When we found out we were pregnant with our second child, the first thing we thought of was how excited our little girl would be. Since she was about two and a half, she’d point to babies on our walks and comment on how cute they are. She also began adding “Please give me a baby brother or baby sister” to her evening prayers. Now that baby #2’s arrival is just weeks away, I can’t help wondering how she’ll take on the big sister role.
We waited until I was close to the end of my first trimester to tell her. We sat her down after dinner and told her she was going to be a big sister. The look on her face was priceless. You could follow all the emotions from confusion to realization to sheer joy. She was over the moon. To break the news to family, we gave everyone envelopes, saying it was Sofia’s dance recital photos. We did have a few of them in there, but the last one was of her pointing proudly to her new t-shirt that declared she was a big sister.
The first few months, I could see that the concept of having a younger sibling seemed purely theoretical. For her, having a baby was much like having a new doll to play with. I think it wasn’t until we took her to my second trimester ultrasound that reality started to sink in. She wondered at the shapes and shadows on the screen, and the technician was great at pointing out what baby was doing and where the head, legs, and arms were. Finally, it came time to find out the baby’s sex. When the technician said we were having a boy, Sofia looked at Mr. D, then me, then the technician as if to say “Really? You’re kidding, right?” We knew she’d secretly been hoping for a little sister, which many of her friends and cousins have. But, after a few moments, she started to smile and giggle.
Once we chose a name for the baby (which we’re keeping under wraps until he’s born), she got used to the idea of a brother. She sees cars and trucks and planes at the store and says we should get them for him. She hugs the belly and talks to it, saying she’s trying to make her brother laugh. And last month, to make the transition even more real, we told her we were getting her a “big girl” bed, and that her crib would be for her brother to sleep in. We ordered her bed online, but took a trip to Ikea to let her pick out the bedding. Girly-girl that she is, she opted for a floral pattern in reds and yellows. She insisted on helping Mr. D put her new bed together, and couldn’t wait to spend the first night in it.
Of course, the impending change hasn’t all gone smoothly. Since Christmas, I Sofia has gotten a lot more clingy and emotional. She’s semi-boycotted ballet class, choosing to watch from the corner rather than participate, and grabs my hand at odd times and puts it against her face. It breaks my heart to see her expression when I have to remind her of the things I can’t do with her because of the baby belly. So, to let her know that Mommy’s love for her hasn’t diminished, we’ve started to have more Mommy-Sofia days, where she stays home from daycare and we spend the day together. She’s perfectly content to help me with chores around the house or to run errands, but we sometimes go out for an afternoon snack at a nearby bakery or go to the park if the weather permits. Sometimes we just sit and snuggle and watch “Top Chef” or the Food Network—her choice, she loves what she calls “cooking things.” I tell her as often as I can that she’ll always be my best girl, makes her smile shyly and earns me big, tight hugs.
I remember my yaya (Filipino for “nanny”, though she was much more than that) telling me that before I was born, she’d asked my dad if he could buy Carissa a new toy. “Because,” she said, “everyone will be paying attention to the new baby, and at least a new toy will occupy her and make her feel like you were thinking of her.” My dad listened to her and bought a nurse’s kit, complete with cap, stethoscope, syringe, etc. I’m pretty sure it worked for the first few days, though I’ll have to confirm with my own big sister.
I also love this idea for making your little one feel cherished after the baby arrives.
How did you prepare your older children for their siblings? Did you read them books about it? How did they react once the baby came home? Were they eager to help, or did they completely freak out? Any and all advice welcome!