One of my dearest friends just had her second baby. She messaged me desperately saying, "Mayday, mayday, I need your advice! How was Cole with the new baby? I'm pretty sure my toddler hates me! Message me back, or better yet—write a blog post on the topic!"
So Cat, this post is for you! (And any other mother of two, or more, who has a new baby in the house and is trying to adjust to their new routine.) And by routine, I mean clusterfuck-of-craziness just trying to keep everyone alive and fed and generally clean-ish.
NOTE: It's 12pm and I still have smudged mascara on my face from yesterday. At least I attempted to wear mascara yesterday, or maybe this was from last week? Who the hell knows . . .
*Attempts to wipe smudged mascara away while at computer desk*
Anyway, moving along . . .
Introducing your toddler to your newborn.
I was really nervous. I was afraid Cole would try to eat the new baby. I was afraid he'd cry and scream and throw things directly aiming at the baby's soft spot.
My friend told me that when she was born, her brother took a shit under her crib because he was so mad at his mom for brining home a new baby.
Yes, I was expecting the worst. So, I actually turned to an online group of Moms and asked them, "Ladies, what is the best way to introduce Cole? Should I be holding the baby when he comes to visit at the hospital, or should I make sure someone else is holding the baby? What can I do to minimize the stress?" I received an array of helpful answers, but one really resonated with me:
"Jen, chill out. You overthink things."
And in the end, that's what I did. I chilled out. At the time, I actually didn't think about it. I was beyond excited for my son to meet his new baby sister, so when he ran into the hospital room and I was in the middle of feeding her, all I could do was cry happy tears. He jumped up onto the bed, snuggled in close, and stared at her with absolute love and intrigue. He leaned in and watched her feed. I kept bawling. It was beautiful.
And from that moment, he has fully accepted her. He loves her, kisses her, and calls her That Guy, Baby Maeve, Maevey Bean, and Sweetie Maeve. He reads books to her and shows her his trucks. Watching the two of them together fills my heart with more love than I ever could have imagined. Those are the good moments.
Then there are the not so good moments.
The times when my toddler is tired or needy and wants Mommy all to himself. "Put down baby Maeve!" And he starts to cry. This always happens when she also happens to need me, so I do my best to meet both of their needs simultaneously. I've twisted my body into the most obscure positions in an effort to feed her and snuggle him at the same time. I'm pretty sure I've stretched my boob beyond repair and am now officially a contortionist. Sigh.
But when "sharing Mommy" absolutely won't do, I have had to accept the fact that one of them is going to cry and be pissed at me. There have been times when all three of us are crying. It's not a pretty sight.
Luckily now, three months into this whole "two kid" thing, we've gotten into a pretty good groove and these crying fits happen less often. But if you're just at the beginning of the two kid phase (or are about to enter it), here are a few things I'd recommend to help with the transition:
1) WARNING. Before the newborn comes, talk to your toddler about the baby. Let them know a baby is coming, and explain to them the things that will happen. "When the baby comes, Mommy is going to be holding the baby a lot, and feeding the baby." Remind them that you still love them, and that you're going to need their help. Let them know what to expect.
2) DAYCARE. If you have the means, put your older child in daycare for a couple of days a week. Or let a grandparent take care of them. Do something with them. Does this sound evil? Maybe. Do I sound like an uncaring mother? Maybe. But honestly, I am so thankful for having my Mom's help. I think we are all better rested and happier because of it. It took me a while to accept her help (even though she lives with us), because I wanted to be able to say I was doing it alone (isn't that silly?) But guess what? When she takes Cole to the park that gives Maeve and I a chance to just hang out, the two of us. Or, if Cole is needing some Mommy time, my Mom can take Maeve, and Cole and I can kick a ball around the backyard or read a book. It's awesome. You don't need to feel guilty about wanting to spend some time away from your toddler. Easier said than done, I know, because GUILT is a synonym for MOM.
3) TELL YOUR NEWBORN TO WAIT. This is by far the best advice I've received (thanks Mandy!), and I've used it time and time again. When Cole is feeling needy and I'm holding Maeve, I look at Mave and say to her, "Maeve, you're going to have to let me put you down and wait a few minutes while I snuggle your brother. It's his turn to be with Mommy." Even though she doesn't give two shits, it makes Cole feel important. It works like a charm.
4) TAKE A DEEP BREATH. It'll be crazy for a while, but just know that at the end of the day, you're giving your child a sibling and that is such an amazing gift. It'll all be okay, and for the days when it's not . . . there is wine.