Dear Mama,Dear Miss Faith, My daughter (age 3) is very close to me and I her. She really is a miracle because we tried for 10 years before she came. I am so blessed that she is here and I find myself a bit over protective of her and less authoritive because of this. However…we are soon to be expecting our second child (October) which was kind of a surprise since we were never successful before and are thrilled that our daughter will have a baby brother to love and play with. Right now, she really “wants” her mommy and I go to her when she needs me. However I am sensing that there is going to be a huge adjustment for her to see me with a new child. I am planning on having her involved in everything like being mommy’s helper with diapers, feeding etc., but I still see this as an adjustment for when I have bonding/loving time with the new baby. Do you have any suggestions on this? I am also planning on getting her a gift that when she comes to the hospital, it will be from the baby. Maybe a doll?
My first thought for preparing for the baby is for YOU to start playing with a dolly of hers that she already has, to practice what it will be like when the new baby comes. Start rocking the dolly, nursing the dolly, putting the dolly to bed when you put her to bed. At the beginning, always hand the dolly over to her whenever she wants it, but gradually start asking her to wait until you get to a ‘good stopping point’ (first just a few seconds, and gradually longer and longer). Give the dolly a name, and have it ‘cry,’ be ‘sleeping’ etc., throughout the day. This can give your daughter some practical practice as to what having a baby sibling will be like for her, and perhaps it won’t be such a shock to the system when the real one arrives. An added advantage to doing this is that it will make her dolly ‘come alive,’ so when the baby actually comes, she can have her own baby who already has a personality and needs that are similar to the baby’s. This can both give her something imitative to do when you’re busy with the baby, and she can use the dolly to act out her feelings towards her sibling, nurturing it sometimes, punishing it other times.
I think it’s a nice gesture to have a gift ‘from the baby’ for her when the baby’s born, but I’m not sure that another doll is the best idea, if you’re putting all this energy into having her current doll ‘come alive.’ Perhaps something FOR the doll, like a special blanket, or a doll bed, or sling, or something. Preferably something similar to something you’ll be using.
After the baby arrives, the important message will be to let her know (either through words or actions) that 1) it’s fine to feel whatever she’s feeling, and that 2) regardless of how she’s feeling, she must still act appropriately. But not to worry, you will help her figure out ways to act appropriately, and you love her so much. So, if you’re nursing and she wants you and she’s having trouble waiting, and starts to throw a little fit, give her the words, by saying exactly what you wish she would say: “You’re saying, ‘Mom, I want you SO MUCH! I’m having a hard time waiting!'” Give her a chance to repeat it, then answer her as if she had said it, whether she does or not: “Wow, I can SEE that you’re having a hard time! What will you do while you wait?” Pause a moment to see if she has any ideas for herself, then give a suggestion: “You could come here and sit right next to me, if you want. That way we can still feel close.” She may well come up with her own idea, at that point.
One thing I’d suggest avoiding is trying to hold/juggle both children at once. A few moms manage it gracefully, but with most moms I’ve seen, it turns into a tugging match where neither child feels like they’re getting enough of you, especially as the baby start to get older. I think it’s much better to help children learn to wait, then give them the whole of your attention (even if it’s only briefly).
For you moms out there with two kids, what have you done that worked well for you? What would steer clear of, if you could do it over again? What advice would you give to someone with a second on the way?