My family and I are a couple weeks away from welcoming our baby girl, Sadie. I remember when I was pregnant with my first daughter, people would often ask me, “Are you scared or nervous at all?” The truth is, I wasn’t. Not even the tiniest bit. For some, reason I had no fear of becoming a mother. I felt like I was made to be a mother and I was ready to take on the responsibility. Last night, as I lay uncomfortably in bed wishing Sadie would make her appearance, I realized that I am actually a bit afraid this time.
Having two children will surely require more of a balancing act. There will be twice the demands and twice the needs to be met; however, that isn’t the part that scares me. This time, it isn’t just my husband and I welcoming a child – our two-year-old daughter will also be welcoming a sister. I know that our oldest is genuinely excited to have a sister and is very curious about this “Sadie” character. She always asks to “feel” Sadie and says the sweetest things to my belly, like “I’m your big sister Sophie” and “Come out, Sadie, I’m ready to meet you.” It’s just darling, but as the time draws nearer, I can’t help but feel a bit of anxiety about how Sophie will react to not being the sole recipient of attention. Let’s be honest here, our house right now is sort of “The Sophie Show.” I’ve been trying my best to prepare Sophie for the arrival of her sister, so hopefully some of the things we’ve been doing will lessen the shock and ward off some of the jealousy. I know without a doubt, there will be tears and jealousy, but I’m trying to tackle some of it in advance. Here is what my family has done to prepare our toddler for a new sibling.
1. Setting expectations: I think it is very important to set the expectations that our newest addition will be very fragile, and quite frankly, boring for awhile. My husband and I have talked to Sophie about how Sadie won’t talk, walk or play. At first, this seemed a bit shocking to our daughter, but now she reminds us all the time that “Sadie won’t walk” or “Sadie won’t know how to talk.” We are letting Sophie know in advance that Sadie will be very little and she will be the baby. We tell Sophie that we need her to be a big girl, because we are going to need a lot of help from her to care for our new baby. The other day, Sophie asked her daddy to pick her up and carry her up the stairs. She then said something sort of heartbreaking, but probably true. She said, “When Sadie is born, Daddy will have to hold Sadie and not Sophie.” While that isn’t entirely true and it sort of stung a little bit, I was glad that she recognized that Sadie will have needs to be met.
2. Talking about babies and role playing with dolls: While we don’t always play with baby dolls or talk about babies, we’ve made a conscious effort to incorporate more baby-like things lately. We have several baby dolls with all the accoutrement (outfits, diapers, binkies, bottles, etc.) Sophie has become very interested in caring for her baby dolls. She makes sure her baby is fed, diapered, clothed, etc. I think this will help when Sadie is born, because it helps set the expectation that babies need a lot of care. We’ve also been trying to prepare Sophie by reading books about babies and occasionally watching the Dora episode about when Dora becomes a big sister.
3. Involving your toddler in the preparations: From doing Sadie’s laundry, to decorating the nursery, to putting together the bassinet, we’ve asked for Sophie’s help with it all. She gets so excited about preparing for Sadie and genuinely likes to help. I’m hoping this “helper attitude” carries over when Sadie is home with us. I’m sure I will be severely sleep deprived and need all the help I can get, even if it is from a two-year-old! I feel that having Sophie help us prepare now will really encourage her to step in to the big sister role when the baby arrives.
I know there will be some truly magical moments with my two girls, but I’m sure there will also be jealousy and possibly a little resentment that will come with bringing home a new baby. I’m sure most families in our situation feel a little nervous about how their toddler will react. Hopefully some of the things we’ve done to prepare Sophie for a sibling will help. I know our routine will change a bit when Sadie arrives, but I hope to find a good balance, and I will strive to provide Sophie with the same love and attentions she receives today.
How did you prepare your toddler for a sibling? Do you have any advice for those first few weeks or months after bringing home a new addition?