First pregnancies are often full of wonder, excitement, and a bit of trepidation about the unknown that is to come. Second pregnancies are also exciting, but the “what to expect” question is not as pressing. A mom-of-two-to-be generally has less time to concentrate and prepare for the change and might often default to thinking “it’ll be ok, I know what to expect.” But a major difference in preparing for a second child is not about preparing yourself, but the child that you already have. Here are some tips for things that you can do to help your first-born prepare for the arrival of your second.
Don’t tell them until you are past 12 weeks when the chance of loss is much lower. That being said, they might catch on sooner, as second pregnant bellies usually grow quicker. If they don’t notice though, it can be nice to record their reaction to when you break the news, which is likely to be a very sweet moment!
Pregnancy will be quite abstract to a toddler or even preschooler. Help them grasp it by taking them to a few appointments. An early sonogram is a fun place to start, or an appointment to hear the heartbeat. Taking a toddler or preschooler to appointments can wind up stressful though, so if you have a choice, only pick a few throughout the pregnancy.
Get your child to interact with your belly. If they have a doctor’s kit, they could check on the baby’s heart. Or they might want to sing it songs, or just say hello! Getting them to rub oil on your belly is really bonding, as well as a good opportunity for them to feel some kicks!
Depending on what type of birth you are planning, you might have to prepare your child in different ways. If it will be a hospital birth, take them to the hospital and assure them that it is a safe place. If it is going to be at home and there is a chance they might be there, extra preparation is needed to make sure they are not overly scared. Showing them some non-graphic birthing videos will help. Assure them that although you will experience pain, it is a good pain; that you’ll make bear-like noises, but that they are good noises. There are good books available that help with this type of preparation.
Figure out a good sleeping arrangement that will make everyone comfortable. This often ends up with dad and the older child in one bed, and Mom and baby in another. You can try out this arrangement in the lead-up to the birth so that it doesn’t feel like a new change inflicted by the baby.
These are all ideas for pre-baby preparation, but it doesn’t end there. The parent educator, Janet Lansbury, has written a lot about how to help transition your first born once your second born has arrived. She likens the arrival of a sibling to a grieving process which most children will go through, no matter how much preparation the parents have done. Whilst gaining a sibling, they can develop a fear that they are losing their parents’ love. This fear can cause a cascade of emotions as they try to understand what is happening.
Some of her tips include trying not to make your older child feel like the problem child. So let go of smaller issues, and avoid comments that could induce guilt. Encourage them to express their emotions, and put time aside for one-on-one with them.
Welcoming a new baby to the family is definitely a beautiful time, but can come with its stresses. So most importantly, know that you’re doing your best by everyone, and try to keep yourself rested and taken care of.