Seconds

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secondsI remember when my oldest daughter was born. Like many (all?) expectant mothers, I was a bit of a Nervous Nelly. I slept on top of an old beach towel from about my sixth month of pregnancy just in case my water broke. I stashed bottles of hand sanitizer all over my house, in every handbag and in my car. I painstakingly planned every moment of my labor and delivery so that everything would be just right (go ahead and laugh, I learned the hard way about  “planning” for childbirth).

Once baby arrived, I wrapped her in one of the blankets I brought with me for a few hours. I then had my husband Chris take it home so the cats could lie on it and familiarize themselves with baby’s smell in the hopes that they wouldn’t attack her when she arrived on their turf (you know how cats can be). When it was time to leave the safety and 24-hour care of the hospital, I rode in the back-seat with the baby and demanded that my husband drive 45 miles per hour in the right lane (if you’ve ever driven with my husband, you know this was no small request).

During those first few months as a new mother, my mantra became, “Just let her hold up her own head.” Every time I picked her up or tried to dress her, my heart stopped in anticipation of me moving her the wrong way and severing her spinal cord. I thought that when she had a little more control I’d relax a little. The pediatrician assured me that babies are actually pretty durable, but God, it was stressful waiting for that point.

And while I spent lots of time loving my new baby, when I look back now, I realize that my main focus was protecting her. And because I was so focused on preventing some terrible accident from befalling her, I had very little energy left to simply enjoy her.

We’ve all heard that parents relax a little with subsequent children. I used to laugh at that commercial where with the first baby the mom only interviews folks with doctorates as childminders, but with the second child she’ll leave baby with just about anyone, even a many-pierced teen-aged punk-rocker. And while there’s a lot of truth about shaking out the extraneous stuff that you realize you might not really need after the first baby—wipe-warmers, anyone? top of the line linens? an $800 stroller? Having some experience as a parent really does allow you to relax a little into that role.

If experience is the best teacher, it’s also the best confidence-builder. With my second baby, I’m actually having fun. I’m enjoying having a baby in the house. My confidence as a parent has allowed me to not panic when she feels a little warm because I know she’s teething. I can tell when she has gas and therefore don’t break into a cold sweat when she’s crying for ten minutes about seemingly nothing. I can have fun with her because this time together is fun rather than terrifying.

Of course, I haven’t thrown out our monitors and I’m still pretty diligent about hand-washing. I’m desperately trying to keep up my milk-supply so she can better fight cold and flu season, and our awesome pediatrician is still on speed-dial. But I’m not rushing to her crib four times a night to check her breathing. While I’m still an avid-label reader, I don’t think she should only eat organic, homemade baby-food. I now know that she’ll sleep when she’s tired and she’ll eat when she’s hungry.

Of course, terrible things happen all the time, but I can rest easy knowing that those things that used to keep me on edge are the exception and not the norm. And when we play and she’s cracking up at some silly face I’m making, I can really take in her laughter because I’m not wondering what danger is lurking nearby. I got this. And so do you!

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