. Somehow, you'll manage to give your family all you've got and still find a little left for yourself.

If you've answered "no," than you've got some work to do. Reprioritize how you manage your time and ask for help. It's all about survival right now. Work on being a "perfect mom" later (though frankly, I've never managed to become one and somehow, my kids are pretty fabulous). Your priorities are on your babies, health and job. If that means you get home from work and fall into bed with your daughter and a bowl of Cheerios, I say, "good plan." Ask your partner to get you some Haagen Dazs bars after he cleans up the kitchen. Ask him to take the night shift with your daughter. Sure, he probably has to work, too, but he doesn't have to work while pregnant. Your needs trump his. Call your mom and ask her to help you do laundry this weekend. Pull your village together.

Most of us "working mothers" can't afford to quit our jobs and be at home full time. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Frankly, as much as I love my children, I'm grateful I've always needed to pitch in to the family budget. I think I might go mad without the mental and social stimulation my jobs provide. As long as you've selected the best daycare you can afford and give your babies plenty of TLC in the time you have together, you'll all be fine. For those mothers who can and do stay with their children full time, I say, "I'm happy for you as long as you're happy." It's good to have options.

That's the reality of parenthood in our times, finding the balance between work and home. It gets a little harder to juggle as you add children to your clan and nobdy's able to keep all the balls in the air all the time. I think what we learn from this is that ultimately, as long as we do our best, we're all going to be OK. Most of us will do better than that. We'll thrive. Jessica, you've got a lot on your plate but try to scrape one thing off—the worry that you're not being a good enough mother. Just give it all you've got and save a little bit for yourself. Good luck and I'll be thinking about you.

Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to labornurse@fitpregnancy.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.

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