Becoming a Dad for the Second Time

Becoming a Dad for the Second Time

With his first child, a good friend of mine used to prepare for a one-hourtrip with her to the park as if it were a weeklong hike through a rainforest. He carried a knapsack filled with extra diapers, creams, wipes, ablanket, a bottle, a backup bonnet, a few rattles, and countless otheraccoutrements. By the time his son arrived a few years later, he'd justshove a spare diaper into his back pocket, grab a few extra wipes, and headout the door with the boy in his arms.

"Now I know I can handle it," he told me. "It's no big deal."

Navigating Fatherhood Again

It was the same with his wife's second pregnancy. Other fathers I've spokenwith agree. The first time, it feels like a voyage into the unknown forboth of you. Every mood change, every twinge, every shift in body shape ismagnified because it is so new. The second time around you both have a map,which gives you a better sense of when something's off course.

Common wisdom has it that fathers are less emotionally involved in a secondpregnancy than in a first. It's more likely, however, that our involvementis different because we're paying attention to different things. Our framesof reference have shifted. As with my friend's trips to the park, themechanics are no longer a big deal. We know that the morning sickness willpass, and that we will probably gain a few "sympathy" pounds during thosenine months, too. We stock up ahead of time on those foods most likely tobe craved in the middle of the night.

The second time around, our attention is divided. We can no longer justfocus on ourselves and on our partner; we have to pay attention to ourother child, too. What does he or she think about this? How will we, as afamily, handle all the changes?

Coping With New Concerns

Other new thoughts enter our minds, cropping up when we least expect them.Were we simply lucky that our first baby is healthy? Will we feel the sameway about our second child as we do about our first? How will we pay forcollege? Is our home big enough? How secure are our jobs? What if somethinggoes terribly wrong?

It's important to talk about these concerns. Bringing them into the openhelps put them into perspective. One excellent way to do this is to sign upfor another prenatal class. Yes, you've been through it before; you canprobably remember the panting and breathing exercises, the plastic modelsand the backrubs. But this time you'll enter the class as an experiencedtraveler. Other students will seek your wisdom. You'll be able to hear someof the things you missed the first time around.

And you'll learn what's different this time, and what you can do to help.

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