On my 6th anniversary the news broke – we were pregnant (mind you, for the second time). Happiness, joy… those feelings evaded me. I was worried, thrown, and doubtful.
With a toddler around the house, one with whom the terrible two’s hadn’t ended, one is bound to be in a dilemma! Nonetheless, we were planning to give our daughter a sibling at some point, so we welcomed the surprise. As the 9 months progressed, I’d hear multiple theories on how a boy would complete our happy family. Some distant relatives even spoke of how my stature as a daughter-in-law would change if that happened. (Yup, typical Indian family syndrome).
This time though, the indulgences weren’t as many, given that I was doing this the second time around. The cot, the toys, the pram – everything was going to be used for the second one, and I was wondering what the baby inside me was feeling. All it heard was how we could recycle all our daughter’s stuff! I was beginning to wonder if I would love the new baby as much as I loved my daughter; the apprehensions were setting in. After the whole 9 month ordeal and labour trauma, arrived our little one. It was a boy, much to the relief of some relatives.
The moment I held him and spent the first night in the hospital, all the apprehensions, dilemma, and pressures disappeared. This was our baby and we loved him just as much! No joy can replace being a mother; each time is different, and each time it is as special, cause as they say “only you know the strength of my love, as you’re the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside.”
So how were we going to make sure both my babies knew and understood that they were both equally loved and equally special to us? Here are some simple steps that we took.
- We listen—really listen—to how our child feels about the baby and the changes in our family. If she expresses negative feelings, we acknowledge them. We help our child put her feelings into words. Never deny or discount your child’s feelings.
- We set aside special time for our older one. Each person in the family (grandparents, uncles & aunts included) spends some one-on-one with my older one every day. It’s amazing how much even just 10 minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time can mean to your child (and help their behavior!). Let your child choose the activity, and you follow their lead.
- Remind visitors to pay attention to your older child, and not just the baby.
- Have some special “big brother” or “big sister” gifts to give your child as friends and relatives start showing up with baby gifts, so your older child won’t feel left out.
- Make sure it is very clear that absolutely no hurting is allowed. Give your child other ways to express bad or angry feelings they may have towards the baby. For example, they could draw an angry picture of the baby, or act out their wishes with dolls, or roar like a lion.
- “Baby” your child, if that’s what they seem to crave. There is a tendency to suddenly expect your child to become more independent when you have a new baby. If you expect less independence, you are more likely to get more! Point out the benefits of being an older child, like choosing what to eat, being able to go the park and play, and having friends.
- Have the new baby and older child exchange gifts and give your older one special jobs to do to help the family and help with the baby’s care (but don’t overdo it—take your cues from your child).
- Make sure the older child has some special, private space, and things of their own that they don’t have to share with the baby.
- Let them participate in the baby’s care—dressing, pushing the stroller, talking to the little one etc.
All in all, we are blessed with two happy, healthy little ones who are getting along just fine!