When Three Became Four

We were so focused on the first meet of our newborn and toddler that we overlooked researching the time leading up to it.  If you know toddlers, you know, in order to get them to do anything you have to plant a seed and give it time to grow.  Luckily, we were doing this all along since it’s a pretty important step and shouldn’t be overlooked!  Our now 2 and 3 year old are each other’s best friends.  Part of it is their personalities I don’t doubt, but preparation before the new baby arrives goes a long way.  Please know, not every family is the same and you need to adjust for your child’s personality.  Hopefully, our family’s experience can be used as a guide or to get ideas to help you smooth the transition from a family of 3 to 4.

During Pregnancy – Get Ready to Talk – A Lot!

It might not seem like it, but your soon to be “big” sister/brother is taking in a lot more than you realize.  Setting the groundwork leading up to when they first meet is a big part of the process.  We started preparing Reece several months before the new baby arrived.  We started talking about the baby in mama’s belly at about 10 weeks.  Some people wait until after the 12 week mark so their toddler doesn’t spill the beans.  Reece wasn’t the most chatty so we weren’t concerned.  Once friends and family know, start talking on the regular!  When we talked to Reece about the baby, we always referred to her as “his baby” so he felt as though he was a part of what we happening.

We also read several books to reinforce the idea of a new baby.  I was on bedrest for a lot of my second pregnancy so I also took advantage of my son’s love for Daniel Tiger.  We watched The Baby is Here episode about 200 times from my 28th week on.

Before, after, and during watching  Daniel Tiger we would talk about the baby and “kiss” her.  Then we would talk about how excited we were to meet her in the coming days.  Don’t forget that! It’s one thing to talk about the baby in the belly, it’s another to make sure you drill it into your toddler’s head that this baby will be coming home to stay in the near future.  Again, even if it doesn’t feel like they are getting it, that idea seed is growing.  

Mom Reece and belly ice cream
Mom Reece and baby bump eating ice cream

The Big Day, for your toddler, not L&D day

We decided to have the new siblings meet in the hospital since it’s a neutral location.  We had my two brothers and sister watch Reece during Kat’s labor and delivery.  Yes, it took three adults to watch one 22 month old.  When they all came to see us at the hospital there was a lot of talk about how tired they were. Ha!  We left a daily Reece schedule on the fridge.  We let them know it’s flexible.  They don’t have kids and had no idea how much food at each meal, when naps/bedtime happen, and other small things that as a parent you just know.  We wanted to try to keep home life as normal as possible.

After we had rested a little from the delivery we told my siblings any time they wanted to stop by we were ready.  They texted us when they had parked and we rolled our new baby, Kat, into the bathroom.  Yes, it sounds crazy, but we wanted to give Reece the time he needed for a mini reunion and some solo time.  We made sure not to put any pressure on Reece.  If he wanted to say hello he could, if not, that was fine as well.  We did take a few pictures but didn’t make them do force posed pictures together.  We simply followed Reece’s lead. 

Reece and Kat’s Meet Cute

When Reece arrived we said our hello’s and checked in with him.  Then we rolled Kat in and let him look at her.  Dad picked her up and we introduced big brother to little sister then we had them exchange gifts.  Little sister was given a Sophie and big brother got a truck.  We let them observe each other and talked about how it was so exciting she would be coming home to stay with us soon.

Reece enjoyed pointing out all of Kat’s features, eyes, ears, head, nose.  He accidentally scratched Kat’s face kissing her and she cried out.  Since Reece is a very empathetic toddler he cried for about 10 minutes, which was 9 minutes and 50 seconds longer than Kat.  We decided Reece was at his limit and said goodbye to Kat.  Off she rolled, into bathroom again.  We had a few minutes of solo time with our toddler then said our goodbyes, letting him know we would see him the following day.  

The visit short. I didn’t time it, but probably less than a half an hour.  Crying fit and all.  I never held the baby during the visit, but Reece did get to climb into bed with me for a cuddle.

 

big brother kissing little sister

Toddlers are not always the most delicate.  Add to that, they might not be thrilled to meet their new sibling.  Feelings of jealousy, confusion, sadness are all normal.  Be prepared for things to not go smoothly.  There might be hitting or crying involved.  Don’t be afraid of their first introduction, but keep it in your mind that it might not be love at first sight.  Sometimes it’s not love at first sight between parents and babies (completely normal also).  We shouldn’t expect instant love from our new big brother/sister.

Freaking out over a toddler hitting our being to rough with the newborn is most likely only going to scare your child.  Try to remain as calm as possible, even when you are on the verge of melting into a puddle.

Think back to when you became a first time mom/dad.  This is very similar for your toddler.  Your oldest will need YOU to help navigate this new transition. As second/third/etc. time parents you need to help set the tone and nurture their relationship.

Even if things are tough at first, down the road the new baby will be more child and less blob and they will be able to play together. Big siblings can be younger siblings best teachers and role models!  If it’s awesome from the start, great! If it’s rocky, hang in there! It gets better, it just takes some time.

Big brother and little sis cuddling
A very proud big brother cuddling with sister.

 

Hospital bag: What’s a minimalist Mama to pack?

For my second pregnancy my daughter was breech so I had an ECV (commonly known as a Version procedure), which was performed in the maternity ward.  While we were waiting in the Maternity lobby, we met a laboring mother and her husband with 2 suitcases and a big duffle bag. I’m not even exaggerating.  My husband and I smiled and asked, “Is this your first?”  To which they responded, “Yes, how did you know?!”  Our first time at the rodeo we didn’t pack very much, but of the few items we did bring, about 80% of it never left the bag until we unpacked it on our return home.

There are probably thousands of articles on this topic with check lists of “must have” items to bring but ultimately all you really need is Mom, support person/people, and directions to the hospital to really get you through it.  So if you forget anything, don’t worry too much about it.  

Labor Bag:

  1. ID/Insurance card/Hospital paperwork: It’s nice to have registration papers filled out ahead of time because after having the baby you and Dad will be exhausted and will not want to deal with any paperwork.
  2. Cell phone and chargers: You will be there for a while and these days cell phones live mostly on the verge of a 20% charge, so do yourself a favor and buy an extra cord and leave it in the hospital bag.  It will probably reduce insanity when the big moment happens since you will be scrambling around for everything you “need” and of course can’t find the cord or worse yet it’s plugged in behind the nightstand and you have to try and reach behind there with a big baby bump while having contractions to unplug it!
  3. Chapstick/lip balm/Vaseline: Labor is a lot of work and made my lips extremely chapped.
  4. Hair tie: Have a few dozen thrown in the bag, they always sink to the bottom and it’s a pretty hectic time, do you really want to be fishing around for a hair tie?
  5. Camera: Honestly these days, your cell phone can double as this so keep it charged and you’ll only need 4 things!

Now that you’ve done the hard part is over with time to take a nap and for Dad to run down to the car and grab the recovery bag that you’ll be using for the rest of your stay.

Labor bag items

Recovery Bag:

  1. Travel toiletries:  The hospital will provide toothpaste and a brush but they kind of suck.
  2. Nursing bra & pads:  If your plan is to breastfeed or even not best to bring these anyway, sometimes you change your mind once you meet your baby. And please, only bring one.  I know a lot of sites tell you to bring 3 or 4…  It’s gross but for reals, you will NOT be changing or possibly even showering.  Bringing a nursing pillow while not an absolute MUST was a nice have while I was there.
  3. Baby mittens:  Those nails are dangerous! Use a pair of baby socks if you don’t have mittens.
  4. Mom & baby going home outfit: Unfortunately pack maternity clothing only, boo!
  5. A gift for your nurses:  They deserve it.  Most awesome people EVER!  Cookies, donuts, some scent free hand lotion, or veggies from your garden.  You don’t have to go over the top but a little something to say thank you is appreciated.
  6. Car seat: Duh.

Recovery bag items.jpg

Some Nice Have’s include:

  1. Nursing nightgown: I brought one with my 2nd and all the nurses thought it was the sweetest thing.  I personally don’t mind the hospital johnny, but it was easier to nurse when I had family visit and was a little more comfortable.
  2. Nursing Pillow: Boppy, Brest Friend, Ergo’s pillow, whichever one you have, grab it! Was so glad to have it with me for my second baby.  Wish I had the 1st time I gave birth.
  3. Birthing Plan:  Please know, this is just an idea. I have yet to meet a Mom who actually delivered true to their “plan.”  So try not to get to hung up over the birthing plan, low expectations are best.  My plan was: have a baby, no skin to skin until a quick wipe down, and epidural. That was seriously my only plan and unfortunately no one cared about my plan and plopped my slimy newborn right on me while I helplessly looked at my husband whose eyes said he also didn’t want to touch our goopy little alien, I mean baby, right then either. Just have to roll with it.
  4. Snacks from home:  Hospital food, not the greatest.
  5. Your baby book:  I personally didn’t touch this until my son was 9 months old but where I failed maybe others will succeed!

Nice to have items.jpg

That’s my list.   These are items that we brought and actually did leave the L&D bag at some point in our hospital stay.  Think I missed anything vital? Let me know!  But, I’m pretty sure you can still have the baby even if you bring everything, plus more than my list, or nothing at all. However you do it, congrats mama!