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Sunday 19 August 2018

What's the s udden fuss over mums getting pregnant for a second time?

expecting again? You may feel you're in uncharted waters - but it's time for a reality check, says Simone Kenny Glennon - who, despite the celebrity brouhaha, takes a practical approach to her own second pregnancy

There's a new phenomenon at the moment that seems to be taking the world by storm. Women, mainly of the celebrity variety, are becoming pregnant for the second time.

This probably isn't news to you - you've likely heard or read about the newly-pregnant state of a string of public figures including Amy Huberman and the Duchess of Cambridge. You may even be a mother of two or more yourself and secretly wondered what all the fuss is about.

However, with the recent media coverage both women have been receiving, you would be forgiven for believing that having another child is a rather rare and unusual occurrence.

Yes, a second or subsequent baby is a blessing and a happy occasion for any expectant parents, but out of the ordinary? Nope. Deserving of an inordinate amount of airtime and column inches? Definitely not. In fact, most parents go on to have more than one child.

I am one of three, my husband one of four and most of my friends and family are from families of two or more. I'm also pregnant with baby uimhir a dó and, despite my common sense, for a few weeks there I was actually beginning to feel pretty special at being in the Pregnant for the Second Time Club.

However, I soon realised that I was simply getting caught up in the mass media celebrity pregnancy frenzy and that I am, in fact, just a normal young (ish) woman who happens to be pregnant. Again. As one friend recently put it: "It's a beautiful thing, the life-death-life cycle, but it ain't reinventing the wheel."

So why the media hoo-ha over Amy and Kate? (Poor Shakira and Alicia Keys haven't had much of a look-in.)

Maybe we're just really nosy and love to know what's going on in other people's lives, especially of the life-changing variety. Or perhaps we like to see these high-profile women as being normal, just like the rest of us - they have sex, get pregnant, give birth and are sleep- deprived for ever more. We're all the same, really.

Whatever it is, the baby-number-two obsession did make me curious as to what's in store for me and my pregnant contemporaries.

There's no doubt that adding another baby to your brood is daunting, but we probably all need a bit of perspective on having a second baby. So I spoke with a few experts (parents with more than one child) on the realities of extending your family. Here's what I've learned. Kate and Amy, take note.

Every pregnancy is different

Okay, maybe not for the unfortunate Duchess of Cambridge, who is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (excessive vomiting) for the second time.

But most of us will experience different pregnancies from one to the next. From what I remember (and baby brain has a lot to answer for here), my first pregnancy was extremely enjoyable with minimum unpleasant side-effects.

This one, so far, is the opposite. At 12 weeks I feel exhausted and constantly nauseous - a three-month-long hangover is the best way to describe it.

Apparently, this is normal. What with another lively sprog running riot around the place and less sympathy from your partner, who now thinks that pregnancy is second nature to you, feeling more fatigued is quite common.

You don't sweat the small stuff

While everything is new during your first pregnancy, you're a lot more relaxed on your second because you know the drill. Penny, mum to Danny and Ellie, felt less nervous: "You don't panic as much with twinges and the like as you know what to expect."

According to Loraine, mum to Isabelle, Sean and Finn: "On my first pregnancy I remember going to the chemist during my lunch break and coming home from work to lie on the sofa and rub my belly in the hope I wouldn't get stretch marks. On pregnancy number two I was so busy with the baby I remember just having enough time to pray to God for no stretch marks!"

You'll need those maternity clothes sooner

Anecdotally, most mammies agree that you show sooner on your second (and subsequent babies) and that your waist begins to thicken earlier. This is because your uterus doesn't shrink to its previous size after your first pregnancy, so it has a head start for your second one.

This is definitely true for me - I'm now officially out of my normal jeans and anything Lycra or expandable is a must at the moment, which wasn't the case on baby number one in my first trimester. On the plus side, you'll get more bang for your buck with your maternity clothes, and you might even get offered a seat on the train/bus earlier in your pregnancy - result.

You're likely to have a shorter labour

Hooray! So my lovely midwife Karen informed me on my recent antenatal visit. While an average labour for first-timers is between 10 and 20 hours, second-timers can expect a shorter slog. Ditto for delivery - phew!

I have heard many a story of second-time mums giving birth surprisingly quickly, so you may want to get your partner well-versed on home delivery - just in case. Unfortunately, you may experience more intense after-birth pains, though. This is due to less uterine muscle tone. Ah, well, you can't have it all.

Two is naturally trickier . . .

Unfortunately, exhaustion is par for the course, what with disrupted sleep (at best) and the demands of a newborn and a tantrum-throwing toddler.

Then there's the early sibling rivalry as your toddler adjusts to receiving divided attention and affection from mammy and daddy. The demands of two young children can be difficult, says Penny.

"Giving your attention to a baby when you have a toddler clambering for attention too is very hard," she says.

Audrey, mum to Lilith and Laoise, agrees: "We put off number two until Lilith was three, but it was hard not giving her all the attention she was used to, especially when breastfeeding. I felt guilty with baba attached constantly and Lilith got jealous."

We won't even go into the space nappies/toys/clothes a second baby takes up.

. . . But it's do-able and worth it

The upside is that you'll have much more confidence and experience this time around - feeding, changing and soothing your baby will be a little less stressful than before .

"I found the first three months way easier on number two. In fact, I actually enjoyed them. The night feeds were a breeze, and knowing that they really don't last for ever, I took the time to enjoy my quiet moments with my little one," says Penny.

It may be a tricky period, but it is relatively short in the scheme of things, so getting it done and dusted in one fell swoop has its benefits. You'll have siblings close in age who will hopefully develop a close bond too.

Plus, think of all that costly equipment and paraphernalia that you already have - bonus!

You'll splash less cash and be a lot more product-savvy with baby number two.

No more getting sucked in by useless gadgets and gizmos that don't work but take up space.

New baby, new personality

As with your pregnancy, each baby is an individual and will likely be different to their older sibling.

While you should definitely use your first baby as a guide, try not to compare the two, especially when it comes to feeding and sleeping routines.

"When it came to feeding and sleeping, my two babies were completely different - still are," says Pamela, mum to Mia and Ruby.

What worked for baby number one might not work for baby number two so be prepared to get to know your new baby and try different techniques if necessary.

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