Prepping the Toddler, 39w4d

My go-to home birth guru friend Arch Mama wrote this great post about a year ago about what they were doing to prepare her son for the arrival of his baby sister (and I adore the story of how the birth actually unfolded, complete with big brother greeting his sister to this world with a Hi, baby! on her way out), and then my friend Natalie just wrote a post about this same topic, and it reminded me that I’ve been getting similar questions from people as well and I wanted to address them.

What are you doing with Stella while the baby is being born?
Does she understand what’s about to happen?

Some people assume she will be here, other people appear freaked out by the thought of her being here, and most are just asking because they are curious and want to know the answer. According to my Dad, I was at the hospital when all of my siblings were born, though I remember nothing from my 3 sister’s births and only vaguely remember my brother’s birth (I was 9 at the time). It obviously wasn’t traumatic or life changing for me, though I do remember being excited to get to be in the room for my brother’s birth.

Honestly, we’re not sure what we’re going to do with Stella, mainly because a lot of it is dependent upon the time of day everything happens. If it’s the middle of the night – she might just sleep through it. If it’s late afternoon and she’s being needy and I can’t handle that, we might send her to the neighbor’s house to hang out with her friend (whose Mommy is a fellow HypnoBabies Momma who also wants to do a home birth if they get blessed with #2). If it’s on a day she’s at daycare already – we’ll probably just leave her there for the time being and see how things go. I definitely want her here shortly after the birth — but during the actual experience, I’m pretty open to just playing it by ear. We will be doing everything we can to not notify my inlaws. I love them dearly, but they live close to us, and it would be way too much pressure to have them even aware that anything is going on. With my hospital birth with Stella, she was born at 2:12am, Charlie called them within the hour, and they were at the hospital shortly after that (we’re talking pre-4am people!). I just want a little more us time this time around.

At any rate, we’ve done a little bit of “big sibling prep” for Stella, but not much. She has been coming to many of my midwife appointments so that she’s comfortable with both the midwife and his birth assistant, we talk about baby brother in Mommy’s tummy (though often he’s in Stella’s tummy too according to her), we talk about all of his stuff that’s accumulating around the house (the swing, the car seat, the itty bitty adorable clothes)…but really, how much can a 2 year old understand? It’s hard for us to even fully realize there is going to be another person in the house and his needs to be attended to soon!

One of the best things we’ve done is buy a couple of books for her to read, and for the past month or so they have by far been her favorite books to pull off the shelf & read (with no prompting from us) which I find very interesting. Hello Baby (also sold as Welcome with Love) is a fantastic book that depicts the home birth of a new sibling, and My New Baby depicts all sorts of scenes that will happen with a new baby in the house – including the fact that the baby will be nursing a lot – and often in the family bed.

Hello Baby is pretty wordy & advanced for a two year old, so we often just talk about the pictures we’re looking at and personalize it to us. “See the baby in the Mommy’s tummy? Just like me! Here she’s leaning on Daddy and making loud noises because the baby is trying to come out. That’s okay though, it’s normal to be loud like a dragon. She’s okay. See the baby? He’s coming out of Mommy’s vagina! There’s baby brother! Everyone is so happy he is here!” etc. It’s a pretty awesome book. :)

So there ya go… our minimal preparations for this big kid in this family. We also bought her a Curious George book set that reads the story to you – it will be her special toy to listen to when my hands & lap are otherwise occupied by breastfeeding a newborn. Hopefully she loves it!

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18 comments

  1. mcmissis · · Reply

    I’m so glad you posted about this! I assumed (or maybe you already said) she was going to be there. I can’t imagine having the girls with me while I labor (let alone deliver!), but I can totally see you doing it perfectly. My girls both freaked out yesterday seeing me laying upside down to try to get Poppy to flip; so I don’t think they’d even want to be there when it’s happening if they had the chance haha. They’re both so sensitive when it comes to me doing anything they’re not used to. From what I read on here, it seems like your family is much better suited to have the whole thing be a family affair. I’m looking forward to hearing how it all works out!

  2. We played it by ear as well, Things got serious in late afternoon, so we ended up having our friends come and get HGB for his first night away from home. I massively dropped the ball on intentional prep, even while being due the same *day* as Arch Mama. OOPS!

    Can’t wait to hear how this all unfolds! Much love and peace to all in attendance for your birthing time. :)

    1. Meh, I’m not of the opinion that a ton of intentional prep is needed, honestly. I just didn’t want her scared if she hears me moaning and making lots of noise during contractions (hence the talk about roaring like a dragon *grin*), and since everyone we see asks her about her baby brother who is coming, we figured it’d be a good idea to address it on our terms a little bit at least.

      1. I just meant that we didn’t talk to him about the birthing time at all (meant to, kept putting it off…) or get him any books (again, meant too…) Oops. He loves his brother intensely from Day 1 though, but was younger the S when he came. Who knows!

  3. We had the book “Waiting for Baby,” which I think is part of a series with “My New Baby.” I like the mixed race couple in mine. ;) Had I known that “My New Baby” had a baby nursing and sleeping in a family bed, I would have bought that too! I hate that most books have bottles and cribs-it just doesn’t make sense to Mira.

    It sounds like you have a great plan! I tend to think playing it by ear is always the best plan, and you have lots of good options lined up. So excited for you!

  4. I read a while ago that we don’t even really need to talk about the arrival of a new baby until like a couple of weeks before we’re due. I thought that was pretty interesting, and it showed me how little prep kids really need. Good for you for not going overboard and instead just going with the flow!

    1. Ya, at this point EVERYBODY we see asks Stella about her baby brother, so I’m glad we’re addressing it a little at home since she’s getting inundated with baby talk from everyone else. We really haven’t done much though. :)

  5. We loved reading big brother books to Matthew, but he wasn’t into them that much. When I was young, I had a doll collection and had a couple newborn hospital mannequins (training dolls). We got “baby” out when we put up the swing and other baby items and moved baby from baby prop to baby prop, including the crib once he was in his big bed. That was the best thing we did for him! He loved his baby, learned to hold and touch gently, and learned to share baby’s things with baby. Ha! Right before we brought Bryson home, Baby went back into the closet. The transition was flawless! Matthew did not know the difference! We’ll use baby again if we have a third!

    I think about you many times a day… Sending laboring thoughts your way!

  6. Thanks for these book tips! I think this all sounds like a great plan, including avoiding the over eager inlaws. We’ve been talking to S about what things might be like and how he might help (diapers, etc) but who knows. I am trying to get all in his face with a cabbage patch doll (this is your baby! carry her! love her!) and you can imagine how well THAT’S working out. =)

  7. I love this! If she could handle it, it would be so cool for her to be there, but there are so many variables, especially a toddler’s mood!
    Also, Avery just got one of those book reader things with Princesses from her great Grandma and she LOVES it! She calls it Avie’s Kindle (since we have a Kindle and a Kindle Fire). She takes it everywhere and totally gets how to use it. I think Stella will love hers!

  8. Little ones are so intuitive. I swear Taylor started loving her big sister/baby brother books within the last few weeks of my pregnancies. They know, man. They know.

  9. I am so excited that this little fellow will be here any day now! Man, how cool it is that we all get to chat about Stella being a big sister? <3

    Reading back my list of sibling prep stuff, now in hindsight, it sounds like a lot of concerted effort. It didn't feel that way, though. It felt really organic. My toddler was curious and inquisitive, and we just followed his lead. Maybe the least helpful/effective thing we did was getting him the gift and telling him it was from Audie. I mean, he was happy to have those little cubs, but he could have cared less who they were from, you know? They were a good prompt for conversations about brothers and sisters, but that is maybe it. And those conversations could have happened without them. I bet if I asked him right now who gave him that pair of cubs he couldn't tell me. Heh.

    I think keeping an open mind and following Stella's lead during your birthing time will make the answer crystal clear about where she will be when the baby arrives. No worries. You will know. Arlo has only mentioned Audie's birth once since she was born, and it was about six months afterwards. We were sitting at the dinner table, and he suddenly clasped his hands to his mouth, started giggling, and then loudly said, "AUDIE CAME OUT OF YOUR BUM!!!" It was pretty riotous. So hysterical. I doubt he will remember it in the long run, or he will probably remember it in that way you do when you've heard a story so many times that it almost seems like a memory of your own. I will remember it, though, and I will remember how perfect and complete it felt that he was there. Though, you know, that sense of completion may have happened regardless. Anyway, that was but one moment, and all the moments that have followed have been the bigger journey.

    Stella is going to be a kickass big sister! <3 I love that we get to have this conversation!!

  10. Well, crap. I thought WP ate my comment and I wrote a second comment. Double your pleasure!

    1. LOL, if you haven’t commented from a particular email in awhile, it goes to me for approval 1st to help stop spam comments. :)

      1. Hehe. Whoops. I had to log back intp WP bf posting, so I thought it was sucked into an internet blackhole. Note to self: comment more.

  11. Sounds about right. We talked about his brother while we were folding teeny socks on Saturday. And last night Jack did say “my brother is coming soon”, which I thought was adorable. But we’re still just prepping him a little bit at a time. I think as we get things set out and ready I will explain to him what everything is for. But we shall see….kind of a fun unknown.

  12. This is really interesting. I’m obviously not planning on a home birth, but if I’m honest my “dream” labor and delivery would be an unplanned, unassisted surprise home birth. That would just mean everything goes smoothly and quickly and I’m down with that! ;) in my daydreams I’m switch back and forth on whether I’d choose to have Sofia there. In the end I think it doesn’t matter much from her perspective – I kinda doubt that she’d be either impressed or bothered by it, you know – but it would change MY experience for sure.

    Anyway, not really relevant for me but clearly it is for you. And I think playing it by ear is 100% the right move. Just like you don’t know what will sound good during labor nor do you know how you’ll feel having her there or not!

    Either way I hope it’s soon!!

  13. kaseypowers · · Reply

    One of my home birth friends here gave birth with the 3 YO sleeping in bed next to her and the 4 YO watching the whole thing. Baby is now 2. At first I was surprised that the older kids were there, but the more I learn about birth the cooler I think it is that it was a family thing. I think you have the right idea playing it by ear for where Stella will be. Since we are going to a hospital I’m in the process of figuring out a multi-contingency child care plan depending on when I go in to labor and what happens if it ends in C-section and I’m in the hospital for a few days. We have no grandparents nearby which is good in that we don’t have to worry about unwanted visitors, but bad in that they can’t be back-up.
    Debating on if prepping Simon is worth it more than talking about the baby. I think I’ll track down this book. Also helps that his BFF just got a baby brother too. Practice with other peoples kids for the win!
    I think half the internet is watching and waiting for your little man. It will be soon.

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