[Episode 11] Baby #2

Welcoming baby #2 into the family is a significant milestone. What changes should I expect for myself, my partner, and my older child? How can we navigate this transition effectively and make the most of it?

In Episode #11 of "Moms Talks with a French Accent", founders Fanny and Cecile of La Petite Creme, joined by New York Pediatrician and Holistic Coach Dr. Varisa Perlman, reflect on their own experiences and offer candid insights and wisdom gained from their journey.

(full text transcript below the video)


Moms Talk with Dr Varisa Perlman [episode #11]: Baby #2

Cecile: Hi, everyone. Cecile here from La Petite Creme. Welcome, welcome to Episode number 11 of our Moms Talk with a French Accent. So, today we are going to be doing a three-person [inaudible] and then I'm also going to add Fanny to this call. Hello, hello.

Fanny: Hi.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Hi.

Cecile: Hi, everyone. Hello, ladies. Welcome.

Fanny: How are you?

Cecile: Good.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Where is everybody?

Cecile: We are in spring break here in Florida, so we happen to both be home and attending to our mommy duties, so each home with kids. So as you can see, I was brave enough to put a door behind me. So who knows who's going to come through that door? We'll see.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] It could be like a mystery cameo, a guest star.

Cecile: [laughs] Welcome to Episode number 11. So I'm Cecile, I'm co-founder of La Petite Creme, and Fanny is here too.

Fanny: Yes. I'm Fanny, co-founder also of La Petite Creme, at home also on kids duties. Hope it's gonna last for an hour, not sure but we'll see.

Cecile: And then Varisa.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. Hi everyone. I'm Dr. Perlman. I'm a pediatrician and working as a holistic health coach now in New York, but formerly of Miami. So excited to see you guys always.

Cecile: Yeah, and we've got a few people join in. Hi, Monica. Hi, Emilienne. Hi, everyone. So today's topic is Baby #2. Maybe we can extend that to more. But I feel like maybe #2 is kind of a threshold that we get into. Hi, Monica. You can write down your comments if you're here because you're expecting baby #2 or you just had baby #2 or you have something around the topic of a second pregnancy, birth, and raising a second child.

Everybody here in the host seat has two kids. So we all know, we have a little bit of a glimpse into the expectation of a second child, the reality of a second child, and the turmoil of having those two fit in a way. What you expect, what you get. So the topic of today is really to open the floor for what it's like, what's the different contradicting views and feelings you may have about it and maybe explore that with you and share what we've been through very personally and very honestly and share about your experience and maybe bring a little bit of thoughts to everybody's heads.

As you write down maybe why you're here, what you're expecting from this talk, maybe we can go around the table and share maybe one thing that we expected when we were expecting baby #2, one thing that we thought we knew or we had anticipated or that we had in the back.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. So I'll start. Just because you're a pediatrician doesn't mean that you know everything or can even try to know everything by any means. I always joke that I did my residency, and my kids were my [inaudible], where I really learned how to be a parent or even how to be a doctor was through actually experiencing it. And I think that the thing was very humbling between one and two.

And from people that I speak to parents, I do talk about this topic a lot just because I do think it's an important—that's why I think it is a very important topic and it'll become clear as we talk why it is important. But a lot of times, people will say the transition from one to two is pretty much the hardest. You kind of get broken in, right? Once you go past two, it kind of gets blurry. [laughs] It gets a little blurry. But the one to two transition, I think, is one that could be an incredible learning point and a moment to pause [inaudible]

I've always been a fan of experiences that are very difficult to be moments of learning and moments of reflection. So I'm glad that we're bringing everybody to this moment, whether you have no kids, one kid, I think it's something to reflect on.

I thought going into baby #2 that I would know what I was doing. [laughs] I don't know. I just kept saying like, "Okay, well, with the first one, what did we do? With the first one—" I just kept doing that. And every time, every moment I would do that, my life would drift into chaos, like literally, it would just in fact get worse because I would try to apply what I had done the first time that would invariably fail completely, whether it be the pregnancy, even from the pregnancy, but all throughout the entire course, I kept on having to get like, boom, kind of hit and said, "Hey, pretend like this is your first baby."

And the more that I was able to say, "You know what, this isn't fair. #2 deserves to have their own time in the light, their own journey." The more that I did that, I don't know, everything would just fall into place. I was listening better. But whenever I tried to force on a certain expectation with baby #2, I hit a wall every time. So I think that was very humbling for me.

Cecile: How about you Fanny? What was your—

Fanny: So expectation was the same as Varisa mentioned. I thought I knew. But yeah, as we already said in the past episode, we cannot just copy-paste what we know from the first to the second. And I think I presume I would do that. And no, that's another child, different person, different baby. And I have a girl and a boy, so it's also very different. So yeah, but I expected to know a little bit better.

So something, some little area, you are confident, like changing a diaper, like giving a bath, all of the logistic point that I think you manage it, but all of the things that related basically to your baby, and as you said, the timeline, the habit, and the feeding, everything is a complete zero. You have to begin at zero like it's a new child. Do not presume that you would copy and paste. So yeah, that was my thing. [laughs]

Cecile: I think it's pretty general. I think everybody had that expectation that what we know is actually a bonus for getting into a second baby, right? I thought I would be more efficient. I thought I would be—just I would streamline that process. The thing I know, even just changing a diaper—I know how to do that. But I'm going to be so much faster the second time around. And sure enough, the second baby came, and I was like, "How do I do that?"

Because if you get faster at the stage that your older child is at and you're like, "Oh, yeah, I'm good at changing a diaper with them moving around. But then you have a newborn again and you forgot. My kids are two years apart. So I thought I'm still into the baby stage. I didn't remember what a flimsy newborn was like. So I was trying to apply two years ahead type of skills to a newborn again. And that's also took me back to, "Wait a minute." [laughs] I don't necessarily get it faster, plus I have another one yapping next to me. So that's taking away my focus, [laughs] which I didn't have the first time around.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah, we talk a lot about the babies themselves, but actually, the other point that you yourself are very different the second time around. You know, if you go to the first pregnancy and you're like, "Well, this is how long it took for me to recover," this and this, this is how long for me to get back, to lose the weight. You have this whole expectation in your head.

And what ends up happening because of that yapping other thing [laughs] that also needs your help, also needs you to be there, also needs to go put to bed, now, you're like, "But when am I supposed to lose the weight? When am I supposed to feel back to myself?" And then you get frustrated. I think that to me, the hook, the part that would always—I feel like when you talk about efficiency, the number one thing that I think makes all of us less efficient is being frustrated [laughs] and being angry and being a little bit like, "But why? This is the second time around. Everything's supposed to move smoother."

The babies are different. No. So the sooner that you can let go of that expectation, let go of that frustration, I think it does go smoother because it's not holding you back, right? You're not going to come questioning yourself all the time. You're just like, "Whatever, go with the flow, chaos, let's go with it, come on, come on, come on, come on," and you don't get like, "But why is it like—when we first did—" you're not pausing. You notice with kids, they don't let you pause. Let me just sit down for a second. They're like, "No, get up," like, "You have to get up and go with us," you know? You don't really have time to be like, "I feel so sad." There isn't that time.

So the sooner you can let go, you don't feel sad, you're like, "Whatever, I know this is gonna be crazy. We're gonna keep going with it," you're just much more agile to be able to go with their rhythms. And I think you go into place a lot faster.

Cecile: Yeah. So we established that you have to scrape that whole expectation of copy-pasting, reusing. Whatever you already know stays on the side and you're moving on. Now, there is also a component of, as you said, you're not the same, you aged, no matter how many years, you didn't sleep too much over the past few years. So it's also taking on your ability to concentrate on what's there, right? So even on the new thing that were not here for the first one, your mind is probably also not as attuned to be able to be prompt at finding solutions, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. I mean, you're basically forcing yourself. I remember with the first baby, I remember it was two weeks after, and I remember I pulled out a drawer. You know, you pull out a drawer, there's just stuff everywhere in the drawer. And I'm like, "I'm home. Let me organize the drawer." And I remember looking at the drawer, and I was like, "I don't even know where I would start." [laughs] I just remember, I just pushed the drawer back, and I was like, "Clearly, my brain can't do that." Still trying to heal, right?

But imagine that you come out of the second baby, your brain's a little bit mushy from the whole pregnancy, and now you've got this two-year-old, which my kids were about two years, saying like, "I want you to do this, I want you to do this, I need you to get me this." And you're like, "Can I have mushy brain? Did I get mushy?" [laughs] But there just isn't that room to heal properly.

That part of it is a real—I remember, it's a real sock in the gut, to realize that you're like, "No, no, this one, you're not gonna—the bounce back, it's not gonna be the same."

Cecile: Especially because, at least in my case, I felt like we were ready as a couple to have a second kid because it felt like we had the first one under control. So it gets to a point where, like, to me, I feel like I was—pregnancy, I don't know what's going on. Okay, something is coming in my belly, we have a baby, chaos. It's like, "Ah." And then all of a sudden, we got a hold of it, and we're like, "Okay, wait a minute. There is room for something new because it's kind of getting cruising speed around here. So let's add another baby because why not?" And then it's like chaos again.

But it comes from the part where it was actually in that cruising phase where we thought, "Yeah, you can pile stuff on top of it. We're so strong. And then we collapsed under that again." [laughs] And I think that that thing is like—I mean, I'll be frank, my kids are two years apart and my sister and I were 13 months apart. I don't think my parents were thinking—my mom thinks that generation things just happened and they didn't really know why or when. So she always says that our generation is really—we like to plan things when it's gonna happen.

Like I said, about two years apart, but I had one friend with one kid who was seven years old and was going back to a baby. And I was like, "I don't think I could do this, because by seven, I mean, in my mind, they're practically in college." [laughs] But even by two years old, there is a calmness. And you feel like you're starting to understand the rhythm of that kid and you just forgot about the chaos. You really forget about it. So when you go back into it, like, "Oh, now I remember."

So to me, I'm like, you almost can't forget about the chaos. I'm a big fan of just going for it and just getting it all done while you're still in the mood. But it's that kind of thing where you definitely get pulled back into a space that is not—you forgot. Your mind was very smart and deleted those files. It was like, "No, no, no." [laughs] Right? They find that stress actually decreases your brain's ability to remember. Your brain was like, "No, no, stressful. I'm just gonna delete that. So that when you go back to it, you're like, "Oh, now I remember. Now I remember what we've been fighting to escape for so long." And that's fair. [laughs]

Cecile: Actually, Fanny and I joked about it because we've seen that—my kids are a little older than hers, so she's seen me through that period of the second child arriving. And it really felt like I was under a rock for a few months because I just couldn't get on top of anything. It was more like, as you said, living through the motion and have everything just follow the train and where it's taking you. So we came up with a name for it. We said like, you're "in the cave."

[laughs] It feels like you're in a cave for about, I would say until the youngest is 18 months. I'm sorry for anybody who's listening and who has hope it's going to be less than that. But with what she's experienced, I've experienced, and all of our friends in between, 18 months seems to be a fair assessment that for those first 18 months, don't even try to fight it. You're in that cave, know about it, acknowledge it, tell people around you like, "That's where I am. I'm gonna get out of it eventually." So you'll get there, but don't try to escape or try to do more during that time because there's just so much that you need to get by.

And Fanny, you remember that that conversation that every time a friend comes to us and she's like, "Oh, my second one—" I'm like, "Yeah, you're in the cave. That's fine. We'll see you back in a few months."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: We'll be waiting for you to come out. [laughs]

Fanny: And you can't come out. [laughs] Mine is 20 months, the second one. But I got the feeling this week, especially since I've kept that on, like I'm out of the cave and I'm entering in the terrible two right away. No space in between. So yeah, like you said, don't get comfortable. There is always something arriving. [laughs] So I didn't get comfortable. That's the good thing about it.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah, I think my rule that I would usually see with parents is that by the time that the second one was about two years old is when I felt like we were kind of— especially with the multiple illnesses, that's another thing that we can talk about. You know, that two-year-old, I would call them the vector, the one that would bring the illnesses in. And just that whole cycle, the second one getting sick and then sick and then sick all the time. I felt like there was a gap, the cave, that probably contributed to that feeling of being in the cave, right?

Once the second one hit two, I felt like we were starting to get a little bit more time between the illnesses. It wasn't every time that it was happening, but I think that there are multiple things that make you feel like you're in a cave. I think that the physical needs, eat, sleep, stress. So just trying to get everybody eating. I mean, the first year, again, we try not to remember. But it's like every month, they're eating differently. The food is just constantly changing. And then there are also the illnesses. My first one didn't get sick until they were like 18 months or two years old. My second one was sick from three weeks old. I mean, it was just, it was real.

Cecile: That's all they do [laughs] getting that system.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes.

Cecile: There is a good side to that is that I feel like the second one gets stronger. After they go through that two-year space—and you're the pediatrician, you would know—but it feels like the immune system gets stronger after those two years where they don't get sick as much. It's a weird thing because it's trending on the physical but also emotional. I feel like in many ways, the second one, because they kind of came into a party that had already started, [laughs] they end up having a bit of a physical and emotional resilience that you don't always see necessarily with the first one.

And to that point, we talk a lot about the hovering that happens. And sometimes when we have the first one, we tend to hover over everything. Six months old, seven months old. And I always joke that with the second one, I looked up one day and he was walking. There was a lot that went on and I don't remember a lot. And I always felt kind of guilty about that, but as I've watched developmental milestones and resilience and looking at children, being able to be independent, being able to eat independently, a lot of those things happen better when we're not watching them.

And I sometimes feel like in that context, maybe that's why we were meant to have 10 kids because if you watch families that have lots of children, you'll see the oldest one feeding the youngest one. You can't sit and watch them eat. You literally have to drop food on their plate and be like, "I'll be back in an hour. [laughs] Try not to choke, kid." And then you run.

So in many ways, when you come out of the first one, you go into the second one, yes, it's chaotic, but in many ways, it mimics a more primal living.

Cecile: Yeah, like a herd, right? So you get your tribe together and everybody is getting—And on that note too, I feel like I remember vividly when our second one came in the place—and for everybody who just joined, we're here talking about the transition between baby #1 and baby #2. I remember that my husband was one day looked at me as like, but it never stopped, the caring. While when we had only one, one of us had the baby, the other one was "free," [laughs] but now we have two babies, two parents, none of us are free at any time.

And that struck him the most because he was a very hands-on dad, but at some point, he was like, "Where does it stop?" At least before, we had some breathing room, one of us had. We could alternate. There is no alternating when you have two. So that's also something to take into consideration. And had we known before, we could have anticipated that and be prepared for it because it all of a sudden felt like we both had more to do.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [inaudible] because I felt like it wasn't a bad thing. I think that in many ways, #2 forced my husband to have some on his own one-on-one time. And we're in a generation where I feel like men, definitely our generation of men, do a lot more than our parents, than our fathers did or even our grandfathers did. There's no question, right? But if we're still around, we're kind of still the default, unfortunately. Women still are the default, right?

And sometimes, I see that dynamic play out differently. And obviously, same-sex couples have like a little choice of who ends up being that person. But when you have a situation where one person has naturally taken control of how the family goes, when you have two kids, it's good on both ends. It forces that person who wants to control everything to realize that they can't control everything. It allows the other person to have that confidence that like, "You're going to have to be able to do this on your own because there's going to be times where I can't watch both or we're going to have to split up and conquer, or we're going to have to figure out a way to delegate a lot better."

And I think that's good. I think that's not a bad thing because I think it gives confidence to a father that may always default to one parent, that's not really a good habit. You have to have the confidence that you can take care of your children by yourself.

Cecile: For sure, yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And #2 forces that situation.

Cecile: But it's nice to be aware of it in advance, to be prepared for it. It doesn't mean that you're not—especially as a mother, it doesn't mean you're not as good for having to rely more on the other person. It doesn't feel like—it's not because you're not as efficient this time around. It's just the nature of it. You have two people, you only have two arms, so you have to share.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. And I think it's a good thing. I think that you're right. You should be kind of prepared for it because it is not a failure. Why should you have to be able to handle everything? Honestly, with one kid, that's pretty hard, you know? I mean, but I do remember having two and being like, "When we just had one kid, did we just watch a lot of TV?" You're in such chaos. You're like, "How did we just do one kid and complain? Why were we even complaining about one kid? Who was complaining?" And so you start to realize that you adapt quickly.

I think the other thing that I think is hard about #2 is that it's really hard to con people to watch both your kids. I remember the first one. This is the first thing that we did when we could get my—for the first one, my mom watched my oldest one for three days and they were like maybe six months old. And we went to Paris. [laughs] We went to Paris for three days. I thought that I had died and gone to heaven. It was amazing. We did that and we were like, "Oh my God, this is amazing."

And I remember when #2 came, we tried to do it, it was only 24, 48 hours, and then he just kept crying. And literally, my mom was like, "It'll never happen again." [laughs] Literally, he broke the bank. It is the reality, and that might be a little bit of loneliness of it too. When you have one, you can get out more, you can go on dates, you can find someone to watch. But when you have two, sometimes that's a little bit harder to get someone to watch both kids at the same time and be able to get those nights out and get that time out. So in some ways, that loneliness can contribute to that pressure that comes with #2.

Cecile: Definitely, it does. Hi, Pauline, who just joined. Hi, Christelle. Just saying hi to a couple of people who just joined and saying hello. We're talking here about baby #2. So whether you're expecting baby #2, thinking of baby #2, or just had baby #2, we're talking about our open and honest experience about it as we all have two kids here, and we're happy to share more about what we went through, so hopefully it helps you on your journey as well.

So another thing that happens when baby #2 arrives is how to fit that new person into an established family. So whether it's with the parents, the sibling, the pets, it's a new body, literally, that gets into the home. And a lot of people have questions or thoughts or even a little fear about how do I make room in my heart for a second child when I love the first one so much? Or like how do I make those two individuals combine together and get along? We don't want them to fight each other to death. So [laughs] what is your personal experience with that dynamic? Anything you'd like to share?

Fanny: I think that with that topic, it's for me was maybe the guilt of like for the first one, if I will have enough time to do the same thing as I used to do. And it took me some time to realize that we'll not be like before with her because we have to fit another baby, and even if I take time for her, it will not be the same dynamic anymore. So the same as when you have one baby, you have to "grieve" your life before that you were just a couple and now you fit just one kid in that life and you have to adjust and make the transition. The same for the baby #2, but you have kind of a guilt.

I think for the first one is more grief of your whole life. And for #2, it's more the guilt part because you already grieved that your whole life—you already have a baby, all of your life is around a kid anyway. But yeah, maybe the guilt part of that. She won't have us only for her and we don't know how she reacts, what her feeling was regarding that because she was not able to express what she felt at this time. So I was a little bit adjusting regarding the guilt.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. So I mean, that's something that comes up a lot. And I think that I always talk about the kids, especially the toddlers, as being like little puppies that can sense a lot of emotions. I'm always really referring back to that primal, feral ability. And so many times, I always say the phrase that guilt and fear are like poison for parent because it really infiltrates many parts of the way that you interact with your kids and people. And just like how they would talk about dogs is that you don't wanna have that fear or that guilt because they can smell that fear.

So one of the things I would sometimes do in those first visits is give a little bit of a pep talk where I would say, "Let's just sit for a second," because I kind of wanna untangle that guilt. That guilt I know is something that that two-year-old can sense. And the reason why that guilt does not feel great is because a two-year-old is basically working to see how well they can manipulate you. It's like a little game that they're playing.

So if they sense that for whatever reason, when they show maybe jealousy or they start crying, they don't get to see you, I'm not saying that they don't miss you, but if they get a response from you where you're like, "No, no, no, I'm so sorry I had the baby. No, no, I feel so bad. I'm going to be just with you." If they hear that, and not even knowing what the words, but they feel that they can elicit this very deep response, they're just going to keep up with that behavior.

So one of the things I do is I try to have everyone just pause for a moment and consider a couple of things. One is that this baby is a gift to your first one. To have a sibling is actually one of the most incredible gifts you can give someone. And listen, sometimes, we just have one and that's the decision that the world has made for us, and that's beautiful too, but if you have a second child, you're not punishing the first child, you know? This is a gift for the first child, right?

And in many ways, they get to somehow reminisce about how annoying you are as a parent and how you would do this and that. I mean, that's an incredible gift to be able to share with another person. No one else can share that with you. I mean, that's what my sister and I do. We just hang out and say, "Oh my God, why are they doing this?" And I'm so grateful for that, that I have someone.

And the second thing is that it's a gift in the family. Sometimes people say, "I feel badly because I don't have time to spend with this kid." And referring back to what we were talking about in terms of having a partner in the picture, in many ways, it opens the door for them to actually be able to spend more time maybe with the other partner. So just because you may physically be more with one child doesn't mean that they [inaudible]. They actually are [inaudible] because now they actually get another partner that they may have not been able to connect with as much, and that I found to be an incredible kind of a bonus that kind of made me feel like, "Okay, this is great."

Or they get to see grandparents more, they get to see other people more. You don't have to be their only source of love. There is a whole village that's waiting to love them. And in many ways, the forcing of having another child means that you don't have to be the only source of their love. You can delegate love to come from other people too. [laughs] And that's a good thing. That's not a bad thing.

So sometimes if you plant those ideas in your mind, it brings that guilt down. And in many ways, it kind of communicates to this child. I'm not a fan of the jealousy part. Jealousy to me is a really—it's a really toxic element in a family. It doesn't have to exist. And I mean, I had my own family, my parents grew up with a lot of sibling rivalry within both sides of their family.

And I remember I was like maybe five years old, my sister again was four, and they had a video camera for her birthday. And I was crying that why didn't they have a video camera for my birthday? It's not fair. I was so upset. Oh, my mom, she took me on the side. She shut the door and she was like, "You will never. You are here to take care of your siblings. You are here to take care of your sister, your brother. No one else is here to take care of them except for you. And they're supposed to be here to take care of you. And that's it. You cannot fight with each other."

So later on when we were—even now, we're in our 50s, but if my mom's like, "Your sister should—" I'm like, "You know what, you can't tell my sister—" I mean, we're very defensive of each other. I think her plan worked way too well. [laughs] But I'd rather see my kids interact with each other and maybe try and be in each other's worlds than be so jealous and distant from each other. I want them to kind of have their lives with each other, but not to be filled with all of this jealousy that I think that as parents, we're the ones, we create that jealousy sometimes.

Cecile: Probably, yeah. Yeah, we do. But it's a natural instinct to create that environment. But you're right when—I mean, I use that trick of the gift, to me when I did get pregnant with my second, that was the only term that I used when I was talking to my daughter, was like, "I'm making a gift for you." So the whole time, my belly growing, the whole thing was like, "It's your gift." The anticipation of meeting the gift was giant. And to this day, she's gonna turn 12 soon and she refers to it very often when she said, "Mommy, my brother is the best gift you ever gave me." I think it's because I put that so much in her head that like, "He's good for you, he's good for you. You hang in there, he's good for you. You don't know about it yet, but—" [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [inaudible] having the older one help take care of the—"You are a part of this. You are going to spend time with this baby and help me take care of this baby," even when they're young, even at two years old, they really feel—"Can you go get the diaper for me?" They feel so important that they can bring the diaper. But to me, it's a mindset. I think we have a lot of control over that. And like you said, yes, maybe there is a part of us that is our primal feeling of jealousy, but we have to consciously fight that so that we don't have that feeling.

And a lot of times, at least I know with my family or the older generation, there was a lot of like, "Well, why can't you be more like your sister? Why can't you be more like your brother?" Like they had cloned everybody, like everyone was cloned and expected to act the same way. And I think trying not to use phrases like that is really important just because—as much as you can—everyone is built completely differently. They're gonna be treated differently. And there's nothing wrong with that.

But there is a certain amount of expectation that exists for every kid. And I can see sometimes when they're like, "Hey, why do you do all this for him when you don't do this for me?" And I'm like, "Because you could do it well. He doesn't do that well like you." [laughs] So sometimes I do that. And I'm like, "Oh, I shouldn't do that. I should try to—" but they're so different. I can't give them the same treatment. So that's the thing that gets a little bit tricky even as they're older. Mine are in college now. It's still very tricky.

Cecile: But it's a topic that—you're bringing up a point that I think is also an area of guilt and thoughts and fear for parents is like when you have multiple kids, and I have a sister, so I grew up with that feeling of comparison the whole time. I was the second one, so I looked up to her because she was two years ahead and of course she was ahead in terms of development, ahead in terms of what she was allowed to, ahead in terms of grade. So of course I always compare myself to like I'm never going to be there because I was two years behind, just in the calendar. [laughs] 

I feel like as a parent I was very scared of that when I had my second, and I overcompensated the other way around because I was so scared to replicate that sense of competitiveness, but I think now 10 years down the road, I can guarantee to everybody out there you would end up making it anyway. There is no other way. And it's not necessarily coming from a bad place. I just want people to understand that it's not bad to do it. It's more the matter of how you deliver and how you deep down value both of your children.

But comparing or bringing comparison among other people because of the person they are the closest to, I think it's inevitable, right? You're gonna have to do it. When you say you like carrots and you like peas, it doesn't mean to have to be a judgment to it, but it's okay to compare. And I was so scared at the beginning to not compare anything that I was cornered into like—You know what I'm talking about? It's just not doable.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. And I think that to me, it's like learning a foreign language, just the way that you were talking about that you almost kind of overcompensated, but it's like kind of that initial thought like, "Well, why isn't it like—" even what we were just talking about, comparing one pregnancy to the other or comparing raising the first six months to the other. That's human nature. We use that as reference.

But I think that what we're trying to do in this newer generation is trying to say, "Yes, that might've been our instinct, but is it healthy?" And I think that just because it's your instinct doesn't always mean that it's healthy. And I think that just taking a pause and very maybe deliberately in the beginning being like, "I'm not gonna do that because I know that it's gonna just almost like make me more disappointed. It's gonna make me more frustrated."

But after a while doing it over and over again, you kind of stop doing that. You stop making those comparisons as much. Every now and then, I get triggered again and it just kind of happens. I have to readjust myself. But you just invariably do that. And I think that that's totally a fair point, that you shouldn't beat yourself up for making the comparison. That's human nature. This is what we do. But it's not always healthy.

Someone had asked a little bit about their dog. I don't know if they were being facetious or not, but I do think that what you're actually describing is being afraid that you can't be present. I think that's really what the question is. And we were talking a little bit, if you have dogs, you have babies, you have other kids, the problem is that when you keep looking at all the ways you're supposed to cut yourself into many different directions, you're like, "How am I supposed to be present for all of those people?"

And I think that there is some deliberateness. I mean, there are situations where you have to say, "You know what, I'm gonna make sure that the baby goes maybe with my partner and I'm gonna take the two-year-old. Even though I normally have to take care of the baby, I'm gonna make sure that we do that so that the two-year-old and I have this hour together." The same thing with the dog. The dog can be—a time that you just take with the dog.

But I think that what we don't do that well is that we feel guilty about things, we get upset about things, but we don't make deliberate plans. Does it make sense? We're just like, "I just want to spend more time with them." Well, no, you got to say like, "From 4 o'clock to 5 o'clock, I'm going to make sure that this happens and this happens and I'm going to leave the house with one of them," just to make sure.

Cecile: And it might be a little bit of a forcing it at the beginning, but I think you're right that if you make it a habit and you push it, at least it's going to ease your guilt. Even if nothing comes out of it, easing the guilt will get you in a space where—as you said, nobody's going to sense that you feel guilty about it. So if you feel okay about it, then it gives you more strength to actually face it and be okay to whatever feedback the people involved are giving you.

There are also some ways where you can dedicate your attention to two people in a different way. I remember when I breastfed my second one. And I remember from the first time I breastfed, I would ask my older one to come sit with me and we would read a book, which means every time the baby would feed, it was her reading time. She never quite noticed that the baby was feeding or whatever was going on with the feeding, but I had my physical moment with the baby and I was reading to her. So to the point where she was excited that baby was crying because like, "Oh, that's my reading time. Come on, that's my cue. Just bring it back."

So we wanted to get that moment of giving—I was able to give two different set of attention at the same time because they happen to be matching in timing. So that could also be a way, because they probably don't need the same thing, right? Your toddler might need your verbal and your ears, while the baby might need more of your physical touch and vice versa.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. And I love that. I mean, I've had people say that they would be breastfeeding one, and the other one, that was a trigger for them. And they would be like, "You always give your attention—" I mean, it's like, what are you supposed to do? You have to feed the baby, right? But it's a good way to be like, no, no, no, we can try to do both and have them read together while you're with the baby. It's a very present thing to read with someone. So it forces you to be present.

I'm gonna extend it a little further. One of the beautiful things when you have more than one, honestly, is seeing them play with each other. There is something so amazing about that, you know? And when I would see them playing with each other, I felt like, I don't know, like even though sometimes it was chaotic and it was all over, they really were able to communicate to each other in a way that I couldn't. It wasn't part of where I was in my life. And to see them play together made me feel like, "Okay, this chaos is okay. This chaos is worth it." And I think that that is a good way—

Life is interesting because I feel like all of us are presented with the same tray of challenges, right? And it's all about choices that you make on what lens you look things through, right? And I think that that's a better way to look at it when they're there with each other. I still say, I would much rather have my kids screaming and yelling, playing with each other, maybe even fighting a little bit than two kids not interacting at all in their rooms and have nothing to do with each other.

Cecile: For sure. Yeah. It's building that social skill. I mean, they use that further in life to test a few things, right? When I say that to my sister, she snaps. Okay. When I say that, I managed to get everything out of her. So they adjust that type of communication. Just like they do with that, they learn from a different person, different personality. It also feels like, I don't know, sometimes just have them play together, the baby gets more quiet if it's the older sibling who's just around, looking at them, walking around. It's already a game of its own. You don't need all the extra toys and things around. Sometimes just having the two of them without any toy.

I believe a lot in natural, very instinctive type of play. As animals, if you have an older cat with a younger cat, they're only going to interact with whatever level of strength and way to play together. So I always let my kids play together when there were no harmful things around them. Just the power of a toddler on a baby, they're not going to hold it. They can only do that much that the baby can take because they're physiologically made of the same species. Yes, sometimes my daughter would surf on my boy, [laughs] but my boy was smiling. So like, "Yeah, he's happy." I'm like, "Oh, okay, yeah, maybe."

But it does create that natural play, without any wooden toy or a car that can be hurtful. Just with their hands and stuff, they learn how to manipulate one another and how to touch one another and interact with one another. And the first time the baby will pull the older one's hair, they know that shouldn't be in their way. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. And I tried really hard—I think that I hear a lot parents, "All they do is fight all the time." There were a lot of times that they would be fighting and I would come, "Oh, this one's doing that." And I would be like, "Work it out yourselves. Work it out." I think that sometimes we often want to jump in and save the day and like, "You have to do that," "You have to do this," but sometimes if you can within good reason, say, "Hey, work it out. You two have to work it out." And I think that it is a good model for us too on how to help them negotiate themselves within the world without us always jumping in immediately.

And we always say that your family is your [inaudible] of the world, the place that you learn a lot of things. And when you see how well children who come from a very large family learn how to take care of each other, you start to realize is that like, we're talking about having one to two, but I mean, one prior generation, it wasn't uncommon to have four to six kids in a family.

And I think that we have to understand that when we have one to two, it still is an opportunity for us to teach our children to learn how to work with each other, to take care of each other, that I think can be incredibly helpful as they go into the world. Those are skills that are very interesting.

Just as a random aside, because we're talking a little bit about birth order, we're talking a little bit—such a random. I had a friend when I was dating my husband-to-be, he was my boyfriend at that time, my friend who was Korean asked me about him. And you know, "There's this guy." And she was like, "Okay." And she goes, "Okay." And I said, "Do you want to know anything?" She was like, "Yeah, what's the birth order?" That was the first thing she asked me. And I was like, "Do you want to know his name? Do you want to know if he was like a murderer? Is there anything that you want to know about this boyfriend?" And she said, "I want to know the birth order."

So I said, "Okay, he is the youngest of two, and his brother is seven years older. I'm the oldest of three." And she goes, "Oh, okay, it'll work out." And I was like, "Okay, that's it?" [laughs] You don't even know anything else about him. That was it?" I mean, she told me this 25 years ago. I mean, this is a long time ago, and it has taken me 25 years to literally like, "I kind of get it." It's this weird mechanism where people who are younger are okay to be taken care of. But people who are older like to take care of others. This is a generalization. And I've dated someone who was also an oldest. We didn't make it. This wasn't my husband. [laughs] Neither of us were very good about being taken care of.

My point being is that the dynamics that are learned within a family setting, they follow you throughout your entire life. So it is important to be mindful about how you enter the world for #2 because you are setting precedents, whether you realize it or not, whether you're really thinking that it's going to make much of a difference, you are setting precedents.

My son, it was kind of sad. He went to preschool and they were like, "He's a really good kid. We really like him. But if we're all lined up for an activity, and then halfway through the activity, he hasn't had his turn yet, we switched to another activity. So he's not going to get his turn. We're doing another activity. He kind of loses it. [laughs] He's just on the floor crying. It's not really good." And I was like, "I don't understand. Izzy, my oldest one, never had this problem. What is the problem?" And I sat and I was like, "Oh, he's always waiting his turn. [laughs] He's always waiting his turn. When you're #2, it's unlikely you're ever gonna be the first to do anything, right? [laughs] Everyone will do it probably for you."

Cecile: But it's important to recognize that because I was a second one. Fanny, you were a second one. I think we carry some of that trauma too into our kids. And it's important to understand that there's also things that you cannot change. First, back to your friend's conversation about the birth order, they all think that no matter how much you fight, your first one is going to be more of a leader because [inaudible] you're going to be like, "You're the oldest. You have to show you have a good behavior. You have to take care of others." The second one will have to play catch up their whole life. The third one would have other things.

So it's important to recognize that and not try to fight it, to some extent because it has pros and cons to it, but no matter how much you're trying to shift the world around it, it is what it is because life is gonna be this way for them, right? Just depending where you grow up or what race you are or what color of skin or what gender, it's gonna play a role. So it is going to be there and you have to also tell your kid and be mindful that it is part of just the cards that they were dealt.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right? And it's weird. Now I'm watching my kids date. And Izzy is with someone and I only met them twice, but the second time I met them, I said, "What's the birth order?" [laughs] And Izzy was like, "Oh my God. Is this the birth order thing again?" [laughs] [inaudible] And I found out that they're dating someone who is the younger and they are themselves as the older. And I was like, "Oh, it should be good." [laughs] And I was like, "I can't believe I'm doing that. [laughs] This is exactly what she did to me."

But there was something. Then their dynamics start to make sense, like how they interact and where their strengths are and where their weaknesses are. And like I said, I tried to date someone who was also an older and it wasn't good. Whereas my husband can be a little bit—he's very strict in certain ways, but he can be a little bit loose and he has no problem asking me like, "Can you call this person for me? I don't really want to call them." [laughs] And I'm like, "I mean, you seem like a smart person." He's like, "Can you just call them? I don't want to call." That's only something that—the second one is like, "Okay, I always have that first one that will do something like that for me, you know?" And I feel so useful that I can make a phone call, which I don't care making, you know?

Cecile: I think it's gonna have everybody watching reconsider their relationship and look at birth order. Everybody's gonna be back home and be like, "Okay, wait a minute."

Dr. Varisa Perlman: "Hold on." [laughs] 

Cecile: Let's look at that and see if we can make sense of that very insightful piece of information we hear today in that talk. Who would have thought? [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I hope that there's no negative consequences. [laughs] This is just a Korean folk tale. Don't get so crazy about this. [laughs] This is not the take-home of our talk. [laughs] This is not the take-home.

Cecile: We're heading toward the end of this talk. What is the final thought that we would like to share with anybody here? So we said to embrace it, be ready, because it's going to be probably the biggest shift in your parenting journey. Don't underestimate the amount of turmoil it's going to bring. You'll be in that cave for 18 months, so hang in there, put your village together and take the support, but don't try to fight what is going to be there anyway.

And you're making a wonderful gift for your kids and for your family.

Fanny: And on the positive note, it will be amazing to see the joy on your first one's eyes when they see the second one and when they are so proud that they helped you. These little moments make you forget the hard one. That's really a nice feeling when you see that.

Cecile: And it builds that relationship with them too because when you share that with them because they're older, you can express that to them. And that feeling of pride that they get from you, it's also building their confidence and be like, "Oh, I rock as the bigger sibling." And it is circling back to giving them more attention because you notice that from them and they know you don't notice that on the little brother or sister because that's just a baby, right?

Fanny: Yeah. So that's a nice feeling.

Cecile: And I know, Dr. Perlman, you always mention that every child is born the way it is because it's healing the family from something.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I love that. I love the fact that—it's funny because I didn't say it the whole talk. I usually say it at least one story in the talk. And I love it that it naturally—that's exactly it. This is exactly the moment that you think that, right? That the second one comes to heal the whole family. There is a purpose and they complete the family in a way that is really unique in the way that you all interact.

And also, I think the number one thing is that you cannot—you have to delegate. You have to learn that you cannot be the person to do everything and that there are valuable, incredible relationships around them that can be built up. And I think being able to open that door is one of the best things that happens out of having #2 is that you really start to understand that village. Take advantage of it.

Cecile: Yeah. So we wish you a whole wonderful meeting with your baby #2 because if baby #1 I feel like is the birth of your child and of you as a mother, on baby #2, you can really focus on meeting that child and be like, "Okay, who are you now?" And so we wish you all a wonderful encounter and meeting with your baby. We can't wait to hear how it has put your family together. And if you need help along the way, when you're in the cave, you know where to find us, right? We're here. We've been through there. We have a flashlight or two, so we're probably gonna be able to help you along the way.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Is there a French word for it?

Cecile: The translation of cave is grotte, which is very close to crotte, which is poop, so that's not related. [laughs] Just like a professional bias because Fanny and I are in the poop business. But so yeah, dans la grotte, which is in the cave. It's not a professional term, it's only among us here.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] It sounds more romantic the way you say it.

Cecile: Yeah. [laughs] And Pauline is putting a little poop in the comments. So yeah, everything tracks back to the poop. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: You always circle back. [laughs]

Cecile: Exactly. Thank you everyone for watching.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Thank you.

Fanny: Thank you.

Cecile: Thank you, Varisa. Thank you, Fanny. And we'll see you soon for another episode of Moms Talk with a French Accent.

Fanny: Thank you. Bye.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Bye.

Cecile: Bye.



Watch other episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1dpfz3OiZoOwHuST-GmH9sTD0TfF3rIp

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