When I am pregnant, I can sleep anywhere, anytime. I’d love to just sleep through the first two-thirds of pregnancy. I could fall asleep on the stairs, on the way to bed. I could even rest up for 12 long hours at night and still be able to take a nice morning nap.
But there was one thing that kept me awake at night, staring at the ceiling: my son’s warm body snuggled next to mine, with his arm draped over my growing belly.
I’d pull him closer to me and think, “What have I done? How is this going to rock his world? What is going to happen to my relationship with him?”
The “what ifs” scrolled through my mind at a dizzying speed. How was I possibly going to be able to handle mothering two children, especially when one would be a needy newborn?
Each of my children have been carefully and loving planned, but the moment that stick turned blue, the excitement was mixed with worry and doubt. I was doing the right thing for our family, right? As my belly grew, I wrestled with that question.
I loved growing up with a sibling and so would my son, I reasoned with myself. Lots of people have two children and somehow make it work, so I will be able to, too. Alongside each of those comforting thoughts, the worrisome thoughts fought for my attention. My sister and I didn’t get along until she moved out. Were we on the cusp of 15 years of fighting?
I started talking to my friends who had multiple children and asking them, how they did it? Often their comfort was well-meaning but not always helpful. I heard, “Oh, it just works out. You’ll be fine,” a lot. But I needed something more concrete. The devil on my shoulder kept saying, “Just because they are fine doesn’t mean you will be!”
With enough digging and prodding, I did eek out some tangible advice from my wonderful friends. Sitting on the beach at a lake near my home, one friend said, “Don’t blame the baby.” Huh? Thankfully she went on to explain what became the most helpful advice I’ve ever gotten about being a mother of more than one.
Don’t blame the baby.
When you are pregnant and sick, don’t blame the baby. Tell your child you just aren’t feeling too well today, but that’s normal for mommies sometimes.
After the baby is born and you need to sit on the sofa and feed your sweet newborn, don’t blame the baby. Tell your child, “I need to sit here for a little bit. Will you pick out a book for me to read to you?”
Blaming the baby encourages your older child to feel jealous. Before that stinkin’ baby came along, Mommy was much more fun!
I had an easy birth with my second child and was so lucky to have both my husband and son in the room — along with many other helping hands! My son was enthralled, mesmerized and inspired…
…for five minutes. After admiring his new brother, he was ready to play. Ready to go back to life as always.
In those first moments and first days, I started to see, to believe, that it was going to be okay. I even started to see a glimpse that it was going to be more than okay. We were embarking on a great new journey together as a family. Bring on the joy!
Like all journeys, we’ve had some unexpected turns, some bumps in the road and some vistas unlike we ever dreamed of seeing. We’ve also come to some crossroads and needed to make decisions.
One unexpected twist in the path to sibling harmony has been in the lack of support we’ve found in children’s books. So many children’s books encourage jealousy and show fighting siblings as the norm. Through careful selection, we’ve managed to present a different world to our boys. With the Boxcar children, Magic Treehouse, Wild Kratts and many others, we’ve been able show our boys a world where siblings support and love each other.
Family is a topic of daily dialog in our home. We talk about families and the place each person has and how important each person is in our family.
None of this insulates us from squabbling between siblings. There are still arguments over Legos and protests of “It’s not fair!” But woven through our family, there is something greater: love.
My boys love each other, through and through, no matter what happens. It has taken a lot of work and conscious effort and trying things to see what works. And now we’re starting on the next chapter in this book of family and have added a little sister to the mix.
When she is nursing and gazing up at me with those big, beautiful baby eyes, I lean in and whisper to her, “You’re so lucky! You have two wonderful brothers who can’t wait to play with you!”