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Preparing For A Second Child

My girlfriend Deb is expecting her second
child soon and had confessed in a recent email that she’s
nervous about how she’s going to handle an additional child.
I’ve been composing a reply to her in my head for the past
few weeks (usually at 2 a.m. in the morning while nursing)
that’s full of suggestions and encouragement, and it occurred
to me there may be more of you interested in this topic so here it
is. This is a two-parter – this week’s entry is about
preparing for the second child, and next week’s covers some
tips to help once the new baby arrives. And as always, this is
partly what I’ve learned and mostly great tips my girlfriends
passed on to me.

When you’re pregnant the first time,
it’s all about the gear: reading Consumer Reports,
test-driving strollers, picking baby books to inhale (and stress
over), fighting – I mean, discussing – your way through
a registry, and so on. You’re in a dream-like state, enjoying
your new status as Pregnant Chick and basking in the smiles of
strangers. You take long, luxurious naps (doctor’s orders!
Put your feet up!) and carefully select a balanced variety of foods
designed to give your little one the perfect blend of nutrients
every day. With, of course, that guilt-free chocolate on the side.
Hey! You’re eating for two! In short, this is the last time
of your WHOLE LIFE that you’ll get to be so self-centered and

Fast-forward to your second pregnancy. No tight, high belly this
time – you “pop” about two minutes after the
urine-soaked stick turns pink. You know you’ve got all the
gear (if you can just remember which closet it’s all crammed
in) and frankly don’t have time to talk to your husband since
you’re too busy trying to find your toddler’s lovey,
which you have a sneaking suspicion was eaten by the vacuum. You
can’t remember the last time you read a book that
didn’t have pictures, you spend your toddler’s nap time
doing laundry and puking from morning sickness, and try not to look
at your grossly swollen ankles. A balanced meal? Does chicken
nuggets sound familiar? Ketchup counts as a vegetable, right?

In short, this second pregnancy is not about you. It’s not
about shopping or pampering. Second time around is all about
getting your oldest ready to have a sibling, and if there’s
time, figuring out where the new kid’s going to sleep.

First off, talk to your child. Simply start explaining that
you’re going to have a baby who will be with you all soon. No
need to go into the birds and the bees – just introduce the
idea. Maddie was fascinated with my stomach and I spoke so casually
about Baby Sister that she was soon an everyday part of
Maddie’s life, kissing her goodnight, waving hi to the belly,
and so on. My girlfriend Bev lent us a couple of href="http://www.askdrsears.com/store/detail.asp?pid=7">Dr.
Sear’s books
on having a new baby, and Maddie loved
to read them. By the time Cora came, she was tense with
anticipation and ready to meet her. I purposefully stayed away from
warnings – “You know, after the baby comes Mommy
won’t be able to spend as much time with you!” –
and kept it positive. She’ll figure out the negatives all by

Go through new changes before they have to happen. I was
pretty much the only person who’d put Maddie down for bed for
the first year and a half. To get ready for my hospital stay, we
made sure Daddy did it a few times, then Gamma, first with me there
and then without. Having the nighttime routine change for the first
time while you’re in labor is not the best thing. We also
made sure Maddie and Gamma were comfortable with long stretches of
time together; Brian and I left the house one Saturday morning and
didn’t come back until after dinner. Also known as a day off
for Mommy and Daddy, heh heh.

Likewise, we needed Maddie to be comfortable with an alternate
caregiver – she’s never stayed with a paid sitter. So a
few months before I gave birth my friend Nija started coming over
to “hang out” and play with Maddie and me. Maddie
became comfortable with her, and we knew we could call Nija as
backup after the baby came.

Buy some new-baby toys. The new baby will be receiving gifts
left and right and the older child may feel left out. We spent a
couple months picking up small toys like books or little silly
things that we saved and are now doling out to Maddie as needed.
Definitely not bribes – just pick-me-ups and something to
remind Maddie that she’s special, too. Spreading it out
helped financially.

Plan ahead for nursings. This is one of the trickiest parts.
You’ll be spending lots of time every day with the new baby
when you simply can’t give your full attention to your
oldest. Try to set a nursing station up that your older child can
be a part of – a special bucket of toys she only gets to play
with while Mommy’s nursing, that sort of thing. We bought
Maddie a stuffed-animal chair and hid it until the first time I had
to nurse Cora at home; then we brought it out with much fanfare and
showed Maddie the “special seat” just for her to sit in
while Cora fed. I set a basket of books – a few new, some old
– next to it for her to “read” while I nursed,
and also hid a tub of toys nearby to bring out as well. Most of the
time Maddie will bring me a book and I’ll read it with one
hand while nursing.

Get a few new outfits. This is probably more important if
your oldest is a girl. Maddie loves clothes and we hit the outlet
mall and set aside a couple outfits for her. She had a special
“bringing Baby Sister home” outfit, and we also got her
a href="http://www.roslynscloset.com/products.asp?cat=19">“big
sister” t-shirt
to wear for her first visit to the
hospital. Both were huge hits. And since we knew we were having a
second girl, we splurged on a couple “matching” outfits
for Maddie and Cora; Maddie is enchanted by them.

Think through your gear. Yes, I said the second kid’s
not about the gear. But there are a few things. You’ll need
to rethink your stroller, buying a double or adding a running board
to your current one. Same for the car seat – you may need a
second one if your oldest doesn’t outgrow it fast enough for
the little peanut. Monitors are something else you may need to
double up on. You get the picture (and that’s not what this
article is really about!). The one piece of equipment I’ll
recommend is the boppy. You’ll be keeping one by your regular
nursing station, but you may want one in a family room;
you’ll find yourself nursing more in odd places as you hang
with your older child, for one, and for two, the boppy is great for
“helping” your older child to hold the baby. Seriously
think about this.

A final word on gear – people will ask what they can get you.
Explain you’ll need a few big-ticket items (see above) but
are generally set. If they’re looking for something else,
encourage people to buy one-of-a-kind gifts for the new baby. The
oldest child usually has a shelf full of engraved spoons and
rattles and cups and monogrammed blankets and hats and so on; every
subsequent child has less and less. We treasure the unique picture
frames and monogrammed towels and so forth that Cora’s

Start hiding old gear, and referring to current gear in
possessive-neutral terms.
What do I mean by this?? Hide old
toys or equipment your child doesn’t currently use; by the
time it comes out again he won’t associate it with himself
(and start screaming, “Mine!”) Likewise, stop saying,
“Your crib,” and start saying, “The crib.”
This will help when it’s time to “share”. At the
same time, reinforce things that will be specific to that child so
she knows there are some things she won’t have taken away
from her: “Yes, this is your Giraffe, and always will

Don’t try anything new close to the due date. Any big
steps such as potty training or moving to a big-girl bed are best
accomplished months, not weeks, before your due date. Because any
new developments right around baby’s arrival are likely to be
forgotten; regression is almost a given when competition arrives on
the scene. So plan ahead.

Next Friday, we’ll talk about what to do once the
baby’s arrived. So for now, get out there and, um, wait a few
more months!


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