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When New Babies Meet the First Babies

May26

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A good friend of mine gave birth to her second baby right around the time I got pregnant with my second baby, and luckily for me she was brutally honest about the whole sibling thing. “I have ZERO PATIENCE for ,” she admitted. “ZERO. I can’t deal with him. I kind of don’t even want him around. I secretly signal my husband to like, get him out of my sight multiple times a day.”

I could understand that. I could see where she was coming from. I mean, it wasn’t her fault that I was such a better mother than she was, because I could NEVER think or say anything like that about MY precious firstborn son.

Sort of like when I was pregnant with my precious firstborn son, and a coworker commented that she barely remembered that she had a dog and a cat after bringing her baby home. “And I was like, oh yeah! I have pets!” she said with a laugh.

I could also understand that. I mean, if you’re a negligent monster who clearly never truly loved your pets to begin with, OF COURSE you can’t be bothered with them after having a baby. MY PETS, on the other hand…

Oy. Was I ever humbled. Both times!

I already wrote a little bit about preparing pets and older siblings for a new baby for my weekly pregnancy column, complete with an admission of failure to properly prepare our dog for Noah’s birth. (I also left out the part where both pets regularly wore on my last nerve with their need to like, EAT and EXIST and WHATEVER.) Preparing them for a second baby was downright easy this time. They seemed to sense what was coming, what with my huge belly and the reappearance of the crib and Noah’s baby clothes, but more than that, they were already used to the demotion to Not The Center Of Attention.

My husband brought the baby’s first ooky bloody hat home again (a nurse packed it up in a little haz-mat bag, which I found hilarious and kept for his baby box), and they obediently sniffed at it and then wandered away. When we brought Ezra home, we might as well have brought home another hat: they really didn’t care, and have both been universally terrific with him. Hooray pets! You get a gold star this time.

Noah, on the other hand…

On the day Ezra was born, I missed Noah terribly. I was anxious and excited to see him again, though I was COMPLETELY taken aback by the RIDICULOUSLY GIANT CHILD who ran into my hospital room for the first time. My world had already shrunk to a newborn-sized perspective and Noah was just…such a BOY. Not my baby or toddler, my BOY. Who was big and loud and hyper and running around the room and ignoring me and his little brother and slamming closet doors and obsessed with running up and down the outside hallways in order to disturb the maximum number of people and demanding juice! and crackers! and grilled cheese! and OH MY GOD TAKE HIM HOME. I CAN’T DEAL WITH HIM RIGHT NOW.

Oh! How about that. I am not mother of the year either, after all. Huh!

I still say we did the best we could to prepare him, and that the things we did were useful. Noah was DELIGHTED by his baby brother. It took until his second visit to the hospital for us to coax him to give Ezra a hug and a kiss, but he obliged and was truly fascinated with the baby and understood that he needed to be gentle and wash his hands and avoid the soft spot and everything we’d explained a zillion times over.

We were just a little unprepared for how PISSED. OFF. Noah would be at US. The baby? Eh, he had no beef with the baby. It wasn’t the baby’s fault. It was OURS. WE DID THIS. We went and changed things and upset his routine and everybody is tired and impatient and nobody seems to care that Mama isn’t the one making his breakfast anymore. And Mama ALWAYS made his breakfast. Get out of bed, Mama. Make breakfast. Waffles. Now!

(And Mama was just trying to get another 15 minutes of sleep after a marathon all-nighter nursing session, and Mama is in NO MOOD for getting bossed around by a three-year-old.)

So we saw a lot of tantrums, a lot of anger, all of which my friend also saw and which led to the feelings of “preferring” the baby over her older child. I imagine other mothers might easily experience the exact opposite — a difficult colicky newborn might make you long for the exclusive company of a verbal older child who might possibly be reasoned with. Ezra’s needs were, to me, so simple and easy to meet. Milk, diapers, sleep. Swaddle, sing, bounce, cuddle. I could give him everything and anything he needed without leaving my nest-y bedroom.

Noah needed to get dressed and fed and taken to school. He needed discipline and help going potty and help getting his toy unstuck from the place he’d gotten it stuck two dozen times in a row. He needed routines that simply didn’t exist anymore. We had some truly awful weeks, a couple pretty lousy months, and while I can’t EXACTLY pinpoint when things started improving, they did, and hoo boy, is it fun watching the two of them together now. Hoo. Boys. Two of them!

(And unlike after Noah’s birth, NO ONE BROKE THEIR LEG ON A BOUNCY SEAT THIS TIME. That means we WIN.)

If you landed here but are still pregnant, visit Amalah’s Pregnancy Calendar. You won’t regret it.

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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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8 Responses to “When New Babies Meet the First Babies”

  1. blondebibliophile May 26 at 7:17 pm Reply Reply

    I have fun reading all of your columns, regardless that I’m not planning a family anytime soon. I love the honesty and the levity. One thought – is there any way to put a link to this blog on your main page (with the links to mamapop, advice smackdown, and zero to forty)?
    I think a large number of your readers might not know about the Bounce Back part of your blog, or know it was there at one point but don’t remember how to get back.

  2. Kate May 27 at 5:45 am Reply Reply

    Oooo yes, it’s all so true. Long before my husband was my husband, and longer still before we had a baby, we got our dog. Our perfect little dog who really is a wonderful pet and member of the family. During my pregnancy, I felt so damn _maternal_ towards her, and I wanted her with me all the time. I couldn’t possibly comprehend how anyone could suddenly NOT like their pet after giving birth.
    And then I gave birth. And just like Amalah says, the dog seemed to exist only to vex me. She was always in the way. She kept wanting to go OUTSIDE while I was FEEDING THE BABY. My husband thought I was insane and cruel, but I just couldn’t help it–I had zero patience.
    It’s been 5 months and we’re getting back to our normal relationship. But she still has this look nowadays. She knows that she used to be the Baby and the Dog–the center of our worlds– and now she’s just the Dog.

  3. Jo May 27 at 10:43 am Reply Reply

    You explain it so well, I was the same way–secretly, I thought I would be the perfect mom with the perfect baby and the perfect life with the perfect routines.
    haahaaaaaha.
    Ah hem. Anyway, now I’m listening. And I’m waiting to have my second child until… ummmm… first baby is in college? It sounds so hard, I don’t know how you do it all. Respect.

  4. Olivia May 27 at 11:12 am Reply Reply

    I felt the same way about my pets. Like it would be so easy to still love and pamper my pets when I have a baby, but no. The cats adjusted well, but the dog was so freakin nervous. The first few weeks of her whining and POOPING in the house made me loose my shit.
    She’s calmed down now, but I still have no patience for her. I feel guilty for not paying enough attention to her, so it’s nice to hear I’m not the only one who gives their pets the short end of the stick.

  5. Michelle Pixie May 27 at 11:33 am Reply Reply

    We are still working out the kinks…Apparently when you have an older child it takes them a few months to realize that maybe a new baby isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!
    The first few months my youngest who suddenly lost her “baby of the family” status was really showing her displeasure with us for bringing baby home but now they are the best of friends so it was definitely worth all of the tears and whining!
    My oldest loved having a new baby and was a super big help with everything and then one day it all changed and she realized that “Hey I’m not getting enough attention around here and you people are failing me!” The mommy guilt kicked into high gear for me and I really felt like I was drowning and overwhelmed but I am trying really hard to balance everyone’s needs (including my own). I have started to carve out time for each of my girls so they get one on one time with mommy every week. I have even started to get up an hour earlier in the mornings so that I can go for a walk all by myself to just be and it has really helped with not being completely overwhelmed!
    My pediatrician also recommended a book that would be good for me to check out… “Siblings without Rivalry” but I am trying to not put too much pressure on me because I know that someday my kids are probably going to end up in therapy over something I’ve done and I figure admitting it is a step in the right direction! ;)

  6. MsAndra May 27 at 2:07 pm Reply Reply

    Oh thank God, it’s not just me. You would not BELIEVE (wait… yes you would) the maternal guilt I put myself through for “preferring the baby” over my 3 year old. Your story matches mine almost to the letter. The huge kid that ate my baby boy coming into my hospital room, the part about him LOVING baby brother and HATING Mama & Daddy and especially the part about me thinking it would all go so much better than it has gone. I was just as judgemental as you were and HOO BOY! Am humbled.
    It’s so good to know that this is normal and I am not the worst mama ever. I’m trying every day to do better with my 3 year old. Trying to spend more time alone with him and to make sure I divide my attention as equally as possible. I know that one day they will be great buddies and This part will all seem like a bad dream. It just makes it a lot easier when I hear that this is a normal process. Thanks.

  7. Michelle May 27 at 6:31 pm Reply Reply

    Ugh! This is not what I wanted/needed to hear right now. My son just turned 3 and I’m expecting another son in a couple of months.So pretty much the same age difference as Noah and Ezra.
    Although to be fair, we have pretty low expectations so hopefully *crosses fingers* I won’t be too humbled by my smugness. Do I get bonus points for already being annoyed with the giant preschooler? Like stop needing things or wanting mommy to do things with you and let the pregnant mama rest or er, um play on the internet.
    Luckily my mom is coming for a week and my husband will be taking off 2 weeks. Plus we also have custody of my 10 yr old stepson who my 3 yr old looooves. Frankly, I think he’ll be more jealous about the baby taking big brother’s attention than mom or dad’s.
    So it will suck but we’ll get through it? Got it.

  8. Izzy May 29 at 3:53 pm Reply Reply

    God…you are so right about the giant child. When my daughter came to the hospital (just shy of 5 yrs old) I was like “WHO enormified my little girl????” and I wanted to cry because I felt so guilty, as though I had betrayed the giant little firstborn former-center-of-my-universe girl *sigh*

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