“What if big brother hates the baby?”
“Should we transition sister to her own bed before baby comes?”
“Is it a good idea to wean brother before baby arrives?”
“I’m so nervous to leave sister to go to the hospital.”
“What if he cries?”
“What if she cries?”
“WHAT IF THEY BOTH CRY AT THE SAME TIME?!”
Does this feel familiar? I see you over there, 35 weeks pregnant. Birth is imminent for you and you are completely. freaking. out.
What did we do? Who said another child was a good idea?
I was there. I was petrified. Honestly, I cried a lot while I was pregnant. I cried because I was already mourning the inevitable loss of just having my one little man. Then I cried because of the guilt that I was upset about this precious creature growing inside of me. It was one giant hormonal cry-fest.
The best advice I could have received was don’t create problems before they are problems.
Don’t wean anybody. (Or at least don’t wean anybody just because you are pregnant or because of a fear of a future problem that doesn’t exist.)
Don’t get them out of your bed.
Don’t think about sibling hatred or everybody crying.
Those things haven’t happened yet. Just take each day as it comes. Sometimes each second.
I was mourning my only child feelings hard toward the end of pregnancy. It wouldn’t just be me and my son anymore; our little tag team of unicorns and rainbows was coming to an end. I was panicked. What if he thought I was replacing him? What if he thought he wasn’t good enough? What if he didn’t like having a sibling? What if? What if? What if?
Worrying about things that haven’t happened isn’t going to make my life any better. Cherishing these last only child weeks were what I felt deepest, so I would drink those moments up.
When baby came, in the night, in our living room, all of my fears vanished. (Between you and me, when I first got pregnant (and throughout the whole pregnancy, if I’m being honest) I thought “how on earth could I love anyone else besides my current child?” I was so sure that it was impossible to love another baby as much even though everyone said your love grows. I just could not see it.) The good news is that this new little baby had my heart as soon as she popped out. Those first moments were beautiful.
Fast forward 20 minutes and I was finally in uncharted waters. My experience was probably a little more extreme than some because of having a sensory child (he was terrified of the baby’s cries). The things that we thought about changing “to help him adjust” ultimately became our life rafts.
Nursing my oldest was everything to making this transition smoother. Cosleeping was everything to healing that few days (weeks?) of confusion and fear and loss that he and I felt. For the first few nights he refused to sleep in the same bed with us. He had never ever slept without me. And suddenly he didn’t want to. He fell asleep crying in my husband’s arms in our bed. I fell asleep crying with my newborn in my arms in our other bed. My husband had to return to work after one week, so we were forced to sleep in the same room again, and thank goodness!
Yes, it was devastating. In a time that we expected pure joy and happiness, we felt devastation, loss, deep grief and heartache. There were times when they both truly needed me, but I couldn’t give them each exactly what they needed at the exact same time. I felt worthless. I felt like I had made the biggest mistake of my life. It wasn’t ‘supposed’ to be this hard. But it was. It was really, really hard.
Day 3 of my hormone crash, my 3.5 year old would run away from me crying that he wished he would disappear. He was heartbroken. I was a sobbing mess. I couldn’t run and play because I had to heal. I had a new little human attached to me at all times. Everything was different and our worlds were rocked. My husband, at one point, just stood before us and saw us (myself and my toddler) crying our eyes out. I was trying to nurse the baby, my son was running for the door wishing to extinguish his existence, and I was crying because all of my fears came crashing down on me. What did I do? I have ruined my child’s life. In that moment, I knew that my husband’s life had also been turned upside down. I felt so selfish and devastated. I felt so guilty because this new little baby was such a glowing light, but I had tiny niggles of resentment towards her for no fault of her own. I just wanted things to go back to how they were. I just wanted my precious relationship back with my son. I felt completely and utterly hopeless.
Well, you sure aren’t giving me much confidence here??!
Let me tell you this.
It got better.
Second by second. Day by day. We adjusted. We healed. We laid on the floor in the middle of the room and stared at the ceiling together. And built a little nest of blankets and read books with each other. We laughed a lot. And we started getting more active and went out on little walks to watch the ducks at the pond. We chased each other around and tried to find that sacred little dyad that felt like a distant dream. Slowly but surely it morphed and grew into something new, with a little of the old mixed in there.
It took a lot of effort to heal that huge, sudden fissure in our relationship. My son was hesitant to come near me. He was hesitant to laugh. He was always moments from a flood of tears. My only job during this time was to be there for him and support him. I held him while he cried. I didn’t get offended when he refused to play with me, or stand by me, or speak to me. I allowed every emotion that he had and embraced him. I got down at his level as often as I could and let him know that “mommy is still here. I’m still the same person. You are still the same person. We are still together forever.”
One day we looked at the tiny little baby that had joined our life. My 3.5 year reached his little face down to her and whispered, “you scare me when you cry. I love you.” He kissed her cheek. He said “look at her cute squishy hands, mama.” We started making memories together in this new awkward and perfect-feeling family.
Fast forward 2 years, and they still love each other. He still tells her how cute she is. He still tells her that her cries scare him.
It’s ok to grieve what you are losing. It’s ok to feel cheated out of this supposed perfect and happy new baby time. It’s ok to feel what you feel. To cry. To laugh. To be angry. To stop doing dishes for three months. To let the ‘big kid’ pretend to be a baby. To cosleep. To tandem breastfeed. To chase butterflies. To realize that your heart didn’t take love from your older child to give to the little; it grew. Can you believe that? Your capacity to love will grow and everything will be how it is meant to be. Just open your heart, toss out your expectations for what things should be, and embrace what is.