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Preparing for a Second Child: Bibliotherapy

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:

Preparing for a Second Child: Examining Routines

This post is linked up with Seasonal Celebration Sunday #14 on the Natural Mother’s Network.

23 Responses to Preparing for a Second Child: Bibliotherapy

  • Emily says:

    You are brilliant! It brings to mind a situation in Byron Katies book, Loving What Is, where a new big brother was being rough and seemingly cruel to his new infant sibling. It turned out through the entire pregnancy the parents had told their first son about all the fun and games and playing he’d be able to do with his sibling upon arrival. So in turn, when the baby came he expected it to walk and talk and play and his perceived roughness was the result of his expectations.
    You’ve foreseen a situation like this which I’m sure is common and brilliantly shown Annabelle the way so well. Bravo! Xo

    • melissa says:

      Thanks for the sweet words, Emily! I hadn’t heard of Byron Katie’s work before, but looked into it after your comment. Very interesting!

  • Such a nice post. The one thing I wish I’d thought about it hindsight was how much of a learning process parenting is. When you wrote about your favorite slings, etc. it just reminded me of even the little things which may be different with a second baby. I loved the Moby and Ergo with my daughter, but rely mostly on a ring sling with baby #2. We did a good deal of EC with my daughter, but have found it too restrictive with my son, etc.

    I’d love to see your book list. Our favorite toddler book was “I’m a big sister” but now that my daughter is a bit older (and very verbal, whereas she still had practically no receptive language when her brother was born) we love both “A Few Blocks” and “Flora’s Very Windy Day” for sweet books about the joy of having a sibling (not just a baby to love, but a sibling to play with).

    • melissa says:

      That’s so true! I’ve been noticing things that will likely be different this time around, too. I already sent our Beco carrier off to someone else, for example, because I realized as Annabelle got bigger that it just was not the right carrier for my frame. Much will change, but hopefully there will still be plenty for Annabelle to remember and relate to! It’s always interesting to see not only how the family changes with the addition of a second child, but how different siblings can be from one another.

      We have enjoyed I’m a Big Sister, too, and I’ll be sure to write a list of the other books we’ve tried. I’d love to compare notes with you! The other two books you mention are new to me. I’ll have to look into them – thanks for the suggestions! :)

  • Lyle says:

    Wow! This is such a great idea; I can see why Annabelle loves it.

  • Anna says:

    What a lovely book. I should make one for my sister in law, who is accidentally expecting her third and is none too pleased!

  • This is such a great idea, and I can see it working for any major life changes for a child, or even just as a lovely gift. I am so going to do this :)

    • melissa says:

      I was thinking the same – I have so many book ideas swirling around in my head now! :) Thank you, Christine!

  • Laura says:

    Just wonderful. Isn’t it amazing? I had a slightly similar idea the other day, after seeing that most books about newborns include many representations of bottles, strollers and cribs and I feel a bit uncomfortable about them. I totally relate to what you say. Before Marina was born I created her first-to-be cloth book and my intention was to create many others but I haven’t. I think I really need to create this one, now that you mention it. As always, you are such an inspiration!!

    • melissa says:

      I’m always impressed by what you share of the things you make for M. Cloth books are so lovely, but they are time intensive, so I don’t blame you for not having gotten around to making more! Designing online with photos is about all I can schedule in these days :) So glad you liked the idea, and would love to hear more about your variation of it!

  • Rach says:

    Very astute, both the book itself, and how you’ve categorised it. I so agree about some books not showing “life as we know it”, so good for you for making one yourself! It’s rare to see a kids book with even breastfeeding in it!
    Ooh, one could make all sorts of books about “positive discipline”, ECing,etc etc!!
    What a good point about the little boy’s disappointment that the baby isn’t “up and running” after the way he was built up, good that you have foreseen this.

    • melissa says:

      Thank you, Rach! I am noticing how many holes there are in the children’s literature that could be filled with niche books like you describe: one on EC, one on positive discipline, etc. It all has me toying with the idea of writing a few books for a slightly wider audience and putting them out there, too. Perhaps I should just stick with books for Annabelle for the moment. One project at a time!

  • Jessica says:

    Such a wonderful gift for the older sibling. You are such an inspiration, really :)

  • Jessica says:

    What an awesome idea! You are such a great mom to care so much about A and helping her to transition. She sounds very intuitive and advanced in many areas. I believe she will do just find, there will be a period of chaos, but give it a month and you’ll be on be on your way to a new normal. I did similar things to help my kids, they accompanied me to dr. appointments, I looked up fetal development on the computer and showed them pics at different stages, we reviewed the baby books and talked about what babies do. As I readied the house and brought out the baby items, I had a doll, we would use the doll to talk about how each item was used, how we hold a baby, how mommy would feed the baby etc… We also included the kids in picking out names and such. For Alex, we let each child pick out something special for the baby. C.J. picked out a stuffed Elephant and Jasey picked out pacifiers, but the point is they both felt included and honored to help. I think they felt really excited. Jase said the same things about the baby talking and such, she was still excited when he was born and LOVES to help get me things, change his diaper,bath him, all in all it has turned into an amazing practical life lesson. I am confident she will grow up to be a great mother.

    • melissa says:

      I love all of the ways you prepared C.J. and Jasey for Alex’s arrival! I’m sure just being involved from the beginning was huge for them. I love the idea of having older siblings choose something special for the new baby – that’s one I need to remember! It sounds like everything you did was beneficial, and both of your older kids are loving their new roles. You’re a pretty awesome mama yourself!

  • teresa says:

    okay, you are beyond brilliant!! what a great idea to use photos of her. It looks so sweet.

  • Amy says:

    This is an amazing idea! Not only is it wonderful for Annabelle now, but what a treasure for the future!

  • An amazing idea to help Annabelle understand how it’s going to be once the new baby arrives- brilliantly simple and a beautiful book- I loved having you link up to our “Seasonal Celebration Sunday” Hope you’ll be back! Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network x

  • Luschka says:

    Melissa, that has to be one of the nicest ideas I’ve seen yet! That’s fantastic!! Very well done :)

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