The conversation was simple and direct: Mommy had a baby in her belly and in the spring, when the flowers came out, so would the baby. Our nearly 2-year-old son took it in stride, though my heart ached for his pending journey into big brotherhood. Our goal was to involve him as much as possible so he could feel like he was part of the process and not a victim of the change.
Over the next few months, we would occasionally talk about it with him but didn’t let it be the center of our attention. Once she started kicking, we let him feel it; he was rather surprised. Some of the more relevant things were giving up his things for her, sometimes without realizing it. We fast-tracked him out of the crib and into a bed. He “helped” take apart the crib and put it in the closet and then, several months later, “helped” put it back together for her. He agreed that he needed a new chair, since he was a big boy, and could give the glider that had been in his room since birth to his imminent sister. In return, he got a taller dresser so we could use the shorter one to change her diapers (as we were changing his on the floor already). He was incredibly proud of all of his new big boy things.
As we started to get closer to the end of the pregnancy, we took him with us to one of my doctor’s appointments so he could see the hospital where we would be going and hear the heartbeat. The doctor was great with him. Our son was still confused about it but listened to his own heart, too, and was satisfied. He was excited about the elevator and wanted to know where in the building the baby would be arriving.
A couple weeks out, we talked with him about the plan for him to go to my parents’ house when the baby decided it was time to come out. He would get to have a sleepover for maybe two nights with them! As it turned out, we ended up having to plan an induction and so we told him that morning at breakfast how the day would play out.
My daughter was born at 9:53 p.m. that night. When my husband brought my extremely eager son to the hospital the next morning, they had to wait for a few extra minutes in the lobby. We had heard that it was best to have an older sibling meet their new sibling in the bassinet, rather than in the arms of the mother. Once I had done that, I let my husband know that they could come in.
All of our preparation went into this one anxious moment…how would he react? Our son burst into my hospital room demanding, “Where’s da baby? Where’s da baby?” I smiled and said, “Hello, honey.” He glared at me and demanded again, in a louder voice, “Where’s da baby?!” I pointed and he raced over to see her. It was priceless and a memory I deeply cherish. We let him hold her very carefully in his lap, helping to support her head, and took pictures with all of us. We had packed several outfits for her and allowed him to pick out her first one. He picked out a hot pink onesie that said “Little Sister.” We can’t remember if we told him what it said but it seemed perfect. We gave him small gifts from her that were also in the hospital bag and an additional gift from us, all of which he played with before he left.
He called her “the baby” for a while before latching on to her given name. We allowed him to help bottle feed her and even to wash her during some initial baths in the infant tub. He quickly learned to get us burp cloths or to tell us when she was spitting up. He was thrilled to show her the room he had helped set up and helped us decide on more decorations, occasionally asking her opinion.
Our daughter just had her second birthday and there was a lot of nostalgia about her birth, which he was able to participate in. He remembered the elevator and the visit to the doctor. He remembered picking out her clothes. He remembered the gifts she had given him. He remembered the subway stop for the hospital. And he told her about all of it.
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