I am a huge believer in the value of books as a help to child life in general, but especially during difficult times and transitions. As a parent, it’s incredibly difficult to find the balance between preparing Annabelle, helping her to process the things she’s dealing with, and just plain talking too much. I’m sure the excess talking doesn’t hurt in the long run, but after a point, it becomes little more than noise.
Books are an incredibly useful tool in that they can present an idea in a relatable way, and leave the rest up to the child. If the child needs or wants to talk about an issue, books dealing with that issue can make a perfect conversation starter. If they’re not ready to talk, books can help them start the process of mentally processing what they’re going through. If they need to revisit an idea, they can ask to read about it over and over. If they’re finished, they can choose never to pick the book up again. Books are a tool, and they put the child largely in control.
Early in my pregnancy, I started looking for books designed to help children understand pregnancy, and to prepare older siblings for the arrival of a new baby. We have read a few, and I have many more on my list, all of which I’ll discuss in a later post. One thing I noticed, however, was that however accurate or useful a book was, not one applied completely to our situation. In some books, newborns slept in cribs or were fed from bottles. In others, a new baby was born at home, and many visitors came and went. There’s nothing inherently wrong with or inaccurate about the depictions in these books, they just don’t relate perfectly to our unique family situation and birthing and parenting choices. We read them anyway.
In talking with Annabelle about our baby, I discovered that what she envisioned was not terribly close to what would be our reality. Statements like, “When the baby comes out, it will say ‘hi’ to you!” and “Baby will ride your trike with you!”, made me think that a sleepy, constantly nursing, nonverbal infant might be difficult for Annabelle to picture. I resolved to look for a book that would give a clearer image of what life with a newborn is really like. I knew it would be tough to find one that really spoke to that stage of life in our family, however, and it was that thought that gave me an idea. Instead of looking for a general book on life with a newborn, I wrote one about the life of the newborn I know best: Annabelle.
Using photos from her infancy up to now, I created When I Was a Baby: A Book About Annabelle, and it has been a huge hit! Annabelle asks to read it over and over and absolutely loves looking at and talking about the photos. My hope is that the book will not only give her a somewhat realistic sense of what newborns are like, but that when the time comes, it will help her lovingly accept some of her sibling’s less endearing behaviors, because she knows she used to do the same.
Not only did this book allow me to cover basic, universal infant characteristics like frequent sleeping and eating, crying, and the absence of verbal language, but it also gave me the chance to talk about things specific to our family, like Elimination Communication and our favorite slings and carriers. I highly recommend such a book for any sibling to be! If you’d like to see our book in its entirety, you can view it on the website I used to create it by clicking the link. Just know that my excitement got the better of me and I ordered in a hurry. There are a few wording things I really would like to change, but it’s a bit late now.
If you decide to create your own book by hand, or by using any website, I’d love to see it, so I hope you’ll share! This is also a great gift idea for any sibling-to-be. I actually created a book as a gift before I got started on Annabelle’s, and I have a feeling I’ll be making many more in the future. It’s so much fun!
Other posts in this series:
This post is linked up with Seasonal Celebration Sunday #14 on the Natural Mother’s Network.