As is the case with most 2nd babies I know, Isha ‘happened’. We didn’t plan for her. We weren’t sure either of us was ready 😀 But, life isn’t about going by plan A all the time,is it?
The first thing that came to the table after our 2nd pregnancy was confirmed was ‘How will Lishaan deal with it?’. He was about 14 months old when we conceived Isha and they would be exactly 2 years apart by the time she was born. Terrible twos, sibling jealousy, missing his mother, nursing, baby bump and so on. The list of things that could go wrong kept getting bigger and bigger.
I was sure about one thing though. The two being so close in terms of age, it would be fine in the long run. I could wear the little one and we could still achieve lots, peacefully. That was my plan. But the first part of it was to make Lishaan understand that there will be someone new in the house soon. Someone who will demand more attention than him and someone who was way smaller than him. How do we go about explaining this to a toddler? (this is a question I keep getting asked ever so often by friends who are pregnant again and who have the idea to make another baby with a toddler at home already). Here’s how:
- I waited for visual cues – when my bump started to show, I started talking about my tummy growing bigger and that he’d have to be careful around it.
- I relied on live examples – Thanks to the various babywearing consult sessions at home, we got to meet a lot of tiny squishes. Lishaan would hang around during each session and he got to see these little beings. So, he got familiar with the idea of a baby.
- Talk to moms who have done this before – you get ideas 🙂 A well wisher friend of mine suggested books that explain to the toddler about the new one’s arrival in a light and simple way. We didn’t resort to books, because Lishaan doesn’t sit down to read always. But we took the hint and used little cues and hints (scan sessions) to tell him what was happening.
- Make the toddler responsible – From when we could, we started talking to him about taking care of the baby when it comes. About giving it his toys, whether he would be okay to share his Simba (his go to cuddle toy since he was 3 months old) and stuff like that. This ingrains a feeling of responsibility and ownership in the toddler’s mind. Helps a LOT to also make them aware that the little one will take stuff from him and to check if the toddler is okay with the idea or not.
- Give the baby an identity – I couldn’t always be saying the baby in Amma’s tummy, so we gave it a name – Anna Baby! 😀 yes, that’s how the name came into being. He was the Anna (older brother) and the baby was his. Bang on! ha ha!
- Relate to baby stuff when possible – I spent a lot of time showing him little babies on TV (in ads) or discussing how little babies will cry when hungry (and not ask like he used to verbally). We even discussed who gets to keep the baby. It was decided that Appa, paati, aachi and all were Lishaan’s and I get to keep the baby. Good thinking 😉
- Give him someone to fall back on – My mom was the biggest saviour when it came to this. We had her around a month or so before my delivery. He follows her all around the house as it is and the baby’s arrival didn’t affect him much because if Amma wasn’t available, Paati was. She kept him occupied and attended to. This is important so the child doesn’t feel neglected.
-Note: They might not COMPLETELY understand everything to tell them, but if they feel involved and a bit informed, they tend to deal with it better.
I think these were the key things we did during the course of our pregnancy to make Lishaan comfortable about the baby’s arrival. So much so that my darling of a gynaec would ask Lishaan ‘will you take care of her/him well?’ and he would say a big yes! That involvement translated into a very beautiful bond between the two from the minute they met.
I was still in the recovery room when they took Isha to our room upstairs in the hospital. I remember Dhana (my husband) telling me that Lishaan was pretty composed when he saw her first. He even said ‘Appa! Anna baby has fallen out of amma’s tummy’ lol! Smart chap! He even got around to cuddling her, giving us some hope of calmer times ahead.
Of course, we went through a HUGE patch of resistance and fussiness from his side, but that was expected. It has taken us about 5 months to get adjusted to each other’s presence and space completely, but it has been worth it. So, if you have qualms about how your older child will adjust to a new baby in the house, worry not. They are so much better at adapting than we are (I was crying on the way to the hospital, not in labour pain but because my heart was breaking into pieces over the thought that he wouldn’t be the centre of my universe once the little one came. How wrong I was!).