I am coming up on my daughter’s first birthday and I find myself reflecting over the past year and all that I was feeling this time last year. A year ago my son was 18 months old and all he knew was mommy had a giant belly that was great for doing belly bumps. He was too young to understand that there was a baby that was about to come into our lives. At 18 months he really only had about 50 basic words (if that) and I don’t think baby was one of them, no matter how hard we tried. I remember feeling somewhat sad that it wasn’t going to be just Luke and me anymore. We had gotten so used to the two of us going everywhere together that I couldn’t even imagine how a baby was going to fit into the mix.
Alyssa was born on January 6, 2009. We had received numerous suggestions on how best to integrate her into the family, with our dog and in particular, with Luke. Luke came to the hospital the first day Alyssa was born with my parents who were staying at our house with him. With an 18 month old, I’m not sure that was necessary. Luke was used to being taken care of by my parents for a few days at a time and it may have been more confusing to him than if he had just stayed at home. As he then had to leave the hospital with my parents while my husband and I stayed there for another 2 days.
When we came home I made sure that everyone else was holding Alyssa most of the time and I spent my time playing with Luke. My biggest challenge was that I had a c-section which meant that I couldn’t carry him for 6 weeks and as an 18 month old he still wanted to be carried up and down stairs. We struggled through, with some tears from Luke and from me as well. I wasn’t worried about giving him too much attention and creating a monster because I could tell from his behavior that he was struggling to adjust. So patience, a lot of help from family staying with us and lots of hugs and kisses made it all okay. We got him a doll so we could each take care of a baby and it was sweet to watch him take care of her. It was also a good training tool for teaching him appropriate levels of ‘gentle’. We have a dog and I think because he was learning about how to pet Roscoe, learning to be gentle with Alyssa was an easy progression. If he had been a little bit older, even 6 months older, conversations beforehand about what was going to happen would have been helpful and I have also heard that putting photos of your toddler in the baby’s bassinet at the hospital is a nice touch when the toddler comes to visit.
I suppose the most important factor is throwing all of your love and attention to your toddler/child during the day (because who’s kidding who, you’re going to be up all night with your infant anyhow so they can have attention from you then) and having many hands will ease the transition.
It is so nice to be at the end of the first year and seeing how much my two kids love each other (for the most part).