I have noticed, with more than a hint of envy, that some women seem to be especially gifted at motherhood. Whether a breezy pregnancy and birth, outstanding confidence with babies and toddlers, or simply the possession of an otherworldly patience—I look upon the lives of these extraordinarily gifted mums with awe.
And the disappointing feeling that I am not one of them.
By comparison my own struggles with motherhood seem very earthly and mundane; and it is with this fear and trepidation that I approached the thought of having a second child. My mind was full of the ‘what ifs’:
What if the birth turns out as traumatic as the first?
What if I can’t cope with the demands of two children?
What if I am not enough?
When I saw the two little lines on the pregnancy test and felt the nervous and knowing flutter inside me, I knew it was time to work through my fears. God used the nine months of my second pregnancy to shape me, to confront my fears and help me prepare our family for our second child.
I spent my first pregnancy anxiously obsessing over every twinge my body made. I was terrified of exercising—should I overdo it. Second time around, with the go ahead from my doctor, I was determined to maintain a daily walking regime—even throughout the months of morning sickness. The fresh air and exercise helped the nausea and I used those months of pounding the pavement to pray and think through what was coming.
Walking and swimming are two of the most accessible and safe exercises for almost all pregnant women (please check with your health practitioner if you are unsure). My aim was to maintain gentle exercise in order to help me prepare for labour and recovery after giving birth.
I used Juju Sundin’s excellent book ‘Birth Skills’ to help prepare for managing my pain in labour. Sundin is an obstetric physiotherapist and I found her perspective on birth realistic, practical and compatible with a Christian worldview.
Preparing my family
Welcoming a new child into your family is always a big event. Whether it’s the first or the fifth, there will always be adjustments to be made and new challenges to face. A new baby brings excitement, joy and—more often than not—many sleepless nights!
I asked other mums for advice about life with two kids, specifically what had helped their older children adjust to the change. These are the things we found most helpful:
- Talk about the baby with your older kid/s. As I had a three year gap between my boys so I had lots of conversations about what life would look like. I particularly focused on using the phrase ‘our baby’ as a way of framing the adjustment for the whole family. I also focused on gently reinforcing that the new baby was here to stay.
- Exchange gifts. My older son picked out a gift to give to his new brother. We also chose a gift ‘from the baby’ to give to my older son at the hospital.
- Read books about babies and becoming a brother or sister.
- Spend time with larger families. Helping my son to observe brothers interacting, and new babies, helped him to grasp the concept of what it might look like in our home.
Preparing my heart
The birth of my first son ended in an emergency C-section, a sick baby in NICU and a week in hospital for IV antibiotics for us both. I had a real fear of this happening again.
The biggest, deepest lie of my anxiety was that God didn’t care for me; and that any challenges, pain or suffering I experienced was a sign of his neglect. Mercifully, God brought me to a place of trust in him, in the midst of my fear.
God does not promise us a trouble-free, comfortable life. But he does promise faithful provision for whatever circumstances we are facing—whether they are painful or pain free.
I realised I could trust him, even if the birth of my second child was traumatic. His provision will always be God-shaped, more than we expect and surprising. I had to let go of my (very specific!) expectations of what his goodness looks like and have faith in his character—a God who loves and cares for his children.
The truth is that since my second son was born there have been many times when I feel like I can’t cope, and when I know I am not enough–but I know that God is.
I still may not feel especially gifted at mothering, but I must remember that we have a merciful God who patiently hears our ‘what ifs’ and fears, and gently turns our attention to a greater truth: his power in our weakness, his provision for our needs.