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Getting Ready for Baby

As I mentioned in an earlier blog,
Maddie’s first meeting with Cora was an unqualified success.
This didn’t happen by accident, though: we spent a lot of
time talking to friends about what worked with new siblings, and
getting advice on how to help Maddie transition during the
pregnancy. I now pass this advice along to you!

First, a recap of the pregnancy –

Maddie spent the whole pregnancy talking
about Baby Sister and “practicing” for some baby time.
She’s got her own dolly cradle, dolly high chair, and borrows
a dolly stroller at the park to push around. She would talk to my
stomach daily, giving it an affectionate slap and saying, “Hi
in there Baby Sister!” Then she’d kiss it, lay her
cheek against my belly button, and say, “Aw, Baby
Sister.” Maddie ran through the litany of Things Baby Sister
May Not Have – her toy popper, her Elmo dolls (any of them),
her Silky, and so on. She’d talk about when Mommy went to the
doctor to check on Baby Sister. At the church, Maddie would watch
anxiously as a new baby cried during a diaper change, and we
discussed how babies cry All The Time and it’s the only way
they can communicate. Our friends lent us some of the Sears
children’s books on becoming an older sibling and Maddie read
them enthusiastically several times. And finally, Maddie mournfully
ran down the list of things Baby Sister can’t enjoy yet,
Goldfish being at the top of the list.

My kid is ready to be a big sister. Part of this, I think, is
simply that she’s a girl and all little girls love playing
with dolls. Part of it, though, was our continuing to talk to her
about what was going on. Not in a threatening manner, but simply in
a “this is going to be so great for Maddie” type of
way. Everything was about how it would relate to Maddie, and none
of it was negative. We tried to reinforce sharing, and what would
be shared with baby sister, but also made it clear that several
things were “hers” and baby sister would not take them

We did a little advance shopping work of our own, as well.
We’ve been buying birthday presents for Maddie’s
upcoming June birthday, and have squirreled away a few small gifts
to give her “just because” when she feels a bit
ignored. We bought a really cool href="http://www.babystyle.com/common/dProductDetail.asp?PMID=18481">
to put in our room Just For Maddie, so she has
someplace special to sit while I nurse Baby Sister, and we brought
it out for the first time when I sat down to nurse Cora at home.
We’ve gathered some quiet toys and especially books to give
to her in small increments – things she can read or play with
by herself while I nurse. And we pulled together a few special new
outfits and set them aside – First Meeting, Bringing Sister
Home, and so forth. My kid loves her clothes.

It’s also worth throwing out there that on Thursday, the day
I was induced, I put Maddie down for her nap and she said her
prayers, as usual, which is pretty much a “thank you”
list at this point. We’ve been making a point of saying
“thank you” for all the fun things she did that day,
and for all the things she hopes to do, and all her favorite
people. The last thing she said (I kid you not – and
unprompted) was, “Thank you God Baby Sister’s coming

So – the big day! Time to meet the new kid!

I received an excellent piece of advice from my girlfriend Abby:
when introducing your toddler to the new baby for the first time,
make sure the new baby’s not in the room when your toddler
shows up. Have the baby in the nursery so your toddler
doesn’t walk in and see a stranger taking “her”
place in your arms. Make a huge fuss over the toddler, then let her
and Daddy go get the baby from the nursery together. This worked
incredibly well for us, and made Maddie feel like she actually had
a part in bringing Cora into our family, while at the same time
reassuring her that she’s special and irreplaceable in our
lives. We repeated this when it was going-home day, having Maddie
come inside and get Cora from the nursery and escort her to the
car. I know different things work for different people, but this
really helped us a lot.

Once we got home with Cora and tried to start acting “back to
normal”, we made an effort to both carve out time to spend
with Maddie one-on-one. Maddie’s involved in Baby
Sister’s day and loves holding her, but clearly blossoms
under individual attention.

I think the hardest area, once I’m watching both girls by
myself on a regular basis, will be nursing time. We’ve tried
to head that one off a bit with the chair and toys I mentioned
earlier, but truthfully what’s worked best is simply nursing
Cora sitting propped up in my bed, and letting Maddie sit
alongside. She’ll climb up and lean back against
Brian’s pillows with a couple of her new books, and I (or
someone else, if around) will read to her or she’ll read to
herself. Occasionally I’ll let her have a snack at the same
time, and she’s pretty happy curled up next to Mommy and
Cora, getting a bit of attention at the same time. However it works
out, we make a conscious effort not to simply disappear into
another room and shut the door on Maddie for those 12 nursings a

And finally, when conflict comes up – which child gets
attention first? – how we talk to Maddie matters just as much
as the choice we make. Friends have advised us to not say things
like, “Baby sister needs me now, so you’ll have to
wait.” We go out of our way to avoid “blaming”
Cora for taking Mommy or Daddy away, while at the same time trying
to show Maddie where we all fit in the family dynamic. It’s
only been less than two weeks, so I’m not sure how successful
we’ve been yet, but we’re trying.

So that’s where we are – if anyone else has any
suggestions for helping siblings out, I’d really appreciate
you posting them in the comments!


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