I have been asked pretty frequently by friends, family, coworkers, blog readers, etc. how my experience with baby #1 compared to baby #2. Obviously I’m still getting to know my newest little man, so it’s hard to know right now how he will compare to his brother. However, I did find that my experiences with both pregnancies, births, and recovery periods had some things in common, but they actually had a lot of differences.
Let’s start with the similarities. I was lucky that both of my pregnancies were low-risk and any issues I had were very minor. I gained a healthy amount of weight with both (26-30 pounds) and they were born at full-term. I felt relatively good throughout both pregnancies and wasn’t overly sick or in a lot of pain with either one. I was able to be active throughout my entire pregnancy and ran up until both kids were born.
Now for the differences – and there were quite a few of them! The most obvious difference between my first pregnancy and my second is that my second lasted 2.5 weeks longer. My son Kevin was born at 38 weeks and Kyler was born at 40 weeks and 4 days. I also showed a LOT earlier and gained weight differently. With my second son, I gained weight all over rather than just in front like my first pregnancy. Although I felt good compared to some women I know, I do think the second pregnancy was harder on my body than the first. I had more aches and pains, especially toward the end when I had a ton of Braxton Hicks contractions and lightning crotch, which I didn’t have much of the first time around. I also was a LOT more tired, which I’m sure is from also having a toddler this time around. Although my belly wasn’t much bigger this time, I did end up getting diastasis recti (ab separation), which is now slowly coming back together. I also ended up getting some varicose veins which are more common with second pregnancies. Lastly, I was anemic during this pregnancy, which I think was due to being pregnant during the cold months and not having my usual salads and green smoothies, like I did in the summer when I was pregnant with Kevin.
The last big difference between the two pregnancies was that I was SO much more relaxed during my second one. I didn’t worry nearly as much about if everything was okay with the baby (Kyler moved a LOT more than Kevin ever did so I knew he was just fine), or how I’d be as a mother since I already was one. I definitely had more confidence the second time around since I knew what to expect.
Birth can be so unpredictable, so I was very curious to see how my second labor and delivery would compare to my first. Like pregnancy, both of my births had some things in common and quite a few differences. First, both of my labors started with my water leaking. I was told this happens only 10% of the time and it did for me twice. I should play the lottery! With both labors I used Bradley Method techniques to manage the pain, relying on my husband primarily for support and coaching. I LOVED water in both births (the shower for my first, bath for my second) and found that it helped my pain relief tremendously. I did not receive an epidural or anything to medically manage the pain in either birth. With both births I had tears (three small 1st degree with my first, one 2nd degree with my second).
The biggest difference between my first and second birth is where they took place. Kevin was born at the hospital (in a bed) and Kyler was born at home (in my bathtub). The second biggest difference was that Kyler’s labor was a lot faster, with less than 6 hours between my water breaking and birth, compared to 30 hours with Kevin. With Kevin, my water broke out of nowhere without many warning signs and with Kyler, my water broke after a couple weeks of random contractions and pelvic pain. With Kevin, I didn’t have a single contraction for about 12 hours after my water broke- and even when I finally did I had to do a lot to bring them on myself. With Kyler, contractions started immediately and were regular and strong. However, even though Kyler’s contractions were strong from the start, they were never as bad and as back-to-back without any break as Kevin’s were. This is because I ended up needing some Pitocin with Kevin’s birth when I stopped progressing, which makes the contractions feel so much harder. I didn’t need anything to help along with Kyler’s labor. My body did it all on it’s own, I think because I was so comfortable at home and with my birth team. It was still difficult, but the REALLY hard part (transition and pushing) only lasted about 20 minutes, compared to a couple hours in Kevin’s birth. Kyler was born in one push and Kevin was born after about 30 minutes of pushing. Whew- that was a lot of info! Did you get all of that? 🙂
I also felt a lot more confident during labor and delivery with baby #2, since I had been through it before and knew what to expect, was in a comfortable environment (my home) and had an extremely supportive birth team (compared to some less than encouraging hospital staff at my first birth). Finally, we decided to keep it to ourselves when we were in labor this time, rather than tell a lot of people. This allowed me to focus on what I needed to do to give birth rather than all of the people that were waiting around for updates.
My recoveries with baby #1 and baby #2 were very different. I think the only real similarity is that with both babies I encapsulated my placenta, which I believe helped with my energy, postpartum bleeding and my milk coming in (on day 2 both times).
In a nutshell, my recovery with my first baby was a lot easier and less painful. With Kevin, I was up and moving, resuming my normal household things within a couple days. I was going on walks with the stroller before I was even a week postpartum. This time around I pretty much felt like I had been hit by a truck for the first week, and stayed in bed most of the time. My contractions after birth while nursing were extremely painful and would make me shaky, nauseous and really hot. I was exhausted. My bleeding was heavy and my boobs were more engorged than they were with Kevin. My body hurt. I couldn’t go to the bathroom. The list went on and on. My midwife said the harder recovery was probably due to having such a fast and furious birth and also the fact that I’m a few years older now. One thing that we did this time that helped with my recovery was limiting visitors to give me time to rest and recover. With Kevin, basically everyone we knew came over in the first couple of days and I felt like I had to play hostess. This time we asked for a few days to ourselves, and then we slowly had just family come to visit. This made the first week a lot easier to handle for sure. Thankfully, after that I started feeling more like myself. It was like I just needed to get past that first week, and then I felt better and better with each day that passed. I actually felt so good that despite having a harder recovery initially, I started running again a week earlier than I did after Kevin (3 weeks postpartum with Kyler, 4 weeks postpartum with Kevin).
Aside from being physically harder at first, I have definitely been a lot better mentally and emotionally this time around than I was after Kevin’s birth. I think this is due to Kyler being an easier baby in general and me being a second time mom and knowing what to expect more. After Kevin was born I definitely had a case of the baby blues for a while. I felt overwhelmed, stressed, and cried almost every day. I don’t feel that way at all this time. I have some hard and tiring days, but overall I feel very happy and blessed.
I find it so interesting how different two experiences can be for the same woman in terms of pregnancy, birth and recovery. I feel blessed to have had two healthy pregnancies and two amazing baby boys as a result. Life is good!