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Preparing For A Second Child, Part 2

Last Friday we talked about target="_blank"
how to get ready for a second baby – all the
things to think about or do in advance that wouldn’t
necessarily come instinctively. Today, I’ll share tips I was
given (or learned the hard way) on how to handle it once
you’ve Brought Baby Home.

First, the hospital. A girlfriend of mine had her second child two
years after her first. When her firstborn walked into the hospital
room to meet his new sibling for the first time, he saw the new
baby in the arms of mommy – HIS mommy, HIS arms – and
promptly burst into tears. She said you could see the hurt and
betrayal on his face.

So ok, not the best way to do it. I hadn’t really thought
about it, but my girlfriend Abby suggested a carefully
choreographed first meeting, and it went like a charm.

Plan that first meeting. When your
oldest comes to the hospital to see you, consider not having the
baby in the room with you at first. We had Cora room in with us my
whole stay, but when Gamma called to alert us that Maddie was in
the lobby we wheeled Cora into the nursery for a few minutes. Brian
met Maddie and Gamma in the lobby and brought them into my room.
When Maddie walked in I was able to give her my full attention and
snuggle a few minutes. Then Brian asked if Maddie would like to
help him go get Baby Sister, to which she excitedly agreed. A few
minutes later, Brian and Madeleine were wheeling Baby Sister back
in, Maddie’s hand on the bassinet and her eyes glued to the
baby. We set Maddie up in a chair with the boppy and let her hold
her. Then Cora went back to the nursery before Maddie left, and
Brian took Maddie out to eat before coming back to the room, which
helped divert Maddie’s attention from the fact that Mommy
didn’t come home with her.

And as the oldest prepares for that meeting, consider letting him
make or bring something for the new baby. He and Grandma could make
a card or buy a flower on the way; Maddie came in clutching a
Gerbera daisy and my heart almost broke from the sweetness. Maddie
also wore her new “Big Sister” t-shirt for the visit,
so all nurses knew what was going on and made a fuss over her.
Instead of it becoming “The day the Usurper showed up”,
the meeting day was “Something special happens to

Make going home about the whole family. Maddie had a new
outfit set aside to help Bring Baby Sister Home. When she showed up
at the hospital, we again had Cora in the nursery. Madeleine and
Daddy came to “pick up” me and Cora from the nursery,
and as she walked down the hallway all the nurses chatted her up:
“Are you coming to bring your baby home? You must be so
proud! You look like such a big sister!” You could see
Maddie’s heart swell with pride and happiness. We all rode
home together, and the first thing we did at home was let Maddie
hold her again.

Pawn your newborn off on other people. Sounds
counterintuitive, but it’s great advice. As a first-time mom,
you want everyone to do everything BUT take care of the baby; you
need people to cook and clean and do laundry for you while you bond
with the newborn and figure out mommyhood. This time around, you
need to make sure you’re paying a lot of attention to the
older one. Let family hold the newborn. It’ll be ok, I
promise. You’ll get plenty of bonding time during nursings,
and your oldest needs you right now. She needs reassurance that you
still love her and haven’t traded her in for a newer model.

Set up a family nursing area. This was really key for me the
first few weeks. I was nursing so often at first and Maddie was not
used to me disappearing a dozen times a day, so I had to make
something work that included her. Yes, we had Maddie’s
“special” chair and toys for her to play with while
nursing, but that wasn’t quite enough in the beginning. I
accidentally stumbled on the perfect solution – nursing in
bed. With plenty of pillows to prop me up and my trusty boppy at my
side, I began sitting on the bed to nurse a lot. We put a
step-stool on the other side of the bed, and Maddie would climb up
with a few books and snuggle next to me. Whether reading books,
playing with quiet toys, or just snuggling, Maddie was happy to
simply be a part of it and know Mommy was still available.

Include the older child on nursing times later on. As Maddie grew
more comfortable with the nursing thing, I was able to return to my
trusty nursing chair. Now she usually sits next to me on the chair
for a bit, sits in her own chair, or even plays in another room
quietly while I nurse. But I still include her if possible, making
it more of a “Time for us to do something” rather than
“Time for Mommy to leave Maddie out” sort of thing.
I’ll ask her to bring me the boppy, or my water bottle, or a
burp cloth, or whatever.

Find ways for the older child to be part of the baby’s
Cora will often sleep later than Maddie in the morning
(the result of being up all night, I guess!), and so when we hear
Cora stir on the monitor I’ll say, “Maddie!
Cora’s waking up!” Madeleine then runs to the
bedroom,climbs up on the bed next to Cora or peeks in her bassinet,
and is the recipient of that yummy, first-smile-of-the-day baby
happiness. Cora has her playmat time, which Maddie loves to hang
out on as well, and Cora has times when she wants to be stimulated;
Maddie will hold a mirror or block in front of Cora’s eyes.
You’ll quickly find these spots.

Try to use neutral language for pending disappointments.
We go
out of our way to make sure we’re not blaming Cora for not
doing something with Maddie. If Madeleine says, “Mommy! Come
play with me!” I don’t say, “I can’t
– I’m taking care of Cora instead!” I’ll
say something like, “I’m busy right now – do you
want to come help me?” We caught ourselves
“blaming” Cora a lot in the beginning, but have gotten
a lot better. This has gone a long way, I think, towards Maddie not
resenting Cora and the time she takes us away from Madeleine.

Never let your child take a bath by herself. No, this
isn’t some new safety tip – it’s a sanity tip.
Which would you rather do: kneel painfully by the tub, getting your
clothes splashed as you struggle with a squirmy toddler; or relax
in a hot bath, playing water sports with your kid? I started taking
baths with Maddie when she was an infant as a way of getting her
used to the water, and now I do it every time. It’s way more
relaxing and gives me a chance to get off my feet.

Trust me, this two kids thing feels insurmountable at first but
it’s not. You’ll find a way to get things done and get
into your own groove soon enough. I’ve even begun treasuring
those times that the girls’ naps don’t line up; at
first I hated it because I couldn’t nap myself, but now I
enjoy it because I can devote my full attention to just one girl.

Next week ( I know I said it was a two-parter; I lied) I’ll
pass on a few dire but hopefully funny warnings of how life will
change for you.


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