I apologize in advance for posting in parts these last few days. Part of it is the fact that my mommy mush brain hasn’t gotten back its editing lucidity, and the other part of me has a lot more to say (since I talk to babies, toddlers and Barney all day). I try to keep each post a maximum length so that it’s not that hard for you to read.
Anyway, the first part of this post had half of the list of what got me through our first 21 days in one piece. This is the second set (and that’s why we start at #6).
6. Let the big sister fulfill her role, no matter how little she is. Already, Jamie has had her share of whacks and heavy-handed pats from big sister Sam — all of course done lovingly and with the best of intentions. When Jamie cries Sam rushes over to where she is and tries to soothe her. “Stop crying baby Jamie”, she’ll say while trying to bounce her up and down in the bouncy chair. Recently too Jamie has gotten smooshed by the Barney doll because Sam was trying to teach her how to do a “nose-to-nose”.
We try to remind Sam as much as possible that she be gentle with Jamie, and I do think she tries, however she’s not that conscious of her strength. At the same time, we’ve learned that babies while delicate, are not that fragile. After all they will grow up together and need to survive each other one way or the other.
7. Take on a pair of toddler eyes. After the birth I was instructed not to carry anything over 10lbs for at least two weeks. That of course included my 28-lb toddler. Sam though didn’t understand this and was always asking me to carry her. I kept saying not yet, soon and statements like use your feet since you can walk, until I caught her one day looking at me hurt and confused after she said it and I said I couldn’t, but I picked Jamie up anyway. I realized to her carrying Jamie and carrying her were the same thing, so why could I carry one but not the other? After that I sat her down to explain that Jamie doesn’t know how to walk yet, and she should show her how it’s done. I was also very much more conscious to hold her or put her on my lap after that, to somehow give her a feeling that she too was being “carried” still.
8. Avoid using the sibling as a reason. I don’t know of a book that explicitly says it, but following the logic of #7, I try very hard to avoid using Jamie as an excuse for why I can’t do something with Sam. What I don’t want to happen is that Sam will think it’s Jamie’s fault and start to resent her for it. For instance, our bedtime routine. I don’t tell Sam I can’t stay with her inside because I have to be with Jamie. More often than not, we incorporate Jamie and her feeding into the routine somehow. It takes a little creativity but so far, thankfully, we haven’t encountered any major jealousy issues. In fact, Sam would rather it be herself and her sister — forget us parents!
9. Use your body as your guide. I used to track feeding, sleeping and activity times of Sam in a notebook and as much as I could, I’d try to keep the same amount of intervals between each set. I started out that way with Jamie, but I only was able to list it all down up to day 5. By then I was missing hours or time intervals and I started approximating. There’s just too much to do, let alone keep track in a notebook! So I started going by feel (particularly the milk let down and the engorgement sensation for breastfeeding) and by observation. Then only would I check the clock to make a mental record of the time intervals.
That also decreases the stress when Jamie goes off-interval (ie wants to eat more frequently or stays awake instead of asleep). So admittedly it’s a little bit more on the feed-on-demand spectrum of things versus the scheduled feeding. I still try to approximate the same interval periods though, and knowing what I know from KK about sleep intervals, I try to observe if Jamie is really hungry or if she just wakes up prematurely and needs help going back down to sleep. I guess after 21 days and 2 kids, it becomes a tad bit easier to tell the difference.
10. Stick to your regular programming. This applies to both Sam and myself. While everyone knows how hard it is on the older sibling to accept the big change that is the newer sibling, we try as much as possible to treat Sam the same way. She still needs to sleep by herself, even if the whining and drama has increased. The routine helps me and her know that life does go on as it should.
At the same time, I still try to do many of the things that I feel keep me grounded and sane, such as blogging or keeping tabs on work. I know I should use this time to rest or sleep when the kids are both asleep, but sometimes you just need to do a little bit of what you were doing pre-newborn era, for you. So at night, my husband and I still take the time to watch our shows too.
The Moral of the Story: It’s all in the mind. I think if you manage your expectations and change your perspective on how things should be then it’s all doable. Sam needs to eat and get to school, and I need clean clothes. So we do what we gotta do to make it happen. Hopefully as the weeks go by it gets easier. And then it just becomes fun. 🙂