You know who’s screwed Jordana, you are!
I had a lot of fears about my firstborn’s reaction to a new baby. We did everything we could to prepare him and I believe much of it was a success, particularly the “big brother” books that we read at ad nauseum. We’ve been especially diligent at pointing out what Big Brother can do that baby cannot.
That being said, it’s been a rough month over here.
My firstborn, now 2 and a half, refused to eat our first week home from the hospital. He’d pick at the occasional carbohydrate here and there but showed his displeasure through exerting control over what went into his mouth. That passed and now mealtime is accompanied by tantrums and food throwing. Yay.
And then there’s sleep. A first he went to bed at a reasonable hour and then had a nice 4 a.m. wake up where I was trying to juggle two crying boys. The past few weeks, we put him down for bed and he stays up in his crib until well past midnight talking, screaming, playing, calling for me and claiming to have poop in his diaper (which turned out to be true only once).
The only upside is that he’s still in a crib and hasn’t attempted to climb out (knock on wood).
We’ve tried going to him, not going to him, eliminating his nap, moving it earlier – nothing has worked. My infant is down for the night and I’m awake dealing with our toddler. The worst part about it? I have sympathy for my newborn’s night waking while my toddler’s midnight shenanigans do nothing but piss me off.
Our pediatrician told us to avoid putting him in time out (let’s be honest the kid would sit there all day) and only use it for hard fast rules like touching knives or throwing a cup at his brother’s face (yep, he totally did). My husband has taken the brunt of most of his frustration. I am still my son’s physical and emotional rock. He wants to be near me or cuddling me at all times. Anything my husband tries to do for him (wipe his face, give him a bath) results in hysterics. Sadly, my husband’s hairy chest has yet to produce milk so the snuggly newborn tasks inevitably fall on me leaving crazed-toddler for him. I hurt for both of them in this situation.
We praise our firstborn for even mildly good behavior and I set aside special time just for him. I read to him while nursing and have given him special toys and prizes for being a big brother. One afternoon, I glanced at the monitor only to see a stuffed toy that he had placed on his sleeping brother’s face. I rushed in to remove it and then cried hysterically at the thought of a suffocated newborn. My son’s intentions were good but we now have to keep our sleeping baby behind a locked door.
All of my tears since bringing home baby have been for my firstborn. He’s shown me in his own sensitive way just how much he misses being the center of my universe. How having my divided attention is not the same as having it all. It’s hard on me too. I miss the days I lived to make him smile. He’s always known his place in our family and it pains me to see him struggle to find where he fits again. I’m trying to be gentle and mindful of how the world must look to him now.
I already know how to love and care for a newborn, my firstborn taught me that. I’m still figuring out what a 2-year-old needs from me. He will always be my test subject for parenthood and I apologize for all my stumbles and imperfection. I love him so much it hurts and giving him a brother, while it seems so unjust at the moment, is a gift I know he’ll come to cherish. Time will wash away his memories of just the three of us, but I will always have them. I will keep them tucked inside my heart and I’ll share them with him whenever he wants. But I’ll also let him forget. I’ll let him forget so that he can learn to share my love and be a big brother. Because one day soon, playing with his little brother will bring him more joy than playing with me. I’ve given him a partner, a roommate, and a buddy. Them loving each other will be the ultimate reward for all of us. Until then, I’ll try to be patient and hope that we find our new us soon. The four of us. A Mama, a Daddy, a boy and a baby. My beautiful family.