MOM: Well, you start very early, before the baby’s born. Especially when the mother begins to really show, I would say maybe 8 1/2 months. About that time with 6 or 8 weeks left over because you’re so obviously pregnant. And you encourage your child to feel your belly and tell her there is a baby inside. Remember how your daughter would get those glasses and look at your belly and say “I can’t see him, I can’t see him!”?
MOLLY: I forgot about that.
MOM: It was really cute. That kind of thing is extremely helpful for the older child, and what happens in that process… It’s obviously a complicated process, and of course the kid doesn’t really have a clear concept of what it’s going to be like to have a baby around. It can be a nightmare for that first child because all of life changes dramatically when the baby is born. Therapists often refer to it as getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Whereas before, everything has been all about that one child.
MOLLY: Yeah, that’s what happened with my daughter.
MOM: So you have to expect that the older child will have some issues when the new baby arrives, but you want to tone them down, obviously. You don’t want anything going on that might actually hurt the child. So you start the bonding when you’re pregnant and then when you have the baby –and for however many days you’re in the hospital– you have a present for the child.
MOLLY: So you bring a present for them when they visit you in the hospital?
MOM: No, I would have the person who is watching the child give them a present each day and say, “Mommy left these presents for you while she’s in the hospital having the baby, and you get to open one of them each day.”
MOLLY: Oh, we gave a present at the hospital to my daughter, “from the new baby.”
MOM: I honestly think it’s good to do it from home when you’re not there. They probably don’t need it quite as much when you’re in the hospital and they are there with you. It’s always nice to have a gift especially from the baby, too, but to also have a gift from the Mommy who is not there can be more significant.
MOLLY: One a day.
MOM: One a day, but they should be small things.
MOM: So when the baby comes… There was this wonderful book that I used to read mostly to your sister because you were an infant, and it was a book about a mother and her two children. The message was: there’s plenty of room on my lap for both of you.
MOLLY: Aw, that’s sweet.
MOM: I don’t remember the name of the book, but the intent of the book always stayed with me. You talk about that kind of thing, that there is enough love for both kids, and there’s tons of books out there aimed at kids expecting a new sibling. So you do that kind of thing, but you have to remember that the child will still feel utterly dislocated when that new baby comes home.
MOLLY: I do think it’s nice to have a present from the new baby.
MOM: I do, too, and that might be the thing that you do from the hospital because the baby’s in the hospital. But I think a gift from Mommy is better from home. It has more impact. More bang for your buck.