Updated: Apr 15, 2019
1) I became more confident.
I distinctly remember thinking to myself after we brought our first-born home, "How am I going to leave the house with him on my own?" It seemed unfathomable at the time. But I figured it out as well as many other things along the way that new moms have to contend with (diaper blowouts, traffic meltdowns, and the like).
I look back at that memory and appreciate the confidence it gave me to know I could handle any seemingly impossible task in the future. I held onto it while pregnant with my second and pondering how I'd manage with two children. When my second child arrived, I knew I'd be able to manage and everything would be okay. Just as it was with my first.
The second time around, things came more easily. I knew it wasn't my first rodeo so to speak, and I was more confident overall-holding a newborn, anticipating his needs, what to expect at different stages/months, etc.
2) I learned to exist in two worlds simultaneously.
My oldest was nearly 3 1/2 years old when his younger brother was born. Their age difference has made it so that I've learned to exist in the world of toddlers and infants at the same time. While practicing tummy time with my youngest, his brother would request that I play dinosaurs with him. As I was nursing, I was also helping my oldest practice writing letters or counting. I'd try to incorporate the two worlds when possible-singing songs or nursery rhymes that both would enjoy. But a lot of times, I had to learn how to exist in these two separate worlds; trying to give equal attention to both children. Now that my youngest is 7 months, he's become more interactive with his brother and it has been wonderful to witness.
3) I saw my oldest in a whole new light.
My second son was born in the Fall. Prior to his arrival, I spent the summer with his older brother going to parks, libraries, out to lunch dates, playing in our yard, etc. I wanted to soak in as much one-on-one time with him as possible, and still very much saw him as my little baby (part of me always will). When he became a big brother, it hit me how mature and grown-up he was (as mature and grown-up as a 3 year old can be). He stepped into this new role and he's done such an amazing job of being an older sibling. He will joyfully proclaim on a daily basis, "I'm the big brother! I can protect my baby and rescue him! I know how to do things and teach my little baby!" There's really no other way to describe it except pure pride on both our sides.
4) I wasn't as hard on myself.
My oldest was a difficult baby. You know how people like to ask, "Is he/she a good baby?" Well, with my first, I couldn't say yes in the traditional sense. Of course he was a GOOD baby. All babies are good babies. But that's not what people were alluding to. They wanted to know if he slept well, was he fussy, was he a good nurser...My answers would have been NO, YES, and NO. So, add those answers up and he didn't equal a good baby.
He didn't take to breastfeeding and refused to sleep without being held for any length of time for the first 4 months of his life. I beat myself up about his disdain for nursing and the fact that I had to supplement with *gasp* formula. I eventually stopped nursing all together around 4 months and I cried over the guilt I felt. I tried to rationalize it to myself and say things like, "Well, he did get some breastmilk for a few months and the colostrum as a newborn, which is the really important stuff, so he'll be okay." I eventually got over the guilt when I realized how healthy my son was growing up to be, and how it really didn't matter in the long run. I love this meme that says something to the effect of, "It doesn't matter if you fed your baby breastmilk or formula, they'll all be eating fries off carseats when they're 5".
With my second, I went into the hospital with the mindset that it didn't matter if I formula fed or breastfed. I'd like to try breastfeeding again, but if it didn't work out, I wasn't going to work myself up into a guilt-stricken mess like I had before. But guess what happened? My second was a natural when it came to nursing. In the recovery room after my c-section, the nurse handed him to me, and he just went for it! I was amazed. During our hospital stay another nurse stated he was the best nurser on the hospital floor. 7 months later, and we're still going strong. After what I experienced with my first, I never thought I'd be nursing for this long. Although, now I know, if he was switched to formula he would be just fine.
I've learned that a lot of what can make motherhood very difficult (how a baby sleeps, eats, and acts), really has little to do with you, and so much to do with the temperament and individuality of your baby. I now realize I shouldn't have been so hard on myself. My two sons have been so different and it's not because of anything I did or didn't do. It's because of who they are-two beautiful unique little babes.
5) My heart expanded to love another baby as much as my first.
I've heard that other moms worry about how they could possibly love another baby as much as they love their first. I have to admit, I was one of those moms. I'm here to say that it happens so seamlessly and magically. Your heart expands and makes room for this new little love you have the privilege of calling yours.