As the mother of four children I know just as well as anyone that the first childbirth is always a bit different from the ones that follow. When my second, third, and fourth boys were born, I was less nervous and more prepared. I didn’t need to buy books or take classes beforehand. I knew exactly what I needed to do when I went into labor.
But one thing was more difficult the second time around: this time, I already had a child at home that needed care throughout the pregnancy. He needed attention even while I was not feeling my best and he needed to understand the changes that were taking place in his family. When my second son was born, my firstborn wasn’t old enough to require more than some extra attention from my then husband. But, by the time the third and fourth boys came around, he had gotten to the point where he could ask questions. He wanted to know what was happening, who was coming, and how his life would change. He wanted to know more about the pregnancy process. “Where is my new brother coming from?”, he would ask.
When faced with such questions, it is important that parents take the time and care to provide reasoned answers; otherwise a child may be left feeling scared and hurt. Specifically, here are a few pieces of advice that I would give:
–Make them feel important. First and foremost, an older child needs to be reassured that they will be loved and valued no differently with a new baby in the house. While it is always good to say this explicitly, you can also convince your son of his importance by giving him responsibility even before the baby is born. Tell him, for example, that you’re going to need his help in caring for his new brother.
–Don’t shy from talking about pregnancy. Many parents are averse towards the idea of discussing pregnancy with their children, preferring instead to simply say that a baby is on the way. But you can acknowledge and discuss pregnancy without the conversation turning into a sex talk. Tell your children that the baby is growing inside your stomach and that it will come out when it is ready. This will help placate their concerns about your and their questions about your physical changes. If they press further, stress non-queasy elements of pregnancy that your kids can handle, such as the connection that exists between you and your embryo or the fact that, after being cut, umbilical cord blood saves lives by helping out people in need.
–Involve your spouse or partner. Raising kids is hard and having children is hard, meaning that caring for your kids during a period of pregnancy can be especially difficult. While you certainly will want to spend as much time with your children as possible, your health may necessitate them getting less attention that they normally would. This means that your husband should step in and take on a heightened role. On that note, when the kids ask questions about your pregnancy, make sure that he is there to provide answer alongside you.
These are some of the main pointers I’ve learned from my pregnancy experiences. Although your focus during childbirth should ultimately be on the health of you and your new baby, it’s important to remember your older kids and take pains to be inclusive with them in the process.