I’ve spoken a little before about the differences between my two pregnancies, they really couldn’t have been more different, but my second pregnancy was quite a confusing time generally. I got pregnant incredibly easily and was as shocked to get the positive test as I was overjoyed. I did feel a little nauseous in the early weeks, but it was manageable, nothing that sent me to my bed wishing for death, or running to the bathroom every five minutes. Already this was a vast improvement from first time around! I struggled a little with my first trimester night shifts, but overall I felt pretty healthy. By the second trimester I was practically blooming. I got a bit of SPD which made my sacroiliac joint very weak and painful if I stayed still too long, but apart from that it was a wonderfully easy pregnancy. My little Pasty baby was less a footballer, and more like a little acrobat, squirming away all night and day, doing little somersaults in there, and I’d smile to myself imaging him spinning and twirling away.
However, despite all of this, I will always remember my second pregnancy as a very difficult time. Having felt like we were getting to a really good phase with my daughter, almost as soon as we knew I was pregnant, things deteriorated dramatically. She had been speaking in full sentences by her second birthday, but it felt that each day she started speaking less and less. She stopped making her own sentences at all and started to only repeat what was said to her. She never, ever spoke directly to us, and never called me Mummy. It wasn’t just the speech itself, but all her communication, she stopped looking at us or really interacting with us at all. She stopped having eye contact with us. Her play became more and more bizarre, repetitive sorting and organising of objects, insisting on us repeatedly playing out the same actions and speech for weeks on end. It got harder and harder to get her out of the house, to get her to leave her repetitive games behind. We thought that we were going to get through the terrible twos easily, but during the pregnancy she suddenly started tantrumming, getting more frequent, longer, more volatile by the day. It got to the point where it felt like all day, every day was one long tantrum. We bought a black-out tent to have as a calm down area for her, and it got lots of use. I think there was definitely an issue with over-simulation, we turned off the radio, tv, phones, cancelled all our plans and just stayed home very quietly, and that did seem to help things a little. After I night weaned, sleep became practically non-existent, for any of us, which definitely didn’t help!
Her pre-school carers started raising the possibility of autism. It almost felt like a relief that somebody acknowledged that this was harder than normal, that we weren’t just making a fuss about nothing, that we weren’t just bad parents. I wasn’t worried about a diagnosis but it just felt nice to have somebody else say it must be hard. She was always so quiet and meek around other people that everybody assumed she was the perfect child, and it seemed that anytime I mentioned it was hard, people would talk about the over-energetic hyper children who everybody could understand were hard work. That just made me feel I was complaining about nothing.
I do feel sad that I spent my pregnancy feeling so well, and yet spending all my time regretting ever getting pregnant because the thought of looking after another baby on top of struggling with my daughter, frankly filled me with terror. It felt entirely unmanageable.
We find that with everything with our daughter, preparation is key to things going well. We tried so hard to prepare her for the birth of her brother, talking it through with her, reading books about it, but the whole time she absolutely refused to acknowledge the forthcoming baby in any way.
The amazing end to this story is that my daughter was there for the birth of her little brother, meeting him at just four minutes old, and took it totally in her stride. She seemed to fall in love with him from the first day, and has been the gentlest, loving big sister you could ask for. As soon as he was born everything got easier, she started interacting more, talking more, and the first time she called me Mummy I burst into tears. The tantrums eased considerably, and life as a foursome has been so much better than I could have imagined. If you’ve read any of my other posts you probably realise she is still a very intense little girl, and she still challenges me on a regular basis. We also find that when tired, ill, stressed, her more reclusive, repetitive behaviours become more prominent again. I am convinced that she got herself so worked up about the unknown threat of this new baby that she really struggled. It really felt like she met him, thought ‘he’s not so bad after all, kinda cute really.’ And all that stress went. For all of us!