This post is particularly long, so to all my new as well as regular Bubbly Blogcast readers, please bear with me through it :). I have dedicated this post to all mothers out there who are thinking about taking the plunge into motherhood a second time around, already pregnant with their second bundle of joy, or who have just given birth to their second child.
Photo credit: www.memesuper.com
My younger son is 8 weeks old today. Raising a child is hard and has countless hurdles we need to cross, however raising two has its’ own challenges as well. How ever much you prepare yourself for motherhood, you never know what hit you until it actually rolls around. Being a new mother is terrifying and confusing, not knowing whether what you are doing is right or wrong. I remember receiving enormous amounts of information from my family and friends on what I should and should not be doing. I made my life more complicated by Googling every small doubt which more often than not, contradicted what I had already been told. But over a period of time I felt myself get clarity on the various do’s and don’ts of motherhood. I finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
The thought of being pregnant a second time was even scarier than being pregnant with my first. I was confident when it came to the day to day activities like diapers, feeding etc; after all I still had the experience from my first. Putting aside my crisis in confidence in my ability to care for two young boys, what kept me up at night was whether or not my elder son would accept the new addition to the family. How would he treat his younger brother?
My mom raised my two sisters and me during a time where nannies were almost unheard of. However I think we all turned relatively normal. I salute my mother. A close friend of mine has three children and I always tell her that she is a super star. Looking at her calm and composed exterior, one would not even think that she has any children at all. I realised that maintaining that peace is an acquired trait which not everyone can accomplish. Many mothers have a head full of grey hairs solely from trying to prevent any tantrums from their elder child around the new baby. This was my biggest fear.
I was lucky enough to have friends with multiple children who were able to guide me on how to handle the dynamics between my elder son and baby, based on their own personal experiences. I owe them my sanity!
There is a lot you can do to help your elder one adjust to a new baby in the house without there being any jealousy, hitting or regressive behaviour.
Here is a list of measures I took to ensure my elder son did not lose the feeling of security he had –
I made a hard choice which many people (parents and non-parents) have criticised and I am positive, will continue to do so. I CHOSE to solely formula feed my second son. You may wonder what led me to make such a choice. Let me say that my previous traumatising experience with breastfeeding had nothing to do with it. I was able to keep my elder son’s routine exactly the same. My choice was based mainly on what would work for me and my elder son. I drop him and pick him from school every day, take him out most evenings, feed him all his 3 meals and so on. My aim was to ensure that he did not feel like I was abandoning him by paying more attention to the baby. Today he is still the same secure boy he has always been, who knows that he still comes first with his mother.
I have always said that guilt is a brutal emotion; one which can eat you up inside if you aren’t careful. I had to work on it, but I succeeded in conditioning myself not to feel guilty about spending more time with my elder son, and less with my younger newborn son. Infants don’t know any better so I used that to my advantage and devoted 90% of my time and energy to my elder one. Having an amazing support system at home helped.
Children automatically love people who bring them gifts. Before I gave birth to my second, I made it a point to buy a week’s worth full of small gifts from the baby to his brother. The first gift was given to him the day I delivered. It was an ‘I can’t wait to meet you’ gift from his new brother. Every few days a new gift would appear in his room. Unable to mask his joy, this helped create an immediate bond between my two bundles of joy.
My elder son is the inclusive type. This is a trait in him I have always admired. He makes it a point to include everyone in the room in whatever he is doing, rarely leaving anyone out. So I practice the same. He is in the same room whenever his baby brother is feeding, having a bath and playing. If the towel for his brother’s bath is out of reach, I request him to get it for me. He now holds the bottle along with me for a part of the feed. Most newborns cry during their massage, as does my newborn. So he helps me to calm his brother down by shaking the rattles or singing a song. Inclusion is key and can go a long way in making children feel safe and secure.
If there is a particular activity which my husband and I are used to doing only with our elder son, we stick to it. We don’t take the baby along most of the time. Yes, children are taught that sharing is caring from their primary years, however there are also certain things which need to belong to them and only them. Our son needed to know that his one on one time with us was sacred.
Many mothers are very anal regarding their child’s sleeping habits. They need their baby to sleep in complete silence with no background noise whatsoever. I am one of those mothers. Both my sons are light sleepers and a pin dropping would wake them up. So I try and eliminate the noise around the baby when he is asleep. Except in one situation. My elder son is extremely intrigued by this small creature who people call his brother and loves to keep coming up to his room to see what he is doing. Being a boy, he always sounds like he has swallowed a mike. But we do not restrict him from entering his brother’s room. We tried that in the beginning but it backfired on us when his screaming only escalated. Now we explain to him calmly and rationally why he should only whisper when he goes into the baby’s room. This works most of time, but not always. But it is wiser than prohibiting him from entering the room altogether.
It is easy to think of your elder child as the big brother or sister, as soon as a baby is born into the family. This, in spite of the elder one still being a toddler and a baby himself. I automatically expected my elder son's behaviour to fall into line and behave like a big brother. But he obviously didn’t know how to, a fact that my husband had to remind me of multiple times. Just because he was not the youngest in the family any more, did not mean that he was not a baby still.
So to all you rock star mothers our there pregnant with your second child or have just had your second child, don’t be afraid and don’t expect only negative and regressive behaviour from your elder ones. Hold their hand and stand by their side while they get used to the idea of sharing their mother with someone else.
I hope my post has been of some help. I know I couldn’t have done it without some help from my own family and friends.