Two months after Zac’s arrival, we finally feel as if we are back on track.
The first month, as expected, was just crazy and hectic. On top of handling a newborn and his needs, there was also the toddler and his needs to juggle. And because Zac had jaundice, there was the additional stress of lowering his bilirubin levels to think about.
It was probably a tough month for Aidan too, given that he had lost the undivided attention of his parents all of a sudden. As much as he loved (or tolerated, really) his baby brother, it was too much for his little mind to process. While we were expecting some upheavals, I was not prepared for the magnitude of it. There were epic tantrums, replete with loud sobs and vigorous floor-rolling. Boundaries were severely tested in so many ways. Instructions were deliberately ignored.
But the worst bit of it were his tears: big, heartbreaking wails of “mama” over and over again. Day and night (in the middle of his sleep). There was nothing I could do but to hold him tight, stroke his hair and tell him that I love him, it’s alright, we will be fine.
It was a tough month.
Thankfully, we are out of the woods now and while there are still moments of jealousy, he is back to his happy self again. One weekend when Aidan was laughing over something silly, the husband smiled and said with great relief, “We haven’t heard that laugh for a month now.”
Some of this adaptation to the change is due to Aidan’s own personality – he’s generally a happy kid – but we also took careful steps to ensure that any jealousy or rivalry is minimised. Of course, it doesn’t always work and Aidan still demands to be carried by whichever parent is holding on to the baby. But by and large, he is both loving and nonchalant towards Zac and I think things should improve as time goes by.
Here are some of the things that we did to ease the transition from a family of three to a family of four.
- Involve the toddler: we did this by including Aidan in our regular visits to the obstetrician. He sat on the examination bed with me as the doctor performed the scans, and Dr T even kindly pointed out baby’s parts to him. We also got him to “help” us do baby-related chores like folding the clothes away, never mind that we had to redo all his handiwork! Now that Zac is here, we will get him to help fetch the diaper or press the button on the nebuliser when medicating Zac to get him involved.
- Talk about the baby: Once my tummy started showing, I told him that there was a baby inside. From then on, he would associate my belly with baby, up to recently! When baby kicked or hiccuped, I would let him know and get him to touch the belly.
- Read about becoming an older sibling: my lovely girlfriend – I broke the news of my pregnancy to her first! – sent Aidan the “Waiting for Baby” book and he loved reading it. Encouraged, we acquired a few more to prepare him for the impending arrival of his sibling: “My New Baby” (same series as “Waiting for Baby”), “I’m a Big Brother” and “Snuggle the Baby“. He loved them all, so much so that he could finish the sentences of each and every book. When Zac arrived, we were able to help him relate reality to what he had read and I think it helped in the transition.
- Give him one-on-one attention: As much as possible, we tried to give him undivided attention. These days, papa would take him to school on the bus. Sometimes, I’d bring him out for tea and cake after picking him up. If my mum is helping us out, she would take Zac while I play train or draw with Aidan or read to him.
- Have truckloads of patience: As a toddler, he is definitely prone to acting out, especially when he is confused or frustrated. This is when empathy, prayers to the powers that be and empathy is much needed. We try not to yell or scold and instead be firm and authoritative. Drawing his attention away from the situation or removing him physically helps.
All this is still a work in progress, of course. Some days are better than others. But it’s definitely getting better and I can’t wait for the day when they will finally play (and probably FIGHT!) with each other.