I want to preface this post by acknowledging that this is a very mommy+me post. My husband is a huge part of our family dynamic, so I want to be sure to give him huge props for being an amazing co-parent and involved part when he is not at work. When I talk about our children, it just happens to be a relationship that grows when he is at work since I am a stay-at-home mom. When he is home he is hugely involved. However, our family dynamic is one of me doing most of the childcare from 7 am – 4 pm.
One of the great joys of teaching childbirth classes is having students return for future pregnancies. It is an honor to walk this journey with them after they have been initiated through the birth journey and parenthood.
When we do a 12-week series that I like to call the Bradley “next” class, we talk a little bit about sibling preparation every session, instead of breast feeding basics that we would do with a class full of new parents. It’s a nice way to introduce ideas about parenting multiple children, and have the couples dialogue about what their new normal might be like when they are parents of 2+ children.
One of the most common questions mothers have is similar to the one I had: How will I love the next child?
For we will never have the singularly devoted time, the energy moving in one direction; it will never again be “just the two of us” plus your co-parent. We give so much to our first-borns – some of us wonder if will we ever be able to give enough to the rest of the children.
One of the ways we prepared Puma to be a big sister was to read her some sibling books about welcoming a new baby. I remember sobbing every I time read her a book where the mother is home with the two children, and the big sister is adjusting to life with a new baby. I am so grateful to that illustrator for drawing a tired mom and a messy house, and a family that eventually finds joy and a new normal.
It gave me hope, and it gave both of us a reference point when we needed to have a conversation about “the baby”. We could talk about the family in the book and then talk about how that might look for our family.
Now, I had the grace of having a toddler as a big sister…due to a miscarriage between Puma and Night Owl, they are almost three years apart. I had it easy in some ways, because Puma was at the age when she was happy for a little independence and relished her ability to do something, but not the baby, “they’re too little…” Some of our students are welcoming sweet peas 15-18 months apart, so the older sibling is still very much a “baby” compared to where we were.
Here is one thing I do want to share, because no matter how far apart your children are, this may resonate with you:
You are enough. You will find a way.
You may need to ask for help. You may need to lower your standards. It is possible to have multiple children and still have time every day for meaningful time with them .
One of our student’s mom shared this nugget of wisdom with me. She is the mother of six children, and this is what she told me: Every time we brought a baby home, we lowered our standards a little bit more. Now they are all gone, the house is perfect, and I miss them all.
This is what I do know as a mother to four children:
The emotional hurdle from being a mother to one child to two children is a huge one. For many of us, it’s hard to wrap our mind around the idea that our first born is graduating to be a big brother or big sister. Maybe you are asking yourself how you will possibly be able to give the best of yourself when you are being pulled in more directions.
The beauty is that our love doesn’t just double. Our heart grows exponentially, and there is so much love you can’t always hold it all! Our new children need us in a new way, sometimes a different way, and that stretches us in our motherhood. And all our children (and your partner!) will benefit from this new mother you are growing into.
While we may grieve the loss of giving everything to our first-born, without oue other children we might be tempted to stagnate. That isn’t much of an option when you add to your family, because each new soul is going to ask something new of us as mothers. And you will rise to the occasion, again and again. You will find yourself with more resources, more knowledge, more confidence than you might be able to imagine right now.
Reflecting back, I can tell you that it was good to cry those tears, and grieve the loss of our only-child status. It helped me be emotionally ready for the next birth. It let me turn the page to the next chapter. It allowed me to embrace my new normal once I found it.
It was messier, louder and a little more chaotic at first. However, we all adjusted and I am actually sad that Otter will never get to experience the joy of being the “big” in our family…but seriously, we had to stop having children at some point!
If you are in your last days or weeks as a mother of one before you welcome your next Sweet Pea, I invite you to celebrate your only-child earthside status between between/through/after the inevitable tears. Do one special thing every day, take pictures, talk about all the things your first-born can imagine about being a “big”. Celebrate your motherhood and your relationship with your first-born, while still taking the time to point out all the big brothers and sisters while you are out and about. It will help both of you adjust to the idea of the new baby
I hope your motherhood journey will continue to inspire you and grow you in rich and wonderful ways <3
More about Sibling Preparation on Sweet Pea Births HERE
You can also check our archives here on SPF for blog posts both Cassandra and I have written about sibling preparation.