Plus One: Adapting to a Bigger Brood
by Alyssa Delle Palme
When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, the first thing I did was buy my firstborn, Henry, a big brother T-shirt. I was thrilled to be expecting again and I wanted my son to feel special and share in my excitement. It took me by surprise when I suddenly started to feel guilty about my pregnancy. As much as I wanted a second baby, I realized my relationship with Henry was going to change. My heart ached when I thought about having to give up the special oneon- one time I shared with my son. I also worried that I couldn’t possibly love another baby as much as I love Henry.
Parents can sometimes focus so much on preparing their first child for the new baby that they forget to prepare themselves. It was reassuring to discover that my reaction was perfectly normal. Many parents experience feelings of guilt when there’s another baby on the way and it was comforting to know I wasn’t alone. I spoke to friends who have more than one child and they all promised me, no matter how many babies I have, I will always have more than enough love to go around.
During my pregnancy, I wanted to prepare Henry for the new baby. He tagged along to all of my prenatal visits with the midwife and listened to the baby’s heartbeat. I borrowed “new baby” books from the Ottawa Public Library that he enjoyed— until the little sister arrived in the story. At that point, Henry would close the book and declare the story was “all done.” I didn’t really worry about how he would feel about our new addition until I brought him with me to my ultrasound appointment. During the scan, the technician was getting a picture of the baby’s spine and Henry pointed to the screen and shouted “dino!” with such enthusiasm. I knew he was going to be disappointed when I came home with a baby instead of a T-Rex.
I knew Henry was going to be disappointed when I came home with a baby instead of a T-Rex.
Ottawa mother Robyn Metz says she prepared her son, Blake, for his new baby sister by buying him a baby doll. “We showed him how to feed it and burp it. We told him he would have to help us do that with his little sister when she arrived. We told him big brothers are very important and he would have to watch out for her and help take care of her.” Another way you can help prepare your child for a new sibling is to visit friends with a new baby, if possible.
When we brought our new baby, Rosemary June, home from the hospital, she brought with her a present for Henry. His special big brother bag included a new dinosaur toy and a box of Smarties. My toddler, who wanted nothing to do with babies earlier, was suddenly interested in his little sister. The gift exchange made our homecoming a happy one.
Life with a newborn can be a little chaotic and I did initially find it difficult to fit in quality time with my older child.
However I’ve discovered the best time to squeeze in alone time with Henry is when Rosemary is napping. We make crafts, build blocks, put puzzles together or bake. Most of the time, I have to do activities that include both my kids. Babywearing gives me two free hands, allows me to remain close to Rosemary and it makes it easier to chase her big brother around. We go for walks in the woods or cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie, while I nurse the baby.
After both my children were born, I had plenty of offers of help from family members and friends. Like many mothers, I developed postpartum supermom syndrome and felt guilty if I didn’t get it all done on my own. Mother of two Jan Hebert says she’s also the type of person who has a hard time accepting help, but ultimately she did.
“I wore myself out thinking that I could do everything for everyone. Having a new baby in your family changes a lot. There isn’t enough time for everything anymore and it is important to let things go.”
My greatest piece of advice for new parents is to always accept offers of help.
Allowing myself some “me time” has helped make the transition from life-with-one-kid to life-with-two-kids a lot easier. I get up before my kids every morning to squeeze in a workout and I continue to pursue my passions, including art and writing. I am a better mother for it. Orleans mother Denise Smith says she struggles to find the balance between being a mother, a spouse and person who needs time to recharge.
“Once the kids are in bed I do things I once took for granted like reading Perez Hilton uninterrupted or painting my toes and enjoying a glass of wine. A happy mommy equals a happy household.” Many mothers feel selfish when they take time for themselves, but that guilt is unjustified. Staying positive helps. If I’m feeling down after a particularly hard day, I practice gratitude. I share three good things that happened that day with my husband and I instantly feel better. Welcoming another baby into the family is a special occasion, but adapting to a bigger brood does take time. The transition isn’t always smooth, but the rewards are pretty sweet.