New Baby Take Two: How We Told our First

When we found out we were expecting our second child, I began to think of ways we could share the news with our first. Seeking hints on how to break the news to our only child, I decided to read a book about sibling rivalry. It began with an anecdote about a husband who announced to his wife one day that he thought it was time to have a second wife. Being married to you has been so great that having two wives could only be better, right? Just think, he continued, the two of you can go shopping together and share clothes. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Needless to say, wife number one wasn’t overjoyed with such a prospect.

The author’s message should have been obvious, but the pregnancy hormones had already started doing things to my brain, so I just ignored it. Instead, like many parents, my husband and I assumed our child would simply share our incredible enthusiasm about her impending big sisterhood. That evening at dinner, I said, “Sweetheart, your father and I have some really exciting news. We are going to have a second baby, and that means you are going to be a big sister!”

Imagine our surprise when she responded with a quizzical look and a one word response: “Why?” she asked. As we both scrambled to fill the silence, I had to admit she (and the book) had a point, and I wondered how we were ever going to make this all right.

“You know,” I said, “when the baby arrives, you’ll get to do all kinds of things that he or she won’t be able to do.” “Like what?” she inquired warily. “Like staying up until 8 o’clock and learning to ride a two-wheeler,” I replied, grasping at straws. “And you get to help pick the new baby’s name,” I added for good measure. That last one solicited a big grin, but I never imagined what problems my seemingly brilliant suggestion was going to cause.

Two days later our daughter announced with great pride that she’d picked a name for the baby. “Favorite Towel,” she said about the moniker she used for her treasured Turkish towel, a gift from an eccentric aunt. On the one hand, I was thrilled that she thought enough of the new baby to name it after an item that accompanied her morning, noon, and night.  On the other hand, I was grateful to have seven months to do damage control on that one.