It seems that going from one to two children can rank among the most challenging transitions that many families will ever face. For Annabelle’s sake, as well as our own, we’re trying to prepare in a number of different ways and I’ll be sharing those with you as we go along in an informal series I’ll call Preparing for a Second Child.
Of course I’m still in the preparing stage myself, so my thinking on how beneficial these ideas are, is still purely theoretical. I’m learning as I go and by no means do I have it all figured out. I’m just sharing ideas as we take this journey, and I’m open to yours as well!
The first thing we started doing when we learned of my pregnancy was looking at our daily rhythm and considering what would likely continue to work after the new baby’s arrival, and what might present a problem. Because the arrival of a newborn will, in most cases, inevitably turn the family’s world on its head for a period, many recommend that parents keep the older child’s basic routine as “normal” as possible and avoid introducing unnecessary changes close to the new sibling’s birth.
This makes sense to me. Change is difficult for all of us, children included, and can make us feel a bit uneasy or insecure. While there will be a new person in our bed, at my breast, and in our arms, I’d like for Annabelle to be able to relax in the knowledge that the bed is still her bed, too. That she can still nurse, too. That we still want to hold her, too. While many things will be different, I’d like for her to be able to relax in the understanding that the basic frameworks of our lives are still something she can count on.
There’s also the concern that the older child might attribute any changes they experience as negative, to the baby, and this might interfere with their feelings about and bond with their new sibling.
Of course we’re packing up and moving across the globe, to an entirely different climate and a completely different home a mere eight weeks, give or take, before our second baby is expected to join us, so our ability to keep things consistent is rather limited. What we’re focusing on are our basic daily routines. I’ve been paying close attention to these since finding out I was pregnant, and I’ve been asking myself two questions about all of the things we do on a normal day:
- Is this working well for us now?
- Will we be able to keep this up when we have a newborn to care for, too?
If the answer to either question is “no,” I know it’s time to consider a gradual change in routine. I’m hoping that by changing things that are sources of stress or frustration now, and by making sure that our routines are manageable for parents of a newborn and a toddler, we can head off some issues that might arise to add to the challenges of those early days.
The biggest example I have of this is sleep. The bedtime and middle of the night routines with Annabelle were becoming increasingly frustrating for me, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep them up every night after the baby. The first big change we starting working on after finding out I was pregnant was night weaning. I admire mothers who happily nurse two children during the night, but I knew this practice would make me, personally, a grumpy and touched out mama, so I decided to try night weaning long before the arrival of the new baby. It turned out to be great for both Annabelle’s and my sleep!
Once that was all settled, I started looking at the events leading up to bedtime. Annabelle was needing my focused attention, for one to three hours on most nights, before she could fall asleep. Knowing that there would likely be evenings in the future when the baby needed to nurse or be walked around and Annabelle needed to get to bed, at the same time, I decided this routine was likely to become a source of stress (admittedly, I was already feeling a bit crazy some nights). I’ll write more about the specific changes we made here later on, but for now I’ll just say that I had two basic goals: That the parent present at bedtime could be either dad or mom and that, if necessary, said parent could support Annabelle while simultaneously taking care of another task (or a baby). This way my husband and I can each handle the bedtime routine with equal success, and either one of us can manage it alone, with both children, if the other needs to be away for some unforeseen reason.
Those two changes are the big ones. Aside from that, we’ve been working on ways of keeping our house consistently in some state of something resembling order. What constitutes “order” may need to change a bit with a newborn around, but hopefully we’re forming habits that will help us keep our living space livable throughout the transition.
We’ve also been working to support Annabelle in the many things she’s capable of doing herself, like dressing and getting snacks. The less energy we need to focus on things like these during our adjustment phase, the more energy we can focus on simply being with, enjoying, and loving on both of our children. I’m under no illusion that things will all go as planned, or that we even have control over how these routines will go. The inevitable changes that come with welcoming a new baby may throw Annabelle for a loop, causing her to wake frequently at night, to demand help in getting dressed, or to exhibit any range of new behaviors. I can’t prevent all of this, but I’m hoping that by getting rid of sources of stress now, I can relax and prepare to take on any challenges that come our way with patience and understanding.
If you have two children, what were the most helpful things you did to prepare for the arrival of the second? If your second is on the way, how are you preparing?
This post is linked up with Seasonal Celebration Sunday at the Natural Mothers Network.