The waiting I have discovered is a lot like waiting for a short sale on a house to close (which we did this past year). You know it's going to happen eventually, you're just not really sure when. Then when it does happen (finally) it's likely to move so fast you hardly have time to wrap your brain around what's actually taking place. At least that seems to be the case. The other thing I've found is that all the preparing we did last time to become parents seems massive compared to what we did this time: pulling out the baby clothes and picking out all the gender neutral 0 to 3 month outfits, washing all the tiny little cotton pre-fold diapers and covers, getting the infant car seat out and making sure it's all put together properly (and eventually installed in the car along side the toddler seat). Of course, for us getting our (recently purchased) home in order to accommodate our California family for the birth was quite a bit more work than that, but that's a whole different story. The real "stuff for baby" gathering seems rather simple now. Which makes waiting, I think, all the much harder.
|"Mommy what you got hiding under there, a watermelon?!"|
Before having the Peanut, I worked full-time and spent my downtime thinking about what it will be like to finally go into labor and become a mother. Well here's the thing, now I know what it's like to be a mom. But I have no idea what this labor is going to be like. If you're pregnant for the first time, you're probably saying to yourself "whaaa? you've done it before, how could you not know?"
Well let me tell you a little secret: no labor is the same as before nor can it be predicted to go any which way you think it might. The accepted wisdom is that first babies take a long time to make it into the world, the second often come so fast mothers often get blindsided with how quickly (these are usually the babies that get born accidentally at home or in the car on the way to the hospital), the third can be anywhere in between. So here's me, preparing for baby #2 and thinking it's gonna go fast when it comes and I better be prepared. Well, if you were following my last few posts you'll know that a) I have a bit more than average amount of amniotic fluid, b) I have diastasis rectus and a herniated umbilical and c) both of these things are linked to early delivery. Additionally, I know that with every subsequent pregnancy women tend to experience Braxton-Hicks contractions both earlier and with more frequency. Add that to the fact that my midwives basically informed me that based on all of these factors plus my 60% effacement at 37 weeks, it is highly unlikely I'll go to term. So here I am now 38 weeks, impatient and uncomfortable but still waiting.
Now, last time I just had the feeling that the Peanut was going to arrive right on time. In fact I was so sure of it I scheduled my last day of work to be the day before her due date and had my birth support team (my best friend, an ER nurse and my mother) fly in within 48 hours of my due date. And in fact, I began to have small contractions off and on the day before and went into labor at 3am on my due date and gave birth at 9pm that day. Now, however, I couldn't tell you up from down. And here's the thing: when everyone tells you your baby is going to come early, you start to believe it and then expect it. So every small warm-up contraction sends my brain into "OMG this could be IT!" only to be disappointed an hour later when everything peters out and things just go back to being the normal end of pregnancy, mostly just uncomfortable.
Of course, I do know that it's going to happen soon. Any day now in fact. Which is why I have also been thinking a lot about the second thing: how do we make the transition from three to four go as smoothly as possible?
Penelope Leach writes in her fantastic book "Your Baby and Child: from birth to age five" about how we speak to our first child about the arrival of the second. She suggests that parents think about the phrases we use to introduce our toddler to the idea of a new baby in another context, that of a husband talking to a wife. It goes like this:
"Parent to Child:
We're going to have a new baby, sweetheart- we thought it would be so nice for you to have a little brother or sister to play with.
Husband to Wife:
I'm going to take a second wife, sweetheart- I thought it would be so nice for you to have some company and help with the work." (pg. 422)
Hah! I don't see that going over very well do you? If my husband said that to me...well you can imagine.
Or there's the one I think is even more common:
"Parent to Child:
We love you so much we just can't wait to have another beautiful boy or girl
Husband to Wife:
I love you so much I just can't wait to have another beautiful wife." (pg. 422)
You catch the drift here. To a two (or 3 or 4) year old what they often hear is "I'm being replaced", not our family is expanding and it's going to be awesome. So after thinking about this for a while we chose to do two things, hopefully the right things (and they seem to be working as far as I can tell, but really only hindsight is 20/20 so ask me in about a month).
First, when we told the Peanut about the baby we made it all about her. How can it be all about her you say? Well, here's what we told her: "Guess what?! Something SO exciting is going to happen to YOU! You're going to be a BIG SISTER!". For the first two trimesters she was aware of what was happening generally, but we didn't talk about it much simply because 9 months is a really really really long time to a toddler. However, now that I'm huge and she can clearly see the baby moving around inside of me we talk about it all the time. It is usually in terms of how cool (and sometimes difficult) it will be to be a big sister. This discussion often comes when we're doing something awesome that the new baby won't be able to do, like eat birthday cake or go on the slide or open presents. As in "wow, it's so cool that you're a big girl now and can eat ice cream. Did you know that little babies can't eat ice cream?!" etc. etc.
The second thing we did was something my husband came up with (or claims he read somewhere). We made a very clear choice in how we refer to baby #2 and that is to call it the Second Baby not the New Baby. And here's why: what is the opposite of new? Old. What does a two year old know about old things? Well if something is old it gets replaced or thrown out, right? You can imagine where a 2 year old's logic will go with that one. Also, this provides you with the opportunity to say "You were little once too!" and "You are/will always be our first baby".
**Just as I was finishing this post my husband was helping the Peanut settle into bed when she heard a truck in the alley behind our house. She then went on a 5 minute dialogue about how it was the garbage truck coming to take our old trash away and leave us a new one. That's right, she thinks we throw out the old trash so that the garbage men will leave us a new one. It's hysterical and I could not have come up with a better explanation of two-year-old logic than that.**
So now with just days or maybe a week left she's SUPER stoked to be a big sister. In fact she often now brings me stories to read and then pats my tummy while explaining to me that "The baby wants to listen too, mommy". To which I generally think to myself "Well the little monkey doesn't really have much of a choice now does it". She also enjoys talking to and kissing my belly button, making the very two-year-old assumption that the baby inside is cognizant of what is happening outside. It's really sweet. Along with this point we also did a lot of reading of books about becoming a Big Sister or the arrival of a baby. But I'd like to air out two REALLY BIG COMPLAINTS I have to the publishing world. First: why, oh why are 99% of the books about a second baby about how the older kid doesn't want the baby and how awful it is?! If I wanted to plant that idea in her head I would have told her we were getting another wife. And second: why, oh why are all of the new babies being bottle fed?! Wtf?! I understand that some families bottle feed, but seriously let's try to represent the rest of the population of the world in there too. In the ONE book that we actually liked enough to buy (used) about becoming a big sister, only the Daddy feeds the baby which of course is with a bottle, but still! If you can't handle a mommy nursing then leave feeding out of the book altogether please. Thank you for the tangent. Now moving on...
I've been around the block enough times (working with enough kids and families) to know that at some point she will in fact resent the second baby and ask to send it back to where it came from. And when it does happen I'd like to think we'll be ready for it because our philosophy is this: it's okay to hate the baby (it's not okay to hurt the baby, of course). We just leave it at that and then move on. Eventually, she'll come back around and love her sibling...at least until puberty.