Mama Monday XII: The New Baby

Mama Monday Disclaimer: I am nowhere near an expert mom. I am on a mama journey just like all of you are. However, I’m more than willing to share my experience with you guys. If today’s topic is something that you have an experience with then I hope you’ll share too…either on your own blog (be sure to leave us a link) or in the comments section.

Thanks again to Shannon for this great topic idea. I know there are tons of you out there in this position or who will soon be there so I hope it will be helpful to read how other people have handled having a new baby in the house.

Sarah and Ephraim are 25 months apart so she had just turned two when he was born. During my pregnancy we moved across country, moved into a rental house and then our “real” house, and also transitioned her to a big girl bed somewhere in there. There was a lot of change for her in a short period of time. Sarah has always handled change pretty well so I was fairly certain the addition of her little brother would be a rather smooth one.

Here are some things that helped us along the way…

1. Books. Because reading was already such a big part of our routine it was natural to gather several books about being a big sister. It’s naptime so I can’t gather titles from Sarah’s room but search Amazon or peruse your favorite book store and you’re sure to find many fabulous titles.

2. Sarah attended most of my appointments with me out of necessity. It ended up being a good thing though because it gave us a chance to talk about the baby, the doctor, and the process of being pregnant.

3. Ephraim’s nursery was set up a month or so in advance of his birth. Before we arrived we could often go in there and play and talk about what it would be like when he was born. Sarah would help me sort his clothes, gather baby items, and she had a ball playing with the baby powder. All of these things got her used to his room and the new environment.

4. Because I was induced we were really able to prepare Sarah for the exact time the new baby would arrive. My mom came the day before and we were able to put Sarah to bed that night before we headed to the hospital. She knew exactly what would happen and when she would get to see us again which was really helpful.

5. We scheduled Sarah for a siblings class at the hospital but when we arrived they told us she was really too young to get anything out of it (which I wish they would have told me on the phone when I asked 37 times!). The staff was so kind though and when I asked at the nurse’s station if we could just peek in the nursery and see some of the babies they gave Sarah a tour of the whole labor and delivery unit! They even gave her a popsicle as we walked around. If your hospital is willing I would suggest trying to do something like that ahead of time so your little one knows exactly where you’re going to be and what the place looks like. It makes the hospital a little less scary since it’s not an unknown anymore.

6. Once Ephraim arrived we didn’t have any elaborate plans for the siblings’ first meeting but I knew I wanted it to be as soon as possible. Ephraim was born at 5:45p.m. and Sarah came up to meet him the very next morning. I made sure I was dressed and half-way presentable so Sarah wouldn’t be freaked out by my appearance. (by the way, I wish I had known at my first delivery that it’s perfectly acceptable to bring your own clothes to the hospital. I was SO much more comfortable once I ditched the hospital gear and pulled on some jammie pants instead. Definitely check with your hospital to see if that’s an option for you.) We let Sarah take the lead on how close she wanted to get to Ephraim but we made it clear that she could hold him and love on him if she wanted to. I really wanted to make sure that her first interaction with him was at her level of comfort rather than my expectation of a “perfect” moment. As it happened, Sarah was really interested in him and wanted to hold him right away. She was pretty quiet but that was okay. Right before they left that morning she got a little wild and scratched him on his face which was pretty upsetting because I didn’t really know how to react. I wanted to discipline her about it but I also realized that it was a pretty tumultuous time for her. I definitely went easy on her…although when she continued to do it at home things got a little more strict.

7. Scratching was the only issue we’ve ever had with Sarah being aggressive toward Ephraim. During the first three weeks she probably did it 5 or 6 times and each time we sent her to her room and told her that she couldn’t be where Ephraim was if she was going to hurt him. I’m not sure if it was a jealousy thing or just an experimental, “what will happen if I…” type thing. Thankfully she got over it really quickly and has been super gentle (99% of the time) since then.

8. Sarah never seemed to be overly jealous of my time and affection toward Ephraim but that may have more to do with her personality than with anything I did. She’s never been a really cuddly kid so he wasn’t really infringing on her space when he was hanging out with me. I was a little concerned with how nursing was going to go though. She would definitely test me when I was nursing him because she realized pretty quickly that I couldn’t get up and make her do what I asking her to do when I was feeding him. After a few episodes of spending the entire feeding in her room (which at that time was like 30-45 minutes) she stopped testing me. I also think it helped to have a small little rocking chair near me where she could sit and we would read stories together. Or sometimes I would pull toys out ahead of time that I knew she would like to play with while I nursed.

9. I know a lot of experts tell you not to refer to the new baby as “our baby” but I did and still do. “They” liken it to your husband bringing home a new wife and announcing that she’s “our wife” and expecting you to instantly love her. I’m not sure I buy that but I can kind of at least see where “they’re” coming from. Instead of pushing Ephraim onto Sarah I tried to just engage her in what he was doing and talk to her as I was caring for him. That often sounded like this: “Look Sarah! He’s smiling!” or “Let’s see what happens if we tickle him” or “What toy do you think he’d like to play with now?”. She also really liked to mimic what I was doing with Ephraim with her dolls. So sometimes if we were playing on the floor she would do the same thing with her baby and then we’d switch so that she was playing with Ephraim and I was playing with her baby. Rather than me spending time with Ephraim while Sarah hung out doing something else it was Sarah and me spending time together while we both played with Ephraim. It seemed to work best for us that way.

As the months have passed it’s been really fun to watch their relationship grow. Sarah seems to really revel in all of Ephraim’s new milestones and stages and he, of course, smiles and coos at her like she hung the moon. On our way home from Brent’s parents for the 4th this past weekend Brent and I looked in the backseat and caught a peek of Sarah holding Ephraim’s hand while he slept. They’re pretty attached. I know it may not last long but we’re enjoying it while it lasts!

I’ll add more if I think of anything else that might be helpful. I hope we’ll get some great buddy posts today because I know there’s tons more to be said on this topic. I particularly hope Samantha will join in (since she’s a big, bad blogger now!). She had a really great plan all mapped out for the first time Caroline met William and I know tons of you would benefit from hearing about it.

Buddy Posters:

Heather at the Sarah Bear

Megan (mama of three)

Marilee

J.J.

Princess Pigbear and her Buddy-Ro’s first meeting…

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