Balancing Love and Guilt with Multiple Children

May 7, 2024

So today I wanna talk about the thing that no one warns you about when you go from 1 child to 2, and that is the guilt. As I sit here and record, I have about 10 weeks left of my second pregnancy, and I can tell you that I have had mom guilt from the moment I saw a positive sign on the pregnancy test.

So that’s basically the last 25 weeks, almost every single day. And, typically, when you see that pregnant or positive sign on your test, you’re filled with all of these happy emotions.

Now let me be clear. Regret is not the same as guilt. Okay? And I have zero regrets. I know God doesn’t make mistakes.

And I’ve also talked about in previous episodes about the pros and cons of having one child versus multiple. And for my husband and me, in case you didn’t know this, we’re both only children ourselves. So we are very grateful that God blessed us with another child.

It’s also a best friend for life for our little girl, which is the main goal of all this. You know, considering he and I never had that growing up. And it’s also another opportunity for us as parents to help bring another child into the world that, God willing, with our, you know, grit and perseverance and, you know, all our values that will make a positive impact on others, which I believe is so, so very important.

And it’s, in fact, it’s biblical to have children. But all of that doesn’t change the emotions that come along with adding another child to the mix.

Emotional Complexity in Expanding the Family

And I believe it’s very important to share my feelings and personal experience because other moms need to know that they’re not alone in this. Because it’s almost as if there is this unspoken vibe around this.

Like, it’s a topic we don’t discuss as moms because if we told anyone that we were feeling this way, you know, quite frankly, like sadness at times, we’d be looked at as if we were some kind of ungrateful deadbeat. Seriously.

And the reality is women are feeling all of these emotions, and they need to be seen.

So I’ve discovered through my conversations with friends and, you know, people in the DMs, on social, and even with random strangers, that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Many women have felt the same exact way, which was quite relieving and also revealing.

And I read a quote a couple months ago that said, even when your pregnancy is physically smooth, everything else can still weigh heavy. And I was like, preach. Yes. Okay.

And the other day, I was having yet another conversation with a friend of mine who is pregnant with her 3rd baby. And she asked, you know, we’ve both battled, you know, preeclampsia before, and she’s going through it right now, watching her blood pressure.

So we’re just, like, checking in on one another. And then she asked me how I was doing, and I told her, physically, I’m fine, But mentally, I’ve been really struggling.

The unspoken societal pressures and emotional challenges faced by mothers

And I’ll be real with you. There aren’t many things that really get to me mentally. I’m a pretty strong individual, but this has been a battle. And we all know what comes with pregnancy physically, right, for the most part.

And I certainly dealt with some major curve balls in my first pregnancy. So this time around, I’ve been overly prepared. I have all the holistic remedies on hand. You know, I already knew who my doula was gonna be.

We have the baby gear, obviously. And to be real, we because we’ve done this before, it’s, like, not our first rodeo. We know what to expect for the most part. I know every child’s different.

But for, you know, what that first week’s like, what the 1st month, 3 months is like, you know, that crazy sleepless night season that you go into when you have a newborn.

Physical and Mental Preparedness for Second Child

But, obviously, it’s gonna be a little different because we have a toddler now too. But the mental side of going from 1 to 2 has been a whole new ball game for me. And I was definitely, in my first pregnancy, focused on, like, oh my gosh.

It’s not just us anymore. Like, this is our last blah blah blah together, you know, without a baby. This is our blah blah blah. But, like, this is different. I can tell you straight up, this feels a lot different because it’s more for me, personally, it’s the love factor.

I always knew that my heart had room for a child to love, right, versus my husband. Because the love is different.

And when you, you know, marry someone and you’re with someone for, gosh, as long as you have been, as me and Nick, you know, that love is built over time, and you have all these experiences together.

Whereas when you have a child, boom, like, the moment you lay eyes on them, it’s just instant love. But, obviously, it’s a different type of love than the person you’re married to. So it was difficult for me the first time, but still, like, I was at peace with it.

This is the same type of love. Right? Mother to a child. But now you are doubling it. And I know people always say your heart expands, but, like, it doesn’t take away from the unknowns and the worries and the reality of your time being less with one particular person.

And this friend that I was talking to, she wanted to let me know that I wasn’t alone.

The concept of unequal time and attention between the firstborn and the second child.

And she, you know, she answered me, and her response going from 1 to 2 was incredibly emotional for me. I had a really hard time with it and felt more sadness than I had anticipated. I wish that was talked about more, to be honest, because I felt really guilty for even feeling that way.

I felt like I was losing time with my first baby, my little guy, and really struggled to know if it was the right decision. Now that she’s here, her second child, her daughter, we obviously wouldn’t have it any other way, but I totally understand how you feel.

I mean, when she said that, like, struggling to know if it was the right decision, I just felt heard and seen and all of the things because I thought I was truly the only person that ever felt that way. And when I experienced that, like, I felt awful. You know, I really really did, and I felt very ungrateful.

And I had to keep, you know, in my prayers, I kept apologizing to God because, obviously, it’s the greatest gift he can give you as being a parent. And I was, you know, it was just like this really heavy, dark space for me. And like I said, I’ve had tons of these conversations.

And another friend of mine who just had her second baby, she told me that it took her and her husband three and a half years to decide whether or not they even wanted to have another child, because it wasn’t an easy decision.

And, I’ve mentioned this previously, but to be real, like, if it didn’t happen when it did for us, I probably wouldn’t have had another child. You know, God’s timing is always best, obviously, but it’s the typical like, you get into habits, right, and routines, etcetera, etcetera.

Family Dynamics and Changes With Multiple Pregnancies

And, like, the further you move away from something, the harder it is to return back to it. So, you know, we’re we’re almost, I’m using air quotes, out of diapers.

Like, we’re potty training, and, you know, we have a lot of success on the potty, but, like, we’re still in diaper mode. Whereas I know for some of my friends who maybe their child is 3 and a half, 4, etcetera, years more, they’re kinda going back. Right? Like, it’s kinda like when you get a new puppy.

So I just know that the longer that we had waited, it probably would have been something that may I don’t wanna say never happened for us, but probably not.

It’s the probability of it would have gone down significantly. And, you know, through this whole pregnancy, I have felt a lot of guilt for not only my firstborn, but the second.

Mom guilt is real: splitting your time with multiple children

So for example, my first will have had at that you know, by the time this baby is born, have had two and a half years of undivided attention, especially from me. Right? Like, whilst my second will have none of that.

We’ll have never had that, quote, unquote, only child experience. Now granted, as an only child, that’s all I’ve ever known, and I really don’t think my daughter’s gonna look back when she’s 25 and be like, oh, man. Like, it was so much better, you know, those first two and a half years.

Obviously, she’s not gonna remember. But it’s more about me. I’ve accepted that. Like, this is more of my worry than it actually affecting the child. But, you know, my first baby had me at home for the 1st 20 months of her life, 24/7.

Whereas my second child is only gonna have me at home, you know, all day every day for the 4 months that I have maternity leave, and then I go back to work. So that’s a different dynamic that a second child’s gonna grow up in.

My first, exclusively breastfed for 2 years. I mean, hardly ever had a bottle except when we were dealing with some colic in the beginning, whereas this second baby is gonna have to have a bottle when I go back to work.

And, obviously, you know, I believe in breast milk being the golden rule. But I also know and this is kinda like a worry in the back of my mind a bit, and I have to, you know, kinda talk myself up a little and get over it. But I hated and when I say hated, I abhorred pumping with my first. Hated it.

It gave me just bad vibes, and I’m very nervous about that with my second because I’m gonna have to do it. And, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know.

So I feel like those who might have not had the experience of exclusively breastfeeding and then have to, like, kinda go flip mode and go into this route. Like, ignorance is bliss. Right?

Those who have basically been pumping from the beginning, they don’t know what it’s like to just exclusively breastfeed and the ease of it and all of that. And so, you know, like I said, I’m really kinda struggling with that too, and…

I’m almost you know, I don’t wanna say mad, but I’m frustrated that this second baby has to go through that. And I’m frustrated that I have to as well. Right? But on the flip side of that, you know, in my first born.

So like I said, I’m worried about both. I’m worried about what my first born’s gonna do, and then my second like, my first born now has to share my 24 hours in a day with someone else who, at first, obviously, is gonna be a complete and utter stranger to her.

Whereas my second isn’t gonna know any different, isn’t gonna know what it’s like. But, like, let’s not forget to mention the whole process of pregnancy has been totally different for me the second time around versus the first time, like, the physical side of it, right, as well.

So, you know, the first time you’re so excited for the changes, like, even though sometimes you’re like, oh, seriously? Like, how do people love this? I’m not one of those women. Oh my gosh. I love to be pregnant.

No. Thank you. But, like, I’ve had severe morning sickness both times. But this time around, it’s so much different. The first time, it was just me at home dealing with it, you know, Nick helping me out, yada yada yada.

And while I know how to handle the sickness holistically better this time, I know what works. I know what doesn’t work, etcetera. I had a very emotional side to it besides the physicality of not feeling good, because when I would get sick this time around, my toddler, she had to witness it.

And she’s very in tune with me. She really is a mini version of me. I don’t know if that’s just genetics, if it’s a nurture and nature kinda thing. And that’s why I guess sometimes I worry, like, my gosh. Is the second child gonna be so different because of the timepiece?

Like, my first child has spent so much time with me that you would swear she was a mini Maren. No joke. But when I would get sick, she would come up to me and she would put her hands I’ll never forget. She put her hands on my face, and she was so worried.

And she would say, mommy, you okay? So that made me feel awful, right, that, like, she has to see me in that light, and it was brutal. And in my first pregnancy, as I’ve mentioned before, I developed a life threatening hellp syndrome with her. So that is, like, the worst form of preeclampsia.

Challenges of Second Pregnancy:

“the whole process of pregnancy has been totally different for me the second time around versus the first time, like, the physical side of it, right, as well.”

And this time around, although I’m being monitored very carefully and I’ve made changes to my prenatal supplements to support my blood and liver better, I’m still considered high risk.

And I’m super grateful for my team of care, but there’s also, not gonna lie, like, a piece of me that is nervous because now I know what I know. Right? Like last time, ignorance is bliss. Didn’t know what I didn’t know.

The Emotional Journey of Motherhood: From First Time to Second Time Around

Motherhood is an incredible journey filled with a multitude of emotions. Each child brings a new and different set of experiences that evolves alongside the growth of our families. From the anticipation of a first child to the different energy that surrounds the arrival of a second, the journey is both exciting and anxiety-inducing, reflecting the profound change in our lives.

The Joy and Anticipation of the First Child

With my first child, everything was new and exciting. I eagerly looked forward to my meetings with my midwife, picked out adorable tiny clothes, and spent hours daydreaming about the future. The anticipation was palpable, and I savored every moment of it. It was a time of cheerfulness, hope, and endless positive affirmations.

The Different Energy of the Second Child

However, the arrival of my second child brought about a different kind of energy. I won’t deny it – the excitement wasn’t the same. This is not to say that I was any less thrilled, but the dynamics had changed. I was now a mother of a toddler, juggling my time and energy between my firstborn and the baby on the way. The anxiety about the forthcoming transition was very real.

The Realities of Motherhood

The reality of having a little one who loves me and is dependent on me took on a different meaning with the second child. Thoughts that never crossed my mind during my first pregnancy suddenly became very real. What if something happens to me? How will it affect my children? These questions started to linger in my mind, adding a layer of concern to the anticipation.

The Finality of the Decision

So, when people ask me if I’m considering a third child, or if this is my last baby, I respond with a firm, “I’m done.” The decision isn’t born out of exhaustion or frustration, but out of a deep understanding of my limits and the desire to give my best to my existing family.

Motherhood is a journey of continuous learning and growth. Each child brings a unique set of experiences that shape us as individuals and as parents. As we navigate this ever-evolving path, it’s essential to embrace the joys, acknowledge the anxieties, and most importantly, be gentle with ourselves.

Adjustments in daily life with a toddler while being pregnant with a second child

You know, it used to be just me and my husband sitting on the couch waiting for those little kicks, you know, while you’re way you know, waiting for your stupid ads on your Hulu or whatever to go through, you know, while you’re waiting for Yellowstone to come back on TV.

But now we have a toddler who’s in between us playing with puzzles. Right? And the attention on her because you never are going to have those moments again where it’s just the 3 of you. So that’s your priority.

Not the one who isn’t here yet. Like, I can feel the baby, and I make sure that, you know, I’m rubbing my belly, letting the baby know that I care, but, like, it’s just it’s just different. I can’t explain it.

And I have to say, though, all things aside, one of the things I am super grateful for is that prior to being pregnant, I convinced my husband to get a king-size bed over a queen-size bed because now, plus, I have the room to snuggle both babies in there.

So that is a blessing in disguise that I was adamant about. King-size bed versus queen, but I digress. And, additionally, there have been several appointments that my husband hasn’t been able to go to when it comes to my midwife because their schedules are just so different. Whereas in my first pregnancy, I think he maybe only missed 2.

I mean, he hardly ever missed any of them. And bump pics? Forget it. Like, this time, I think I’ve taken 2. And don’t even get me started about the anxiety surrounding birth, childcare, and the possibility of leaving your baby for the first time if you have to end up delivering in the hospital like I did last time.

That wasn’t part of my plan. It just was what it was. Like, it was an emergency. Right now, you should see my calendar, my husband’s calendar, and then my parents’, like, all of ours.

It’s all, you know, mapped out. Because when I say that they’re the only ones I trust to leave my daughter and, obviously, naturally, my second child with, like, those 3 people, my husband and my parents. It’s just a fact. So that adds a whole another layer to everything.

Matching the schedules, making sure that, you know, everything aligns. It’s literally like everything has been a blur. When I tell people, when this episode comes out, I’ll be 30 weeks. So when I tell people that, they’re like, what? Like, they can’t even believe it.

And I know for me and many of the moms I’ve spoken to, pregnancy, the second time around, is more stressful and less fun. K? Namely due to the fact that you and your spouse can’t be present, right, for all of the moments like you were the first time, whether it’s just your schedules, you have another little running around the house that you wanna give your undivided attention to.

Embracing the Differences and Challenges of a Second Child: Health and Well-being Insights

Like, it’s just different. Now I should probably stop before I convince you to never have a second child. Okay? Or more. I need to let you know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. And there have been certain things that really are a blessing that I went so hard on the first time that I don’t need to this time. Right? So for example, like, with my health.

To try and circumvent my health issues, we have had extra monitoring done. Gosh. I feel like I’m basically a regular at Quest when it comes to my blood work. I am there a lot making sure that my levels are good. And so we know what to look for rather than being surprised like we were the first time around.

I’m not spending hours and hours and hours, and I mean hours, researching the way I did with my firstborn. Vaccines? Nope. Who’s gonna be the pediatrician for this baby? Already done.

Boom. Same. You know? Co sleeping? 100%. Yep. Okay. And although I believe in preferences, not plans, I do have plans for a home birth so I don’t have to be separated from my daughter.

Your firstborn can be involved in your pregnancy and that is a blessing

Not only that, but while my husband can’t be at every appointment, I’ve been sure to make it a priority that my daughter feels involved. I mean, she’s only 2, but, like, she’s 2 going on 20.

And I wanna make sure that she has, throughout this process, gotten to know my birthing team. So she came to our appointment with my doula, who was there when she was born.

Because she was my doula last time. She’s gonna be around for the 2nd baby. She came to that, spent, gosh, hour and a half with her. She’ll see her again. My midwife, all of our appointments, she comes to my house for all those prenatal visits. And so seeing my toddler engage with her and, you know, helping her with taking my temperature.

Last time, she was helping put the, like, the jelly on the doppler. Right? And trying to find the… I use that term loosely. Trying to find the baby’s heartbeat. But she’s involved. And it’s been so special to see and take video and pictures because she is excited. You know?

She rubs my belly. She asks to say hi to the baby, and she sure as heck doesn’t hesitate to tell anyone and everyone that she, “too big to be a baby, I big sister”. That’s a direct quote.

My birth photographer has been with our family since my daughter was born, and we see her every year for our annual, you know, family photos. So that’s another person that I feel very comfortable around is that familiarity between me, obviously, Nick, and my daughter, which is so important to me.

Because as I mentioned, my daughter is very in tune with me and how I’m feeling. Like, this kid knows when I’m really, really ticked and disappointed. She knows when I’m sad. She knows when I’m being silly. Like, it’s wild.

And for me, it was very important for her to know my birthing team and understand that mommy’s gonna have the support there for her.

Free Healthy Pregnancy Guide

✔ Must Read Book List
✔ Anti D & Vaccines Explained
✔ Must Have Supplements, Lotions & Vitamins
✔ What to Bring to the Hospital List
✔ Know Your Birthing Preferences Checklist
✔ My Favorite Apps

Maren posing with hand on her pregnant belly

And, also, when it comes to my parents, having their love and help as well leading up to, during, and post birth. You know, I don’t have a very big village, but I’m very appreciative of the small one that I have because they’re fantastic.

And do you remember my one friend who I was talking about earlier who was feeling the same mom guilt as me? Well, she went on to tell me, once you see them, you know, your firstborn and your second together, your heart will literally explode.

And that is the thing that keeps me motivated. My pastor said today in church, anything worth anything is going to cost you something. So in this instance, maybe it’s cost me a few sleepless nights and probably too much needless worry, but, ultimately, all of it will be worth it.

And I know that in my gut, in my heart, in my soul, and I encourage you to feel the same way. Know that you’re not alone in your thoughts and feelings, but also know there’s a reason why so many people do this.

And it’s because of the love that’s attached to it and how great your life is gonna be.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode as always, and you can definitely reach out to me on Instagram or email (maren@marencrowley.com) to continue our conversation.

If you wanna get more of this type of content, make sure you follow me on Instagram at @macrowley. And if you love this episode, let me know by tagging me on IG or even leaving a podcast review. See you next week.

If you wanna get more of this type of content, make sure you follow me on Instagram at @macrowley. And if you love this episode, let me know by tagging me on IG or even leaving a podcast review. See you next week.

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