2nd Pregnancy: Preparing the Older Child

It is the night before I am due to go into the hospital.  What am I doing up when I should be resting?  Quite frankly, I can’t sleep.  Neither can I keep my mind on anything specific – hence the reason I haven’t been writing for Helium or updating the blog on the other chapters from Nurture Shock which I’ve read.  Instead, I’ve just been surfing the internet, checking emails and facebook and basically killing time until I’m tired enough to fall asleep.

Tomorrow will be Gavin’s first night without me – and the boob – since he was four months old when I went to Shanghai to attend my brother’s wedding.  It will be interesting to see how he copes.  Personally, my instincts tell me he will be more accepting to sleeping without me if I am not in the house.  Already, he has shown a willingness to sleep in my SIL’s room and with my MIL.  Additionally, my earlier conversation with him explaining that I would have to sleep at the hospital for a while and that he would have to sleep alone with Daddy seem rather promising.

The main problems I can perceive is not so much in getting him to fall asleep but in managing him if he happens to wake up in the middle of the night and discover I am not around.  Being disoriented, he may be harder to console.  That said, he did wake up one morning and asked Daddy, “Where’s Mummy?  Has she gone to hospital?”  I was actually lying in the cot and he was sleeping on the bed with hubby and he must have missed me under the blankets.

There are times when he seems accepting of the fact that I will be going away for a little while and other times when he seems quite distressed about it.  One of the ways I have handled the distress is with good ol’ fashioned bribery.  I told him that I was going to the hospital so the doctor could help me take his little brother out of my tummy because his little brother had a surprise he wanted to give him.

There is something magical about the word “surprise” that has the power to stop every tear-filled session in mid-howl.  Suddenly, Gavin had forgotten about the fact that Mummy was going to the hospital and was only interested to find out what his surprise was.  To which, I answered, “It’s something about Thomas, but you’ll have to wait until Gareth is born to see it.”

Of course there are distractions that work now because I’m still here and it will be difficult to say whether they will be just as effective once I’m gone.  Either way, as hubby says, they’ll just have to cope.  In the event that he does wake up in the middle of the night, I have noticed that there are a couple of things that can be done to distract him from asking for the boob:

  • offer him cow’s milk – sometimes it’s enough for him to take a few sips of milk and fall back to sleep on his own.
  • pick him up, carry him for a while, and rock him.

At close to 3 years old, it’s hard to say whether having objects with my smell on them will have any soothing effect on him.  Nevertheless, I will be leaving behind a t-shirt and the blanket that we share – which may or may not help…

I know it’s probably a bit of an eleventh-hour question, but if you are a mother who has had the experience of leaving behind a nursing toddler while you delivered your second child, I would love to hear some of your tips for helping your toddler cope without you.

The other thing we’ve done to help Gavin accept the arrival of Gareth is to pack a bag of goodies for Gavin.  One of the toughest things that the older child had to face is being ignored while everyone lavishes attention on the new baby.  There will be lots of new presents for the baby and often the older child is neglected.  In my cousin’s experience, her friends usually brought something small to offer her daughter when they came to visit her baby boy so she wouldn’t feel left out.

In the event that Gavin is forgotten, our bag of goodies is supposed to make up for that lack of attention.  For every present that arrives for Gareth without a corresponding gift for Gavin, I have a token toy to present to Gavin from his “goodie bag”.  The bag contains lots of small items that Gavin might like – Thomas and Friends trains, toys cars, stickers, and Thomas stationery.  We also have a larger, more significant, wooden Thomas and Friends toy to add to his wooden railway which will be his gift from baby Gareth.

Over Christmas, my brother will be bringing up the Thomas and Friends Duplo sets and the Fisher Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera that I ordered online for him.  He’s also got a present coming up from my BFF.  I know that gifts won’t replace the extra love and attention he will require after Gareth is born, but  I am sure that it will contribute a little to help sustain him at a time when life at home is about to get rough for a toddler.  At the very least, my SILs and MIL will have something to distract him with while I handle Gareth.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

3 thoughts on “2nd Pregnancy: Preparing the Older Child

  1. I wish my parents had done this when my younger brother arrived when I was six. LOL I wasn’t too pleased at his arrival, having been star of the show for 6 years and suddenly being relegated to supporting cast was not my idea of fun.

    Here’s hoping Gavin will adjust quickly to Gareth’s arrival. I think he might find it easier than I did because you have done a lot to prepare him for it. If he doesn’t… Shen, the good news is we all eventually stop bashing our younger brothers over the head with a toy. :))

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  2. hi there, you know what? Well we tried everything to lessen the supposedly ‘traumatic experience’ a child could have in a new arrival in the family… somehow ‘jealousy’ always step in. My older girl is now 11 while the boy is 8 – it doesn’t get any better. I guess that’s just because we have too much time on our hands to worry about how our kids might think and we give them too much attention. I’m no. 9 in a family of 10, my parents definitely didn’t have all that time for us when we were little and I don’t feel in anyway deprived or neglected…

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  3. Mrs Top Monkey – as the youngest child I guess I have never had to deal with the arrival of another sibbling, but I do think my brother did very well with me. The idea was recommended by some friends of ours and my cousin. Seems like everyone is doing it these days and it does help.

    If Gavin’s reaction to Gareth at the hospital was anything to go by, I think it was a good step in the right direction. That’s not to say they won’t fight in the years to come, but I’m glad it’s a good start nonetheless…

    Pat – I think the privilege you had was that you were part of a big family. In big families, the older children have each other for company and are less reliant on parental attention. These days, who has 10 kids? Most of us have only one or two siblings – if that. I believe this is the main difference that creates the jealousy between siblings.

    I’ve also noticed that parents with children who are close to other families with children of similar age can and do benefit in the same way.

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