When New Babies Meet the First Babies
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 my second son, 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.)