The joy and anticipation of a new baby is always exciting. However, it brings with it a whole other world of emotions and questions when there is already another child/children in the mix. The emotions I felt when I was pregnant with our first child were beautifully naive and innocent and full of wondrous anticipation. In reality I had absolutely no idea about what was ahead. That’s exactly the way it should be!
I felt a little differently second time around. So many questions and doubts amidst the excitement.
How would our sweet toddler react?
Would she cope?
Would she feel confused or rejected in any way?
Would she feel secure about our love for her and her place in our family?
Would I be able to share my love around and meet their needs well?
Despite all my questions, I was still pretty optimistic. I honestly thought that we’d all take our new baby’s arrival in our stride. Our daughter had wonderful communication skills and demonstrated empathy beyond her years. I had high hopes.
I was far from prepared for what eventuated in the months following the birth of our second child. In all seriousness, I thought I’d done irreparable psychological damage to our toddler. She adored our new baby girl, but she was a devastated mess. She barely slept, she couldn’t cope with the baby needing to nurse, she struggled with every single transition - even the tiniest of things like getting in a bath, then the change involved in getting out of the bath or getting dressed or undressed and so on. She even became agrophobic for a couple of months. Leaving the house became too much pressure and too stressful for her. We pretty much just cried for the first six months as we stumbled along with days turning into nights and vice versa.
Despite all the pain and heartache, we recovered. Our daughter recovered. We went with it, we didn’t push anything and eventually one day she announced “I’m feeling all better now, I can come out today”. It was music to my ears.
Could we have prepared? I don’t think so. I don’t believe in unnecessarily addressing or dwelling on problems that don’t yet or may never exist. Obviously some practical preparations are helpful, things to do with car seats etc. Discussions about the new baby, answering any questions, involving your other child in helpful organisational bits and pieces is all valuable. We did little things like buying a gift for our toddler to give the baby and for the baby to give her big sister. We did as much emotional preparation as seemed possible.
We definitely steered clear of commonplace language that unintentionally places expectations and even pressure on the older child - who is still a tiny little person with their own assortment of emotional and physical needs. We didn’t refer to her as a ” big girl” or “our helper” and so on. She actually wanted to still be a baby too.
So, here we are again. Any day now our third tiny wonder is due to be born. Our eldest has been showing signs of anxiety as she vividly remembers how she felt when her sister was born. This time around she is over five years old and will no doubt process it all a bit differently.
I ask myself again, “Can I be preemptively addressing any potential problems?” Again, I don’t think so. None of us know for sure how things will feel, what will change, what will go smoothly, what won’t. All we can do is be there for her, be available to talk about her worries, reassure her that even though things may change, many things will also stay the same.
We’ve also talked about the concept of worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. It’s been an opportune time to explore both the futility of worrying about things that haven’t happened, as well as acknowledging that it’s really normal for things to feel bigger and scarier before they’ve transpired.
She has asked some questions that have been on her mind…
“How will two adults look after three children if we all need something at the same time?”
“Will I still be Elka’s big sister?”
“I know you need Daddy to hold your hand when the baby is born. Who will look after us?”
So many cute and thoughtful questions.
So before we welcome to our family this new bundle of joy, during this time of anticipation and limbo…
I will embrace what is now.
Embrace our two beautiful girls during these somewhat quieter days (hard to believe, but I’m sure things will feel more chaotic soon!)
Address questions and facilitate chats our little ones initiate.
Reject any unnecessary concerns and problems that don’t yet exist.
Focus on feeling calm, centered and thankful for what we have and what is in store.