To be honest, until recently, we haven’t said much to Maya about the fact that I am pregnant — it’s not like she, at two, can understand what pregnant means. And I don’t look that different (aside from the bulging belly) than I did before I was pregnant, so it’s not like she has made a physical observation.
But mostly (and on the good advice of other mom friends and family members) I didn’t want to say anything to her because kids will repeat everything they hear … and what if something went wrong? Of course, I know things can go wrong at any time — even now, though the chances are less likely — and so just didn’t want to go there until I was further along.
So we kept it quiet until a couple weeks ago when I hit the second trimester, right before Jamaica. Over dinner, we told her there was a baby growing in mommy’s belly and that she would be a BIG SISTER. “Sister!” she exclaimed happily, having no clue what that word really meant. And then she changed the subject to what was on her plate, counting out her green beans aloud and popping them in her mouth, one by one.
One of my mom’s best pieces of advice was not to tell Maya how lucky she was to be a big sister, but rather express to her how lucky the little baby was going to be to have HER as a big sister! That slight reframing of the situation (at least in theory) makes the big sibling feel important and not jealous of the new baby. I hope she’s right — I’ve tried to keep it in mind in talking with her, because she does seem to rationalize things pretty well in her mind.
Since then, we talk each day a little about the baby, usually asking her what’s in Mommy’s belly (“BABY!”) or showing her pictures of herself as a baby. A couple days ago she even kissed my belly, which completely warmed my heart. She understands that my back hurts a lot when I pick her up and has taken to wanting to walk more and more (even in circumstances where she’d usually want me to hold her. “Mommy’s backs [yes, plural] hurts,” she tells me. And Luis. And anyone in earshot willing to listen ;))
When we ask if she will have a brother or a sister, she says, definitively, “SISTER!” and last week apparently told her teachers she was having a sister. Well, she could be right … there’s a 50% chance she’s having a sister. We will find out May 22 at my next appointment.
I do think she will be an amazing big sister–and that her little sibling will be beyond lucky to have her. For one, she’s bossy and will love telling someone else what to do. 😉 Right now, she has Rocco: “Rocco, you sit HERE.” Poor pooch. And for two, she loves babies. At school, I have to pull her away from the door of the infant room–she just loves looking at them and talking about what they’re doing. She hears babies crying in crowded mall (the type of noise that we adults just drown out) and announces “Baby crying!” Plus, she loves, loves, loves her baby dolls: feeding them, diapering them, patting their backs, putting them to nap … In fact, just this morning I heard her talking to one baby and referring to it as “sister” which cracked me up. She will be sorely disappointed if she has a brother!
Sure, I worry about the things all parents worry about: how to give both children enough love and attention, how life will change … but again, some more of my mom’s wise words come back to me: “I have a special place in my heart for each of you.” In essence, her love is split among the three of us kids. And mine will be, too. I don’t pretend it will be easy … but I will do my best to give each child some special time and to make sure they know just how adored they are.
I think one major (and surprising) lesson I’ve learned watching friends post pics of their new baby with their “big sib” on the social spaces is to let the big sibling hold the baby/be near the baby on his/her own accord. It might take a day, a week, or a month for them to acclimate/not feel threatened … but as parents, we shouldn’t push it. They will come around when they are good and ready.
As it is, we’ll be moving in a couple weeks, Maya is now in a big-girl-bed and potty-training — so she has a lot of transitions happening at the same time (a big no-no in ALL the baby books …). We still have a couple months before Baby H. comes, but I don’t want to force something on her, either … so we will let her dictate to us her comfort levels.
In the best case scenario, she immediately takes on the role of Big Sister and Mommy’s Helper … but we just don’t know how things will pan out when the baby is here. So we’ll cross that bridge–and all the others–when we get to it.
How about you? Any advice for prepping Child #1 for Child #2?