I’ve been asked this often enough and I finally managed to list all the things we did to prep V. a fresh threenager, for the arrival of her sibling. Whether you have a biological baby, or a heart baby, I hope this round-up helps you.
The first thing we had to come to terms with, was accept that there were going to be awkward questions, funny moments and a lot of firsts. My husband and I had to agree to be on the same page, and promise ourselves that we were always going to give V the truth in an age-appropriate manner.
Involve the child
Although we were advised to wait until 3 months to tell V, the little tyke figured out there was a baby in Amma’s tummy after the very first hospital visit. There were some tangible ways V was involved in the pregnancy.
We took her along for every obgyn visit and sonogram. She was a part of the monthly bump photo and announcement.
V loved watching the pregnancy progress. She would wake up every Sunday and ask us what the baby’s size was today. And she’d crack up trying to imagine the baby in the size of the vegetables the pregnancy app said.
And finally, when I was nesting, we had fun sorting baby clothes, creating baby spaces and making projects for the baby together- DIY high contrast cards, playmobiles, diaper changing station, etc.
Talk, talk, talk
We encouraged her to ask questions. We had doubts ranging from, “Will your tummy go back to original size after baby comes?” to “how does baby pee in your tummy?”
She was watching and noticing all my nausea, constipation and backaches. We gave her the biological reason for all of these, when asked. This actually, led to a lot of interesting study units on anatomy.
We also made sure we spoke a lot about the actual birthing day, postpartum and birth plan. ( It’s an altogether different story that this did not serve us much purpose as there was a sudden change in the birth plan in my 40th week. Well played, Covid!)
We also made sure to speak about the things that would change post baby- possible lack of time and keeping lines of communication open.
Too often, a child is suddenly expected to step up and be more responsible, quiet, helpful and a model for perfect behaviour the minute they become an older sibling.
I remember how terrified I felt when I first became a mom. And the fact of the matter is, none of us are born knowing how to be a good parent, it is learned one day at a time.It is obvious then, that a child has to learn to be an older sibling day by day.
We spoke about tasks she could do for and with her baby. We keep referring to V as akka, but we also keep reminding ourselves that she is much more than that, and ensuring she remembers that as well.
V loved cuddling my bump and we encouraged her to talk to her sibling, read and sing to her, and kiss her, whenever she felt like. There came a time, when the baby would respond beautifully every time V read out to her and I knew then, that we’d sail through.
And as always, books came to our rescue the most. Here’s a roundup of our favourite books to help a child make sense of pregnancy, in that order.
How big is baby now
There’s a house inside mummy
I’m a big sister
Usborne new baby
Waiting for baby
A special mention about the personalized book we made for V during the last trimester that addressed a lot of her fears and made it very real for all of us. You can find an igtv reading of the book on my instagram by tonight.
And just to get her older sister feelings activated, we brought out the cloth doll and doll carrier. It also helped that V was in the enveloping schema, so wearing dolls in her carrier came pretty naturally to her.
And finally, did this help? It really is too early to tell, but V has been a trooper and my biggest support system during the whole pregnancy, birth as well as the adjustments post-birth. While I know there are going to be sibling fights as we grow, I think our foundation is rock solid. With each passing day, I’m only in awe of how receiving, welcoming and full of love my now preschooler is.