My calendar screams: “45 DAYS MORE TO GO BEFORE DUE DATE!” and I’m still not done with buying and stocking up on baby essentials. In some days, I feel incompetent for slacking around; on other days, I don’t really give a damn.
It’s a pingpong thing I feel every single day into this second pregnancy: I care, I don’t. One minute I am calm; the next minute I panic like my flight is leaving without me.
In defense to myself, I’m not completely inept though. Jeff and I did go around Dollar Tree Store, Walmart, and a Goodwill Store and we were able to scour good finds including a $5 bassinet, some onesies, bibs, burp cloths, linens, and receiving blankets. We also got samples from Honest Company and more coming from my favorite organic products, Human Heart Nature.
But I only did the baby shopping for two days at the most. What I’m really focused on right now is getting the twins – Nicholas and Antoinette – ready for the arrival of Baby No. 3. I did this before when I prepared my nephew, Timothy Uriel, for the birth of the twins. Timothy was like a son to me (my sister had him when she was a single Mom) so there were several prep and pep talks with the entire family to make sure that he doesn’t feel like he’s taken for granted or left behind.
I can already imagine the chaos that will ensue the moment this new baby comes home. A pair of two-year old toddlers still in diapers and a crying infant whose main hobbies are eating, peeing, and pooping do comprise the perfect formula in making crazy parents in general and a complete loony for a mother (or an overly stressed father) in particular.
But I’m a Girl Scout and so noting from my Timothy experience, tips gathered from other mothers, and a childbirth education class, I came up with the following pointers in getting ready for new baby intended for older siblings:
1) Read to (or with) them.
We read to our children all the time. I read aloud to them everyday. So when we finally settled in in our new home here in America, I ordered books from Amazon on the subject. I got four: “I’m A Big Brother” and “I’m A Big Sister” by Joanna Cole (illustrated by Rosalinda Kightley), and My New Baby + Waiting for Baby, which were illustrated by Rachelle Fuller. Nicholas already has his head wrapped around the concept of a baby. He taps and kisses my belly and points to it and says: “Bebeh.” He also calls me “Mama” now. The pictures in the books also include things they see in the house so that’s an added bonus as his vocabulary is growing. Antoinette, my independent one, still hasn’t get it (or perhaps she’s not showing it). I say that because she just keeps on jumping all over my belly without being careful. Okay, okay, I know she’s two years old, but Nicholas seemed to be taking it well and I can see the difference in reaction when I let them touch my bulging belly. Well, each child is unique and each one takes on a situation differently. Now 34 weeks pregnant, I will just continue what I’m supposed to do.
2) Let them hold some of the baby’s things.
Our Nicholas is an engineer in training, while our Antoinette is an artist in the making. Our closest observations yielded these findings: the engineer is right-handed, the artist is left-handed. Everyday, in morning after their bath, they run to our bedroom where the bassinet is currently placed. The engineer goes underneath the bassinet and “work” on the screws. I have to say the same warning line over and over again to stop him from dismantling the entire thing. The artist colors everything. Her attention span in coloring and drawing can run up to three hours – and I’m not kidding. Taking a crayon away from her hands so as not to let her paint the bassinet in rainbow colors is a challenge.
But we let them see and hold the baby’s things. It’s a challenging exercise though. I tell them about the burp cloth and they will go ahead and take it from me and wipe their faces with it. I bought a Winnie the Pooh night light for Baby No.3, Nicholas saw it and wanted to have it for himself. We also found a Winnie the Pooh security blanket for the new baby and when Nick saw it, he immediately took ownership. That blanket was with him for a week before he surrendered it to me and said: “Bebeh” (baby).
3) Show pictures (and videos) of them when they were babies.
The main reason why I started this blog is because I wanted to have a platform, a diary, a venue where I can document the twins’ growth. It eventually became a legacy and advocacy web log and later on evolved into a bulletin board of our family’s adventures. The good thing about having this blog is that I can just go back to my earliest posts and show them how they look like when they were babies. Antoinette is especially mesmerized when she sees videos of her and Nicholas in one crib “talking” to each other. When I tell them that the babies in the videos/pictures are them, they often respond with wide-eyed wonder like they’re saying: “Really, that’s us?” Their young brains may not fully grasp the entire concept that before they became toddlers who throw endless tantrums, they were once babies too. It’s also important to constantly repeat this to them because it’s by rhyme and repetition that young children absorb new knowledge.
4) Spend time with them
We have twins as firstborns so it’s easy to fall into the trap of lumping them as one entity. Eh, not really. We have a boy and a girl so there is a huge difference in personalities and needs. My husband takes time in spending time with them individually. At least once a month, he takes each one in a short road trip in his Volvo. Last July for example, Jeff took Toni in the morning to a salon and sang songs for her while in the car. He took out Nick later that afternoon for grocery shopping. I spend time with them separately too. There are nights when Nick sleeps with us because he’s still awake while the twin sister is already sound asleep. Some nights, it’s Toni’s turn to have a warm night of cuddles and kisses on Daddy and Nanay’s bed.
After I gave birth to the twins, I continued to bring Timothy to our Saturday dates. I continued to give him gifts and spend time with him even when it’s just about watching Despicable Me on DVD.
It was very easy for Timothy to get used to the twins. By the time the twins were about three months old, he already volunteered to read storybooks to them. See videos of Timothy reading to the twins here.
5) A special announcement.
Note: Big brother and big sister T-shirts are from Amazon.
Back in January, when Jeff and I were in the bathroom of the China Hotel by Marriott in Guangzhou eager to know what the pregnancy kit will tell us, Antoinette walked in and refused to leave. So we let her stay. I was in the toilet while Jeff and the little girl waited near the tub with their hands clasped together anticipating for the result. When I came out and blurted out: “I’m pregnant!”, Jeff hugged me and Antoinette clapped her hands. She might have taken the cue from the big smile on my face or his Dad’s excited voice. Nicholas was asleep then. When he woke up, we told him the news and hugged him tight. He didn’t get it. But we made sure we told him.
I read from different sources that when the new baby is out, the parents should be in the room first without the new baby (in the case of older siblings visiting in the hospital). A speech happens, so they say. The Mom or the Dad basically tells the new big sister and big brother that the baby has arrived. The parents should also prepare some form of gift for the older sibs. In our case, Jeff and I decided on getting them big sister, big brother shirts wrapped in pretty paper bags.
Like motherhood in general, I don’t think there is a perfect formula to get older siblings ready for the coming of a new baby. But it’s important to be prepared for any eventuality. A new addition to the family may threaten your current children’s position so it is best to assure them that they will always remain special to you even if a new baby is due to arrive soon.