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The Second Time Around

While first-time parents are afraid of what they don't know, second-time parents are afraid of what they do: sleepless nights and crying spells. But actually, it's those prior experiences that can make the next time around so different -- and so much better. Armed with both knowledge and the wisdom that comes from having more friends with kids, moms are able to hit round two of parenthood with more confidence, ease, and joy. Here's how to make expecting -- and raising -- a second child easier.

Get extra help for the pregnancy and birth

During your first pregnancy, you're able to rest, but second-time moms often have a child waiting to play blocks or take a walk, so impromptu naps aren't much of an option. You'll be tempted to let the TV babysit your firstborn while you collapse on the couch. Make it easier on yourself: Set up extra babysitting or add hours at the preschool or daycare to get the rest you need.

Before the big day, gradually prepare your firstborn for a sibling and brief him on what to expect. Help him get excited about your family’s new arrival. Ask a friend or relative to care for your child either at your home or hers when you go into labor.

Put your parenting experience to use

One nice thing you’ll quickly discover once baby number two arrives is that you have less fear. "With a first child, you worry if she cries, you worry if she doesn't," says Charles Severn, M.D., a pediatrician and neonatologist in Bismarck, N.D. "You know what to expect with the second." With that stress gone, you're free to gaze in wonder at your new baby, not stare at her rising and falling chest.

The downside of having this helpful experience under your belt? Friends and family will likely think you've got it all under control with number two. Be sure to ask for the assistance you need when the second baby arrives, instead of waiting for help to come to you or forgoing it entirely.

Make double less trouble

The most surprising side of parenting two kids is how day-to-day issues get easier. For instance, leaving the kids with a sitter: The two have each other, and your firstborn may even be excited about it if she gets to "help" the sitter with the baby. You can even use this eagerness at home by enlisting your older child as an aide. When you do this, many of the parenting problems you had with one might disappear with two.

The days can be long with two kids. But they don't seem so hard -- because your first teaches you that the years fly by.