02 May 2008

"Mama, I'm Nervous About the Baby"

We've been reading How to Be a Baby, by Me, the Big Sister every night this week, by Katrina's choice. We talk about both the baby to come and Katrina's birth a lot--again, mostly at Katrina's instigation. Some days she pats or kisses my (growing! fast!) tummy more than she kisses me. And at other times...

--Mama, I'm still nervous about the baby.

--What are you nervous about, sweetie?

--I don't know.

--Do you have any questions?

--No.

(pause)

--Sweetie, what do you think is going to happen when the baby comes?

--What if I get a trophy from soccer or from doing really good art, and I don't want to put it up high, because I can't see it as well up high, so I put it low, and the baby comes into my room and breaks it?

(Note that she is not currently involved in soccer or in anything art-related that would bring a prize; we have talked about signing her up for soccer in the fall if she wants to play, and about perhaps taking an art class over the summer. So any trophy is purely theoretical on her part.)

--Well, sweetie, the baby won't be doing much moving around on her own for a while. And by the time the baby can crawl or walk, we'll figure something out. Remember baby Taylor? Could she move around and break things?

--No. But what if the baby kicks me?

--I think if the baby kicks you, it wouldn't hurt, because she'll be so small. Did Taylor kick you when you held her?

--Yes.

--Did it hurt?

--(half-smile) Yes!

I laugh and tell her I don't think that's true, and we move on to other important questions, such as how the baby is going to come out and the exact day I knew that the baby was in my tummy, and how did I know that, anyway? Which, ironically, I find much easier to answer than how we will prevent the baby from invading Katrina's room and destroying all of her stuff, both the stuff she has today and imagined, future stuff. Because, really, it would be untruthful to tell her that her young sibling will never get into her belongings or break anything.

Now that spring has finally reached Germany, it is bittersweet. We're in the last month and a half of school, and "Kindergarten graduation" has appeared on the school calendar. I used to think that was a silly thing to do, but in this situation, the kids really are graduating, in the sense that they will leave this school and go on to first grade in a different school. And this year, those new schools will be scattered across the United States and Germany. It will be a true good-bye for most of the kids in Katrina's age-group.

And as we think ahead more and more to the new baby's birth, these months are a good-bye to something else--the current structure of our little family. We've gotten comfortable together these past 5, almost 6 years. Katrina has had the mixed blessing of being an only child--lots of attention, having her own space, not having to share except when friends visit, not getting as much social interaction as she'd like, not needing to learn how to compromise as often as kids with siblings, plenty of one-on-one time with mom and/or dad. Soon she will have the mixed blessing of being an older sister. I think she will probably love and hate the experience in equal measure, with the love winning out, but perhaps not for a while. The age gap will mean she will hopefully be able to understand more about the needs of a new baby and better express her own feelings so we can talk her through the inevitable jealousy and discomfort with change; but it will also mean that her new sister (or brother) will never be a true playmate. I suspect being the object of hero worship is in her future, which has to be good for any kid's self-esteem!

I find myself hugging her a little more closely and often, praying that I'll have enough emotional resources to care for both her and the baby, and just being very aware that we are on the cusp of a huge change. And, like her, thinking a lot about the start of Katrina's life, and marveling anew at the gift she has been and continues to be to us. (As well as marveling that this long-legged, sun-kissed blond, articulate creature could have come from that tiny, squalling, orange-skinned baby!)

So, anticipation, love, saying good-bye and hello in the same breath. You know something, my darling firstborn? Sometimes I'm nervous about the baby, too. But I also know that we'll treasure this new gift from God, because that's what we did with you.

4 comments:

Wendy said...

Um three things...

1) I thought of this the other day... when baby does start crawling, just put a gate at Katrina's bedroom door, so the baby can't get in.
2)" I suspect being the object of hero worship is in her future, which has to be good for any kid's self-esteem!" - Is that really what you think happens when a baby is born and has a sister 6 years her elder??? Just wondering...
3) Taylor's kicks CAN hurt sometimes!

Carol said...

Yes, there is a gate on Courtney's door and has been ever since Nicole could crawl. And you'll soon start noticing how Katrina is playing with all of those tiny, choking hazards! "Baby proofing" this time around will have a completely different meaning and seem almost impossible to achieve because there is another little body that is constantly moving things around. You might start now teaching Katrina to keep her toys in her room.

Yes, life with siblings is a whole different world. Especially when it was an "only child world" for a long time before. Sometimes I feel like I've "abandoned" Courtney since Nicole and Lindsay have been born. It is truly challenging! I ALWAYS feel like I'm leaving someone out! At least Courtney was begging for a little brother/sister for a long time before she got one. And even though she does feel left out sometimes, she DOES love her sisters immensely.

One thing to do (and you probably already are doing it) is to really emphasize how much you love Katrina and to let her know that will not change. At some point let her know ahead of time that you are going to be busy with the baby, but that doesn't change how much you love her.

Another really useful tidbit I picked up along the way was how to explain a baby's crying to young children. It can be really hard on young children when babies cry for long periods. Here is an explanation I heard from a child psychologist to a child to explain why a baby cries so much... A baby cries so that he can find out who loves them. He cries and cries and then the people who love him pick them up and take care of them. That is how he finds out who is going to keep him safe and take care of him.

That really helped Courtney! One of the hardest parts for Courtney was Nicole's crying when she was a newborn (during the first 6 months). You might also try to prepare Katrina for that.

A tip I picked up from my oldest sister who has 4 girls is this...
A good way to help the older sibling get along with the younger sibling is to say things like "Look how much baby X loves you!" whenever the baby smiles at Katrina or reaches out to touch Katrina or something like that. Instead of saying to Katrina how much she loves her little sister, tell her how much her little sister loves her. Make sense? Katrina will already feel "displaced" so letting her come around to love her little sister/brother on her own will help. In the meantime, just keep telling her how much the little one loves her and what a wonderful big sister she is!

Last, do whatever you can to get some rest for yourself! :)

Gosh, I can't believe Lindsay is turning 3 this summer. These last 4 years have been such a blur....

Love,
Carol

Sarah said...

Enjoy reading your posts, and thought you might enjoy this other pregnant, writing Mom's site, too...she even mentions a book you might enjoy.

http://www.mommyblog.com/?p=763

Jennifer said...

Wendy--I know I'm your idol, you don't have to hide it from me. :)I've just watched a lot of younger siblings of Katrina's friends toddle behind, trying their darndest to keep up with older sister/brother.

Carol--Thanks for the tips. If you saw our house, you'd be even more horrified at the babyproofing challenges (hard tile floor! spiral staircase! Ack!). There is not enough space in Katrina's current room to corral the toys there, plus if we're still in this house in a year, the kids will probably have to share a room. But you gave me an idea...her toy area in the family room could be baby-gated relatively easily, if need be.

I LOVE the crying explanation...better than "the baby has gas" and rings true to me. Good to keep in mind, especially if this one has the staying power and VOLUME that Katrina did!

Sarah, thanks--I'll check it out.