By Troy Flint
I almost never use an alarm, except for rare and unpleasant occasions like an early morning flight out of SFO. Yet, two weeks from now, I’ll be heading to bed early (which is a minor death for me), and setting the clock app on my phone for a 4:00am wake-up. Then, my wife and I will stumble around in a semi-alert state, double and triple-checking our lists, and asking each other “did we forget anything” before heading to the hospital for the birth of our second child.
We’ve been preparing for this moment some time – the house has been like the set of an HGTV show since January. And we have a three-year old daughter, so it’s not like we’ve never done this before or it’s been ages since the first go-round. Nevertheless, I’m sure we’ll still be in a low-grade, silent panic on the car ride to the hospital. Just when we were really starting to hit our parenthood stride, we’re increasing the degree of difficulty, pulling up to the drive-through window, and ordering the toddler-infant combo meal.
It really shouldn’t be that big of deal. People have been having babies, lots of them, for a very long time. My grandmother is one of (17!) siblings. I know people with five kids. Talked to a guy trying to sell me something on the phone the other day who mentioned he had eight children. I said he should be on a reality show. So, really what is two kids by comparison? Actually, it’s pretty freaking daunting!
Full disclosure: As an only child, I’m still a little mystified by the idea that you could love two of something as much one (the math just doesn’t work out!), but I’m sure it will all become clear when I hold baby boy for the first time. I still marvel at the anxiety I had leading up to the birth of our daughter - that evaporated on first sight and now the thought of life without her is unbearable. Baby brother will inspire the same devotion, but what’s less certain is how his arrival will change the family dynamic and the greeting he’ll receive from his big sister.
Early indicators are promising, if not conclusive. Big sis loves to help and always wants to do adult things. She’s intrigued by the idea of a little brother and had been practicing holding and feeding him. This weekend, we all attended a “Big Sibling” class at a wonderful place called Herself Moms in Sacramento. The class was designed to help with the transition from the one and only to a big sister who has to share the spotlight with a demanding new addition. In an age-appropriate way, the course covered the changes that take place as the baby grows in the womb, the birthing process, how the baby eats and deals with bodily functions and how the older sibling can help. Each child practiced diapering, feeding, and holding a life-size doll and watched a video that reinforced the familial changes to come.
We’ve been trying to do the same at home and working hard to frame the new sibling as a gift and an opportunity. That approach has been successful for the better part of the nine months, but as preparations for the baby have intensified (new furniture, painting rooms, Amazon deliveries that have nothing in them for big sis), schedules have been disrupted, and attention has been diverted. So, it’s probably no surprise that a bit of ambivalence has crept in.
Although I know it’s a natural process that much of the population has gone through, I can’t help but feel some trepidation about how my baby girl will respond to a new sibling. I can’t abide the thought of her feeling less special or that her star has dimmed in any way. I’m hopeful that with Mama attending to baby brother, big sis and I can use these next months to spend even more time one-on-one and further deepen our bond. When I think of it that way, it eases my anxiety somewhat, but I know our future holds bumps in the road as our daughter adjusts to the new reality. It also holds at least one ungodly early alarm – but for the best possible reason.
Photo by Isaac Del Toro