How We Told Our Toddler about our Second Pregnancy

Our son, Ben, was just over a year old when my husband and I decided to try for a second child. This second pregnancy happened just like the first: As soon as we started trying, we found out we were pregnant with baby Elizabeth.

I wasn’t sure Ben would understand what a new baby meant at such a young age. He was used to being an only child and getting all of our attention. Plus, he was practically still a baby himself.

So we waited until my belly started getting larger to mention the “B” word. Ben was about 16 months old when we told him that a baby was growing in Mommy’s belly. We explained that soon, he would be a big brother, and that would come with a lot of big responsibilities. “When the baby comes, you’ll have to be gentle with her,” we told him. “You’ll have to be quiet while the baby is sleeping. And if the baby wants to play with your toys, you’ll need to share with her.”

Even though we talked to Ben about the new baby all the time and read books together on being a big brother, he showed zero interest. I was worried that all our messages weren’t getting through. What if Ben was jealous when the second baby came? What if he was angry at us or at her for changing our family structure?

A couple days after I gave birth, my husband, Jim, brought Ben to the hospital to meet his little sister. Ben was cautious and scared. He seemed to understand that she was the new baby we had been talking about all this time, but he still didn’t show much interest in her.

That is, until a few days later. We had been adjusting to our new life with baby Elizabeth. Ben was spending some time with me and the baby when he looked up and told me, “Mommy, you have to be quiet around the baby.”

“Yes, Ben, that’s right,” I said, smiling.

“You have to be careful with the baby, Mommy,” he told me.

“You’re right, Ben. You’re such a good big brother.”

Hearing Ben repeat what we had been telling him for months made my heart swell. It was such a relief to know that he had been learning how to be a big brother all along.

Second Baby News: Telling your Toddler

My dear sweet baby girl was only 2½ years old when we decided to completely turn her world upside down and make her a big sister. It was a role I wasn't sure she'd want to handle, but she embraced her new title and her new little brother with open arms.

As the only child for over two years, I wasn't sure how she was going to handle sharing all of the attention she had gotten so used to receiving. So I, along with my husband, decided we wanted to slowly transition her into the idea of having a sibling. Before we even got pregnant, we used to ask her if she'd want a new baby brother or sister, and she was always very excited at the idea. Then when our friends welcomed their third child, we made sure to arrange several play dates, so she could see what it was like to have a baby around.

The final act, and I waited till I was safely out of my first trimester, was to take her to the store and let her pick out a baby doll. We must have spent 30 minutes in that aisle while she carefully examined several dolls. We praised her for how grown up she was and talked about how she'd have to be gentle with her new special doll. And when we got home, we told her she was getting a new baby doll, because mommy and daddy were  having a new baby. Much to our relief, she was ecstatic!

I was so incredibly proud of my little girl at this time. She loved helping me prepare for the baby, and she told everyone that she was going to be 'the big sister'. There was only one small hiccup with her accepting the baby: She really wanted a sister, because all of her friends had baby sisters. So to help her, we purchased a couple books about having a baby brother. And when we'd shop, I'd let her pick things specifically for a boy like clothes, blankets, and toys. Though it took awhile, she eventually got over it and couldn't wait to meet her little brother.

The Benefits of Being a Labor Veteran

The mental note-to-self during labor with my first child went something like this: You definitely don't want to do this again. Three kids later, it's obvious that I did not listen to my own advice. I guess it's true that the joy of having a child far outweighs the discomforts of pregnancy and childbirth. But even beyond that, I have to admit that giving birth was easier the second and third time around. For those of you who may be wondering if that means less pain, in my case it did. But before I jump into that part of the story, I'd just like to say that my subsequent labor and deliveries were better. Much better -- and here's why: 

My symptoms did not change. My attitude did. For instance, I experienced just as much nausea during my second pregnancy and my third, as I did with the first. In fact, nearly everything about the subsequent pregnancies and the deliveries was identical. What changed was how I handled it mentally. Knowing what to expect made it easier to prepare both physically and mentally, and it eliminated the surprise factor, which in turn, made it easier to cope.

My accommodations were new and improved. My three children each have nearly five years between them. As you might imagine, medical technology changes rapidly during that time period, although I suspect you don't have to wait five years for that to occur. Likewise, hospital birthing rooms took on a new and improved look. The transformation from cold operating room to warmly decorated bedroom-like surroundings was a welcome change indeed.

My subsequent deliveries were faster -- much faster. My first birth was somewhat complicated by the fact that my daughter was in posterior position (the back of the baby's head is against the mothers' back). In spite of this complication, I managed to evade both a C-section and the forceps, but it definitely slowed the process. On the other hand, her brothers came into this world in a hurry, sans posterior problems and all. While I know that subsequent births are not always quicker than first births, it was a welcome truth in my case.

My confidence emerged. Just like anything you've done before, a successful experience generates confidence. With one labor and delivery already on my mommy résumé, I had more confidence with the second pregnancy. Experience taught me what worked well and what didn't, and that's a far cry from the fear of the unknown that accompanies any first birth.

While it's certainly true that no two birth stories are ever the same, most mothers are more physically and mentally prepared the second -- and third -- time around. I certainly was, and it made all the difference!