One week. As I sit and type these words that’s exactly how far away I am from my due date. One week until I endure the pain of labor, feel the overwhelming sense of adoration for this new little human, and experience the joy of bringing that sweet baby to the place we call home. It’s really so very exciting.
But this isn’t my first baby. I have two others at home – a kindergarten boy and a spunky toddler girl. They are both very excited about the prospect of a new baby brother in the house. But I know, while they may be excited about baby smiles and snuggles, their world is about to change drastically. So over the last few months I’ve been trying to prepare them for this new arrival in the best way I know how and in a way that each of them can understand.
1. I talk to my kids about the reality of having a newborn around. This includes talking to my kindergartener about how the baby will really never leave mommy’s side. I told him that in the evening when we read books together before bed, it’s likely that the new baby will be right there along with us. I’m trying to get him warmed up to the fact that one on one mommy time is going to be pretty rare in those early weeks.
For my two-year old daughter, I try to do something similar. I have no idea how much she is actually absorbing, but I talk to her about the baby crying and needing mommy. And I talk to her about the fact that she will have to share mommy with the new baby. My hope is that she will at least become familiar with these ideas and maybe it will prepare her little heart in some small way.
2. We talk about how they can interact with the new baby. The other day my son asked me, “Mom, when the new baby comes can I snuggle next to him?” Of course I said yes and we talked about all the other sweet ways he can enjoy his new brother like giving gentle kisses and talking to him. And I let my son know that mommy is going to be so very tired and that I will need his big brother help very much. He always gets a very proud smile on his face when I tell him that.
I don’t really know what it is about my two-year old but she is obsessed with this idea of poking her baby dolls in the eyes. And so to prepare her for sweet interactions with our new baby brother I have been reminding her gently that we don’t poke babies on the eye (sounds so silly I know!). So I say to her, “We can kiss the baby and hold the baby’s hand and touch his little feet, but what should we not do?” And she will say, “Poke him in da eye!” Right on! As silly as this might be I think it’s important to not just point out to her what we shouldn’t do with the new baby, but give her an appropriate action to replace the inappropriate one.
3. I talk to my children about what to expect when I go into labor. I have forewarned both of them that there may be a time in the next few weeks when they wake up in the morning and Mamma and Pappa are over and Mommy and Daddy are gone to the hospital. Or I’ve told my son that one afternoon YiaYia or Papa might be there to pick him up from school instead of Mommy. I want them to not be caught off-guard when there is a change to their typical daily routine if I’ve had to leave for the hospital.
4. I have packed each one of them a special hospital waiting bag. Waiting at the hospital can be a very long and even boring experience for adults. I can imagine for a kid it can feel torturous. In the event that my two are in the hospital awaiting the arrival of their sibling I have packed a special bag for each of them to make the wait a little more exciting. I want them to remember that time fondly.
In each bag I packed a new small toy, snacks, a special drink, and even a couple of dollars for a trip to the vending machine. I also bought each of them a disposable camera. I would love to see what they deem picture-worthy on that day.
5. I have a stash of new books and activities for after the baby comes home. Let’s be real, after new baby comes I am likely not going to feel adventurous and trek outside for playdates or any other type of outing. But that doesn’t mean my kids won’t still need activities to keep them occupied. So in my closet I have a stash of new books and inexpensive gifts that I think will help with that aspect of mothering. My hope is that these little surprises will give them something to be excited about while I’m in a daze trying to figure out our new normal.
I know that the truth is, no matter how much I talk about a new baby joining our family, nothing can really prepare my kids for what is to come. But I think one of the most important tools of preparation is being open and honest about how things might be as well as being appropriately responsive to any questions that might arise. Babies are tremendously exciting, but welcoming my new son will also be a very transitional time for our family. I have some tricks up my sleeve, like the little gifts for post-baby, but I am overall trusting that the Lord has all of us in the palm of His hand and I anticipate these upcoming newborn days with eagerness, excitement, and a trust that God knits all families together perfectly.