Advice and Tips

A New Arrival

another mother's story

I read somewhere once that humans crave stability and habit. When it comes to parenting, I'm not so sure. Things were just starting to get easy, stable, habitual - with a child of pre-school age able to communicate, listen to reason and (almost) wipe his own bottom

I read somewhere once that humans crave stability and habit. When it comes to parenting, I'm not so sure. Things were just starting to get easy, stable, habitual - with a child of pre-school age able to communicate, listen to reason and (almost) wipe his own bottom. That is when my ovaries started to get itchy. Time to put the cat among the pigeons and have another go.

The pregnancy was pretty similar to the last - a terror of all things fried and lousy old nausea. I had less time to contemplate, plan and use my John Lewis account card. Last time I was terribly precious about buying everything new for the baby. This time, I was accepting of everything on offer from anyone who cared to offer it.

The Second Child

As the great day approached, I began to really think about what a second child would mean to us and the effect it would have on our neat family of three, not to mention my only and soon to become older child. I knew all the tips: the baby brings a present to the older child, refer to it as "his" or "her" baby, have your arms free to greet the older child upon your return, include them in every nappy change and so on. All good advice, but nothing you couldn't work out for yourself.

Here are some common concerns experienced by many as the family grows, and some thoughts to put them into perspective:

• Will I have enough time for them all? - No, not initially. This is not a time to be superparent and try to do it all alone. The greatest help in the early days is just that - help. Accept it from family and friends you can stand having around and send the ones you can't stand on errands on your behalf

• I will never love another child like I love my first. Actually, maternal or paternal love is easier the second time around, because you've already been there. It's a bit like the new found tolerance and affection so many of us develop towards other people's children, having had a few of our own. Experiential empathy is a great thing.

• What if the other child shows jealousy or worse, hurts the baby? It would be naïve to suggest this is unlikely and frankly if this is the case, a present from the baby to a vulnerable, dethroned youngster just isn't going to cut it. Good preventative measures are:

- making sure you spend some of the baby's sleeping time doing good one to one stuff with the older child.

- planning lots of exciting outings with their favourite people - babies can be rather boring to young children and they may actually want to get away for a while during which time you can cuddle the baby to your heart's content (or sneak in a nap)

- loving the baby in an inclusive rather than exclusive way and pointing out all the things that a baby cannot do that the older one can and could teach the baby in the future

- trying to observe important and familiar rituals for the older child, like bed time reading and cuddles, if possible, without the baby around

- and finally, if you are worried, never leaving the baby alone in the company of the older child (especially if you have just bought them a work bench or a doctor's kit!)

Here are some things about siblings and being a parent of more than one which may surprise you:

• The strength of love your older child may feel for the baby almost immediately. They are often distressed by their crying and are the first to tell you when the baby needs something. Watch out for those suffocating cuddles though!

• The fact that any night crying which distresses the hell out of you and wakes all the neighbours three post codes away fails to wake your slumbering toddler (especially amazing if you are used to one whose antennae can pick up a rustling sweet wrapper within seconds).

• Your calm acceptance of the sleeplessness and mania of the early months. Remember, you have learned that everything passes….sometimes too quickly.

As with most aspects of parenting, the good generally outweighs the bad, but you have to do it yourself to discover this. My two least favourite things about having two children are - one: the inability to finish anything I start (I know, I know, everything passes) and two: the way we often have to split up as a family, with one of us taking the older one to places while the other takes care of the baby's needs. I am looking forward to when we can do more as a unit again.

My favourite things about being part of the 'magic four' way outnumber the bad. I won't bore you with them all, but here are three.

1. the incredible love my son shows for his brother and the devotion by which the baby stares at his older idol

2. the fact that I am not as freaked out as I was the first time - I am actually enjoying the early weeks, sleep deprivation, throbbing nipples and all

3. being able to refer to "the boys" - it's just so cool!

People (like me) will tell you a lot about what it is like to expand your family. They may be right about some aspects and will certainly be wrong about others. One thing is for sure, once you go forward, you never look back….you won't have time!”

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