I made my husband wait at least 2 years until I was willing to try for a second baby. Being the control freak I am, I wanted to feel “ready” and stable enough to cope with the logistical aspects of life with a second baby.
The initial adjustment period of our first baby was long and traumatic. For both me and baby Zac. All the love in the world did not take the bitter edge off the horde of changes in my day to day being. Finally, once I dealt with some PND and anxiety issues, we added another delightful, demanding tiny human into our lives.
If I’m honest with you, the fear of not being able to love another child or give the second child equal attention never crossed my mind. I had watched my Mum cope well with this. She would mother us as if she was so blessed to have us both. If she ever had favourites, I never noticed.
That may be a lie, if you have read my second birth story you would know in an emotional rant on the way to hospital because I felt Zac was missing time prior to that day, and I knew his life would forever be changed when he next saw us. Poor Shane attempted to put positive spins on the situation, but I was way past that, nothing he isn’t used to every 28 days anyway. Sorry babe.
Back to my point, the parts that terrified me were making sure both children were fed, cleaned and had slept adequately and most of all; would Zac accept and get along with the new addition?
I can tell you that 6 months in (to the day as I write this), the boys are OBSESSED with each other. Their worlds are not complete without a good morning and good night hug, kiss or acknowledgement of some form. I secretly tear up over this on the daily, because I never expected such a bond between them and I know as they grow it will morph into other displays of affection that aren’t as heart-warming. Cue rough-housing and wrestling.
Apart from a few incidents where Zac gets a tad overexcited, where he jiggles Judd or tries to “help him roll over”, and a few moments where he shrieks in excitement scaring the living daylights out of the baby, we have yet to see a need to worry about him intentionally causing harm. Touch wood – and as I said, this probably won’t last forever. Overall, we’re sure Judd has caused more pain to Zac by pinching and pulling hair, being the chunky little bruiser he is.
Given our successes so far, I’d love to share what helped us to prepare our child and our home for the arrival of another baby in the house, for the parents that follow my stories and are thinking of/who have added another little peanut into their worlds:
- Read books about getting a sibling. Our kick-ass Aunty Kate bought Zac “You’re a Big Brother”. He loves a good chuckle about the “babies being smelly” page.
- Baby dolls with prams, bottles, nappies and dummies. Yes, even for a boy. Zac has always loved playing with dolls, but we decided to get him one specifically around the time JJ was born so that he could sit along side me copying my actions as I fed and changed the baby. This was the perfect opportunity for him to use the baby name he chose (clearly, we weren’t on board) hence we have a Baby Jake residing in the playroom.
- Make an effort to have one-on-one time with the older sibling. This really is determined by their age, as a younger child is more dependant anyway but an older child who is independent may often get lost in the days activities and before you know it they’ve spent most of the time alone. Even small 15 minute play sessions (without technology interrupting) with just Zac and I, or Shane and him made all the difference. Yes, baby will go through phases of squawking if they aren’t being held. Chuck them in a carrier, bouncer or pram if you have to and do your best with the situation you are in. Zac had his fill of time with one of us and was content to play alone afterwards. Then he could see that Judd got his time with us, but he did too.
- Have conversations on the way life will change when a new baby is involved. Share all the fun points such as another playmate and someone to talk to, but also be realistic in a concise way that Mum and Dad will share time between baby and them. And that they will need to share some spaces in the house with the new sibling.
- Create a sanctuary in their bedroom that is ONLY theirs. We found this really important with Zac. We moved his bedroom to a larger one which allowed us to put baby in the room closest to us. I created a reading corner with a tent, pillow, blanket and soft toys and we moved some his favourite toy playsets in the room also. Sure, it took a while of us reinforcing that he doesn’t play all flipping night long (we do find toys have *magically* moved overnight sometimes), but that was worth the ease of adjustment for Zac. He has his OWN space which Judd is allowed in at times of Zac’s choosing, and as he grows older all the smaller toys will be moved there so that the main portion of the house is safer for a crawling baby and toddler.
- Watch TV shows or movies where children gain siblings and are comfortable with it. Hate to say it, but Baby Jake and Ryan Toys Review were helpful in this department. Like, I really hate to admit that.
- Now that Judd is older, he pulls and grabs and can even find skin to pinch on tightest parts of a neck or face. Judd gets told not to be rough and grab and encouraged to play softly, just the same as Zac. We feel like this helps Zac to recognise he isn’t the only one that makes mistakes or gets a bit rough and is told off, which in turn creates less resentment.
- Hug and show affection to both children. Probably an obvious one. Judd gets hugs, Zac gets hugs. Simple, but seriously can be forgotten when baby demands so much attention. Zac is growing out of hugs anyway, so he only needs a quick one and he is good for a while.
- Involve them in play together. We ask Zac if he can lend some toys to Judd and vice versa (not that Judd can answer, obviously) which doesn’t always work. Zac does get possessive over his toys, but it is still early days and we feel it is important to begin the habit of asking permission first.
- Involve the older sibling in helping with certain tasks for the baby. “Zac, can you please pass me the wipes” et cetera. He thrives off feeling independent and as if he was helping his Mum and Dad.
- Routine. We love routine. It grounds our family unit. It became looser with the new arrival but it’s existence gave Zac and us the comfort of knowing what was coming next and that we would eventually get time together when JJ was sleeping. JJ, on the other hand, was not a routine-happy baby until over 12 weeks of age. He was simply not ready and was extremely unsettled. We just let go of the concept until he had calmed down and felt comfortable. Now he is quite flexible (being dragged along to kinder drop off and pickup will do that), but also responds to routine quite well, plus I feel so confident in his cues.
- Empower the older sibling to be independent. We figured that at some point Zac would need to discover he wasn’t the only young child in the family. Therefore, when I was pregnant we began doing less for him. In a way, we threw him in the deep end and help to guide his way to self-sufficiency. Previous teaching techniques did not work for Zac. This included him learning to dress himself, get himself snacks and drinks, pack up his toys when requested, use the toilet when asked (he was a late toilet user), washing and drying himself after a bath, me physically not carrying him around anymore (I still did this for him at 4 years old and heavily pregnant and simply could not anymore) and overall getting him used to responding to requests from us. Zac began kinder mere weeks before I popped so these habits were important regardless of Judd’s arrival.
My friends, forgive yourself if you can’t always “get it right”. Chances are the things that cause friction also hold potential to build resilience, within reason and with the right attitude. Guilt is imminent, and I often wish there was a way around it, but dodging negative emotions is not realistic and maintainable. It is healthy to feel pangs of guilt because your time is now in higher demand and you created made a mammoth global shift in the older child’s life. Try to accept it, and use it is a driver of change. You begin finding more pockets of free time that you never noticed before to hang out with your kids or partner.
Feel proud that you created another human being into a life where they are loved and given opportunity to thrive by parents who actually give a fuck. Which shows because here you are, reading this post about my experiences and tips on the second little squawker joining our crew.
Until next time,