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The Seven Stages of Second Baby Syndrome

by Deborah Cruz

I know many of us have picky eaters. My 3 year old would be perfectly happy to exist on nothing more than chicken nuggets for the rest of her life. Most days I fight with her, barter with her, do anything I need to do ( Dance monkey dance) to get her to eat something different..but some days….I don’t. I know. I am horrible. My kid’s going to turn into a giant chicken nugget. But the nuggets, or Nuggies as they are affectionately called in my house, are just a symptom of a much larger problem…Second Baby Syndrome.

Ahhh, I feel a weight has been lifted just by simply saying the words aloud.Many, if not all of you, know exactly this syndrome of which I speak. I’m not proud to admit this but it is the truth. With Bella, everything was perfect. What I mean to say is that I did my best to do everything right! She was always dressed adorably, not a hair out of place, all meals were up to food pyramid standards, just the right amount of sleep to play ratio. I read to her, I sang to her, I engaged her, TV time was limited, classes were taken, play dates were made and minds were expanded.I used to turn my nose up to those Moms that I saw in the grocery store, who looked like they had no mirrors in their house and so obviously should not have been parents..as they were yelling at a 3 year old at the top of their lungs because the poor kid wanted granola bars. Then we were blessed with Gabs.

One child is ONE CHILD but two children feels more like ten! I naively thought that having two would be as easy as one. ( What I meant to say as easy as my one was.)What did I know?  Suddenly, my days went from doting, anticipating every need, hitting every milestone in stride and ending the day patting myself on the back for a job well done to feeling like I couldn’t can’t keep up. It all became a blur. A fog filled with love and clamor.Noise.Chaos.More love. It enveloped me.I fell into it willingly.But somewhere along the way, I got lost. I lost sight of all my expectations. I think I evolved (or perhaps devolved ) in my parenting skills, however you want to look at it.Somehow I became , what I now know to be, the exhausted, sleep deprived Mom whose husband travels for work all the time and who has not had a shower  or shaved her legs for 3 days. And after a testing morning trying to get her older child off to school, she NOW is standing in the middle of the grocery with her 3 year old tantruming over the exact same granola bars that Mommy had to throw away this morning because said child had spat it out all over the new carpet because…it tasted “bad”. All I know is that it was not humanly possible for me to keep up at the pace I had been doing with one child. There had to be a give and take.

It’s a hard moment in motherhood when one has to accept this fact.It feels like defeat but really what it is IS growing pains.It’s you growing into your role of motherhood. I am certain I experienced the 7 stages of grief when letting go of my expectations of motherhood. First there was shock and denial. What? Both kids won’t nap at the same time?I can handle this.I don’t need sleep! 2nd stage, Pain and guilt. I can’t take this any more.Mommy needs some time to decompress too.Please go to sleep. Oh, no don’t cry. It’s OK. Say awake.I’m such a crappy Mommy trying to force my toddler to go to bed, just so I can have some alone time. I suck! 3rd stage, anger and bargaining. GO TO SLEEP!!! Just be quiet and go to sleep. Please go to sleep! If you go to sleep, I will take you to Chuck E. Cheese tomorrow. 4th stage, depression, reflection and loneliness. Crying because you feel overwhelmed. During this time, you finally realize the magnitude of your loss and it depresses you.You can’t be the parent that you had expected to be..because it’s impossible. You may feel isolated, left to reflect alone on your lost expectations and focus on what you thought things could have been.( Cue the montage of you and your pre baby body running in a field of lilies with your perfectly coiffed matching dressed little girls.) You may sense feelings of emptiness, failure or despair.5th stage, the upward turn. You begin to adjust to your new role with new expectations.Life will become calmer and more organized. What that really means is that your house will be dirtier, the meals will be less food pyramid organic and more chicken nuggets for the finicky pallet of the most distinguished toddler connoisseur. Mommy guilt will begin to lift. Stage 6, reconstruction and working through.As you become more functional, your mind starts working again ( mommy brain may have lifted a bit but, let’s be honest, probably not.It’s a slippery slope from pregnancy brain to Mommy brain to full on forget where you put your vajayjay this morning.. sun downers.I’m just saying). You will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by motherhood. For example, the 5 second rule becomes perfectly acceptable.God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt, may be heard around the house.Summer afternoons in the pool may begin to qualify as bath time. And finally, you will reach stage 7, acceptance and hope.You learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. This in no way means instant happiness. There’s no magic pill for motherhood. Once you give in to the reality that parenting two babies is exponentially harder than one, you can adjust your attitude, your expectations and your technique. You can have hope that one day, you will sleep again.Someday…maybe when they are married and sleeping safely in their bed with their husbands. (Sucker, She’s your problem now!)

And so as I sit here, stuffing more random pieces of paper with notes scribbled on them into Gabs’ baby book, I am reminded of the quote ” Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened!”~Seuss Be glad that you cared enough to have the expectations and to impose them on yourself in the first place. Then, go feed that kid some chicken nuggets before they throw a tantrum in the middle of the store:)

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Pipbest 2011/02/17 - 12:55 am

Reassuring (and terrifying…) post! Am five weeks into my second baby and the house is already a tip and I’m mostly feeling guilty at not being able to spend time with my increasingly noisy toddler. Good to know that eventually my expectations will realign!

Truthful Mommy 2011/02/17 - 8:20 am

Take lots of deep breaths. Eventually, it will become easier. You will hit your stride. Expectations will shift to account for the new baby.THe noisy toddler, well, that’s just part of the enveloping love:) Happy Mothering and Congratulations on #2!

Summer 2011/02/17 - 8:29 am

OH so true. I think I’m on the 5th stage right now. My 2 are 8 years apart but I’m expecting #3 in 3 weeks and #2 & #3 will be 18 months apart. I want to be pregnant forever. I don’t know how I’m going to handle 3 if 2 is already this difficult. I was just thinking this morning about how badly #2 has been eating lately and about how today, TODAY (!) she will eat from the food pyramid! MORE fruits and veggies! More healthy whole grains! Less sugar and junk! I’m laughing at myself right now. So thanks for the laugh and for the realism.

Truthful Mommy 2011/02/17 - 8:45 am

I go back and forth about considering a #3 and my Mom assures me that #3 would have to be an easier child than #2.I’m sticking with that theory, if I decide to go for it again:)LOL Oh shit, I think that puts me right back at stage 1 ( denial) right? COngratulations on #3,I’m sending you happy thoughts that you will be the exception and life will be smooth.
As for the food pyramid/organic food dilemma, I sometimes use that book Deceptively Delicious to sneak goodies in on my girls.They seriously don’t know the diff between chicken nuggets and the tofu one that I make. So, sneaky squirrel Mommying is always an option if you are feeling rambuntious:) HAppy Mothering!

LeeAnn 2011/02/17 - 8:33 am

Awesome post! Seriously. It is all so true. I think I’m in stage 6 now. I’m just about to that point where I accept that this is my life…and I’m doing the best I can. It is harder with two…that’s for sure!

I hear you on the chicken nugget thing…my kids will probably turn into corn dogs. I just add a little V8 Fusion to balance it out. 😉

Truthful Mommy 2011/02/17 - 8:47 am

Hey your little corn dogs and my little nuggets are most likely more the norm than the exceptions. Don;t beat yourself up too bad. I sneak good food in on my girls and luckily they are pretty fond of fruit & broccoli and cheese!Happy Mothering. You are doing a great job!

Nicole @MTDLBlog 2011/02/17 - 10:44 am

Oh do I know the craziness! I went from one to three in one pregnancy! Twins weren’t on the radar, at all. No fertility treatments – just a total fluke. One child to two babies at once. YIKES! 🙂 We all get through each day though and figure it out as best as we can.

Leigh Ann 2011/02/17 - 10:51 am

Amen! I went through the grieving process when I had my twins, realizing that I wasn’t going to get the motherhood experience that those moms with one baby could have: leisurely trips to Target, Starbucks, or the mall with my one baby; library story times; etc. It was probably just a fantasy, but still. I know moms of 1 kid who DO have that life and I never will.

Just as I was getting used to life with twins, #3 came in and shook our world. My #3 is your #2, and I started to feel like my life was spinning out of control. She’s turning 1 next week, and I’m waiting for things to realign themselves any day now!

Oh, and for the record? Don’t stress about the food. Give them what you want them to eat, along with something they WILL eat. It won’t be forever, and if you keep dishing out the healthy stuff, they’ll eventually eat it. At least that’s what I’m hoping. My kids have gone to bed on applesauce and milk before because they wouldn’t eat the rest. Just be prepared to make a good breakfast in the morning!

Bruna 2011/02/17 - 12:36 pm

I went through everything you discussed in your post today with the birth of my third child. My oldest is 8 years older than my 2nd child. So the two youngest are only 2 years apart. OMG, while reading your post I could identify with everything you said! Simply taking a shower became almost impossible at my house. I think most Mommies experience these same issues – some are open about them and others keep it secret because they don’t want to appear less than perfect. I think there is more benefit to being honest. After all, we’re not super women. We’re not perfect. We just try to be …

Rebecca 2011/02/17 - 5:45 pm


My name is Rebecca.

My oldest eats cereal, ham sandwiches, cheese, crackers and fruit.

And I am on stage 2.

Melisa 2011/02/17 - 8:21 pm

I am two Mondays away from having my 2nd. I shudder to think how things will be and how I will be…

Erin 2011/02/18 - 2:06 pm

Wow! You hit the nail on the head with this one. I have been through most of these steps myself and am finding I’m somewhere in between 5 and 6 now.

Grumpyishmum 2011/02/18 - 4:31 pm

Omg this is a great post 🙂

I’m around about stage 3/4 I think and 6 months into baby #2, so it’s great to be able to identify with this and know that there is light at the end of the nugget-lined tunnel!

Mommy Nani Booboo 2011/02/22 - 11:44 am

Okay- I’ve been through all seven stages, and I only have one kid! Yikes.

mama mia! 2011/03/22 - 2:26 pm

Hello, I’m new here . I am seven weeks into baby number two and I don’t know which stage I am at cause I’m too tired to focus. Probably somewhere in the middle. What I haven’t figured out yet is whether my floor will ever see a mop again?! Does that make me feel afraid? Yup! Shaving legs? huh? SEX?! My husband knows the six week rule and now is chomping on the bit. The real question is… who am I again? At least I have a sense of humor about it all… for now anyway. Good to be here.

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[…] Second baby syndrome is real and anyone who says it isn’t is a damn liar. Fast forward to two years after the birth of baby Bella. We were blissfully happy with a gorgeous, though demanding toddler (whom I was completely in love with) who wanted all of my time, every single waking moment. She had decided long ago that co-sleeping was the thing for her, and was still in our bed, with no end in sight. Not that I minded, it was comforting to see her tiny cherubesque face in the middle of the night as she head butted me when I awoke for the 100th time to pee because I was 9+ months pregnant. It made it hard to bask in the glory of the pregnancy of baby number 2, when baby number 1 was still a baby. […]

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