10/30/2015 03:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Biggest (and Best) Difference Between Baby #1 and Baby #2

I started writing this article in my hospital bed -- tired, hungry, sore and with a massive headache -- as I watched my newborn girl sleeping in her bassinet.

Despite the exhaustion and pain, this time felt very different from the first. I was happy... relaxed... and less scared. I'd even found the time to do something other than sleep.

I started to think about all the things I had read and heard about having a second child... the things that worried me:

  • Work increases exponentially
  • No longer 'cute couple plus baby,' but 'clan'
  • Strained relationship
  • Less romance
  • More expenses
  • No time
  • More organization required
  • Less novelty and no baby-moon phase

And so on...

So I wondered to myself "why?"

"Why does it feel much better this time around?"

Yes, I've done it before.

Yes, labor and delivery was easier.

Yes, I know what I'm doing (somewhat at least).

But this time I'm doing and spending more time on my own as my husband is taking care of our toddler.

This time I know that I will have double the work and less time for myself.

This time I am not caught up in the newborn euphoria because I know the hard realities of parenthood.

So why did I feel so much more hopeful and relaxed?

Before I had a chance to finish my train of thought, the door opened and my older daughter ran in -- eyes bright, big smile -- jumped on the bed and gave me a giant hug. Babyyyy!! She said. Then "Sister!!!" a new word she'd apparently picked up at nursery.

And that's when it hit me.

It's so different and much better second time around because this time I know it's worth it.

The effort... the stress... the difficulties...

It's all worth it


When my newborn wakes me up every two hours at night, I think of my 2-year-old running to me with arms wide open, and I know every sleepless night will be worth it.

When I am sore and tired, I just have to listen to my toddler make up sentences or laugh hysterically and I know I can tolerate the physical exhaustion of parenting.

When I am overwhelmed with the number of things I have to do, I watch my older girl kissing her baby sister, and I know that even among all the "to-do's," I have so many precious moments to look forward to.

When I worry about parenting, life, and a million other little things, I see how in-love my oldest is with her little sister and I know that for the rest of their lives they will both know an amazing sense of love, safety and connection -- and that calms me down.

So while I'm not under the illusion that every day (let alone every minute) with my two daughters will be easy or blissful, I know now that the highs of parenting more than make up for its lows.

And that must be why even when the research says kids make you less happy overall, parents go on to have more children.

It's not because we see parenting through a "rosy glass" or are "deluded" into thinking that it's easy and a recipe for happiness. It's because we see clearly that parenting is hard, but that there are moments of joy -- enough of them -- to make it worth it.