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Charly, 29, Melbourne
"My experience of birth the second time round was way more positive than the first, which was quite traumatic. The second time, I went through a private hospital rather than public. I was induced like the first time, but unlike my first birth I was offered an epidural right away. I went into it with zero expectations other than getting my little boy out safely. After such a traumatic first birth, I was mentally prepared for things to go pear shaped. Thankfully, they didn't!
Overall, it was super calm. The only issue I encountered was that during the induction and labour, my baby's was head down, but he kept turning sideways. So, we had to use a lot of hip and back massaging techniques to gently coax him into the correct position.
The main high after having a new baby has been figuring out his latch while feeding. Initially this was a struggle, but now I am successfully breastfeeding. In terms of lows, COVID-19 and the lockdown in Melbourne have meant that most of my family haven't met my second son yet. I've also struggled with loneliness and haven't had much face-to-face contact with anyone outside of my household in the 6 weeks since I gave birth.
Our family dynamic hasn't changed that much since welcoming our second son. My husband works in the afternoons, so we are still taking things like feeds and changes in turns and putting our three-year-old to bed on rotation. The only real change is that I'm home a lot more than I'm used to because I am currently on maternity leave and we're in lockdown.
Having a new baby has thrown some challenges our way. Going from one to two little ones means that you're juggling more, and me and my husband have become a little snappy with each other because of the added pressure, but that was expected! We're still getting used to being parents of two boys. Afterall, it's only been six weeks! My advice for new parents is that the saying 'sleep when the baby sleeps' is impossible, just sleep and eat when you can. Remember to be kind and take it easy on each other.
As this is my second baby, I kind of thought things during the first few weeks would be the same as they were the first-time round. My eldest son didn't really cry until he was around six weeks old, whereas the new baby cries way more! He also has a few sensitivities which mean that I've had to change my diet to keep him safe while I am breastfeeding.
Since having my second baby, I feel quite good about my body. I didn't gain much weight this time round and have pretty much 'snapped-back' to my pre-baby body in the past 6 weeks since birth, which has really surprised me! I expected lots of stretch marks, but they didn't come. Perhaps because I've been pregnant before, my body must have already known what to do. My tummy and boobs have gotten bigger, which I am totally ok with. I'm proud that my body has been home to my two babies!
Given that it's only been six weeks since I had my second baby, I think its's still too early to think about my confidence and self-esteem because I am still in a busy newborn bubble that doesn't allow me time to really think about myself. Plus, lockdown means that I'm not getting ready to leave the house, so I haven't really thought about trying to get dressed up or impress anyone. My eldest son has told me that he prefers me without makeup, so that came as a nice little self esteem boost!
In terms of mental health, luckily, I haven't had baby blues or postpartum depression, it's more the feelings of loneliness and sadness that come with everything that's happening because of COVID. I haven't been able to show off my beautiful new baby to my friends and family like I would have liked too. My maternal health nurse has been tracking my mental health with me using questionnaires, but being in lockdown I think my feelings are pretty similar to what everyone is going though. It's great to know that there is help available if I ever do need it and would advise any new parent to ask for help if they feel like they're struggling.
My relationships with my family and friends have changed a little since my second son arrived, mainly because of COVID-19. Now, most of my communication with my friends is over messages because they - like me - are busy parents trying to juggle a lot at once! I do video call my family so that they can see and interact with the boys, but we are not constantly talking to each other.
When I had my first son and COVID-19 wasn't in the picture, I noticed that I took a step back from my friends that didn't have kids themselves. But I have gained a lot of new friends who do have little ones!
My relationship with my husband has changed, not necessarily for the worse or the better, it's just different. He's home most of the day, and at night he's at work. When we are together, we each have a kid to look after, so we don't really get much quality time together right now. But I know that things will change over time as the boys grow up!
We used IVF for both of pregnancies. After receiving the treatment and finding out that we had quite severe fertility issues I was diagnosed with subconscious IVF trauma, which means that I've had no sex drive or desire for intimacy at all since having my first son three and a half years ago. Basically, something has switched off in my brain that makes me think there's no point in having sex because I can't conceive naturally.
I have seen a sex therapist and tried hypnotherapy to get my brain to realise that getting pregnant is not the only reason to have sex. It's something that I am still struggling with and working on. We don't really talk about the IVF trauma or sex much as a couple. My husband understands, and I'm sure we'll get through it together."
Photography by Melina Nicholas - @melina.takes.photos
If this content reminds you of your own experiences or makes you think of someone you know and you feel concerned or uncomfortable, please head to our support page for information about perinatal mental health resources that may be able to help.