When Van was born I remember Willy and I thinking that whatever repercussions in terms of how Hooper would handle his presence would be immediate. We definitely celebrated prematurely when there was no acting out, only to get to somewhere around the 4 month mark, when we found ourselves wondering who this child constantly on time out in the corner was. Because hindsight is the best teacher of all, we eventually realized that adding a newborn to the mix was surely the culprit and this time around we’re somewhat better prepared as to what we can expect (and when we can expect it).
I’ve mentioned this several times here in the past, but when we brought Jimmie home, he was a very difficult dog. Willy and I had no idea what we were getting into and I think we both had a lot of sorrow still in our hearts after tragically losing Sarah. Navigating Jimmie’s intense separation anxiety was something brand new and not something we were warned about prior to adopting him from someone off craigslist. The boys, though young, clearly picked up on our tension and general disgust and were not so nice with Jimmie. They spoke often about getting rid of him and getting a new dog and they’d hit and yell at him in a childlike fashion that – in hindsight – mirrored our own behavior and feelings of defeat toward Jimmie (minus the hitting, of course).
With that said, the first step in preparing the boys for a new brother or sister has been for Willy and I to touch base and remember what that time was like; to acknowledge that our own behavior was very much noticed and mimicked. A reminder that we are, even though we don’t always feel like it, the first line when it comes to examples of how to behave and respond appropriately.
The newborn phase has never been kind to our relationship as husband and wife. And don’t get me wrong, we have a great relationship; good enough that we’re open to admitting our faults and weaknesses and discussing things that break us down because we’re both under the belief that every relationship has cracks and times of fragility. And so, we both know that we’re prone to bickerments when tired and rundown, when we’re both at the end of our ropes. And surely newborns are pros at tiring us out, running us down, and dangling us from the end of our ropes… leaving us in that desperate survival mode where you’re not doing anything with any sort of conscious intent, but simply reacting with whatever energy reserves you have left.
And when you don’t have an older child, the repercussions for this period are yours and yours alone, as a couple. But when you have older children, or any other child (because dammit even dem’ young ones be pickin’ up on shit) the repercussions are felt by them, too. And mimicked, just like the boys with Jimmie.
So step one, for Willy and I, has been having conversations with one another reminding ourselves of this little truth; reminding ourselves that we are the glue and that to hold our little unit together will take some degree of teamwork and that how we respond to the not-so-easy parts of dealing with a newborn will be noticed and mimicked. The dominos will only fall if we make the first push and if we falter and do make that first nudge, we’ll be picking up more pieces than just the one that we ourselves knock down. So that’s number one, and I feel, the most important step in preparation for us: constant realization of this truth and awareness of our own behavior.
Other notable things we’re doing to help prepare the boys:
-We talk often about how much work caring for a newborn can be. We’ve suggested ways that they can be helpful and it’s elicited a favorable response in that they are now coming up with their own ideas of how they want or feel like they can help. Sure, not all their ideas are good ideas but the fact the wheels are spinning and that their intentions are in the right place is all we really hope for.
-We warn them about how it will affect them and the way they play and how a thousand tiny pieces of legos spread all over the floor will not be allowed in due time. The more we can warn them of how their lives will be affected, the less of a shock it will be when new rules pertaining to the safety of having a newborn with two rambunctious boys will be.
-We include them in whatever preparation we can (which truthfully hasn’t been much because hello lack of preparation when having a third baby). Van helped me tie dye a crib sheet, for example, and we talked about how the baby is going to love going to sleep on a sheet we made him/her. Hooper helped me empty the bottles from the dishwasher and make room on a shelf in the kitchen cabinet for all the bottle supplies (side note: looking at all the bottles and the bottle warmer and the little valve parts and the bottle brushes and the different staged nipples totally stressed me out — can we just skip to the sippy cup stage?).
By no means do we know it all or have all the answers. These are just things we’ve started thus far and feel right, instinctively. If anyone has any suggestions of things that have worked, by all means, sharing is caring.
Images are oldies but goodies from our time spent in Montana over the summer.