Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Add-a-Baby Plan

The most difficult part of adding a new baby to the family, if I remember correctly, was not the new baby, herself.  The true stress came from the toddler in the background. 
Her world was changed.  Though she was happy with the new baby, the addition caused some hidden anxieties.  They manifested themselves in clinging, fussing, whining, and altogether disruptive behavior.  It was quite obvious that the lack of normalcy was stressing her out, and when a toddler’s stressed out, life can be miserable for the entire family. 
Which is absolutely not helpful during a babymoon.
After a few weeks of adjusting to our new situation, she did calm down and get back to her normal two-year-old antics.  But this is all on my mind again because we’re expecting a new baby this fall, and I’m crossing my fingers that the transition will be gentle.  I have high hopes that because both of our older children are out of toddlerhood, they will be better able to understand and adjust to the baby’s presence. 
But I’m also worried that an increased sense of understanding will be joined by increased anxieties.  Our older kids won’t be easily distracted from sensing that they’re not getting as much attention from their parents.  They might find new and frightening ways of acting out their jealousy. 
Or, I could be overreacting (not an uncommon occurrence), and they’ll merely be thrilled to be big sisters and willing helpers. 
Either way, I’d like to help this go as peacefully as possible.  Here’s my massively technical two-pronged plan:
Build anticipation truthfully and maintain stability lovingly.
That’s it.  Pretty serious business, right? 
But it is!  The girls are over-the-moon excited about having a new baby in the house, but I think their enthusiastic views of new-baby-bliss are skewed to unnatural expectations.  I know they’re under the impression that babies are cute little bundles, and they’re right, but there’s so much more to it than that.  They’ll need to know about the crying.  The sleeping.  The extra care.  The changes in schedule. 
We’re been telling stories (which our big kids think are hilarious) of what life with a new baby was like when they were born.  They include vomit, poop, tears, and above all, honesty.  And it’s related in a way that expresses how good it all was in the midst of stress.
But for all the preparation that comes before baby arrives, there’s still a lot of work to be done after the fact. 
When visitors are showering the baby with attention and the parents with congratulations, siblings can get lost in the shuffle.  In the early days, it’ll be helpful to include our big girls in those blessings, but also remember to keep their days consistent.
Their lives will still include school and holidays and play-dates, and maintaining the pre-baby stability is crucial.  If others will be helping to care for the big kids, I’ll be stressing the importance of sticking to our routines and keeping mom or dad handy for snuggles on demand.
In the long-term, maintaining stability will include extra attention and conversation, as well as fun things planned just with the big kids in mind.  It will be about sensing their needs and accepting that they might not express how out-of-sorts they feel.
I trust that the new baby will fit seamlessly into our lives, but I also know that it’s up to us to make sure the stitches stay straight and true.

6 comments:

  1. When we were where you are, we were relieved to find that this part was so much easier than tbe first time. Mia and Lauren have each other through this transition, and they'll experience it together and be closer than ever before, closer than you can even right now imagine. They'll do great.
    (And so will you.)

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  2. True, although I have found for myself that when the kids are a little older, they do admirably well with a new baby. The problems come when the baby starts crawling and getting into their stuff! Hopefully, your girls will do just as well as mine did. I am so happy for you all!

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  3. we added baby #3 last September and wow. what a life changer! She is THE best baby ever. So sweet. if I had 10 of her I would be like the happiest mama ever. LOL! However! She has a brother!! and a sister. :) Sister is ever helpful (and she's nearly 5. But nearly 4 when baby was born)Brother tries to be helpful (age 3) but has a really hard time. now that baby is crawling brother thinks that he has to pick baby up all the time and that has brought on alot of troubles. it's a busy life for sure-always keeping your eyes open for trouble. lol!

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  4. Sarah, I love this and it's a great idea to talk more about the baby and tell stories of what babies are really like! We've already started looking at the calendar and planning fun things for just us and the tot before the baby comes but we need to figure out some fun activities for after the baby gets here.

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  5. My oldest was four (almost) when her sister came along. School ended two weeks later, we moved a month after that. There was no stability, except me. I was there for them both all the time. It was taxing, but worth it. There were a few moments of odd regressions, but truly, it was smoother then could be hoped.
    Keeping schedules helped. Having special moments with just my big girl helped a lot. Even if there were stollen from naps.
    I think reminding visitors to pay attention to the big girls in your house is a good idea too.

    I'm scared of going. Up to three.... My little one will almost be three, but still, that's young. And then there is school that simply cannot be missed and tardies that actually count these days. It'll fine. It'll be fine. It'll be fine. Right?

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  6. This was one reason I had my kids so close together -- keep 'em young enough that they don't notice a new addition!

    In all seriousness, I think that you might find the fact that this baby is a boy makes a BIG difference. A lot of the "competition" thing won't exist and the novelty will win the day.

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?