When you already have a child, you may analyse the best time to try for a sibling. Everyone has their own ideas for what will suit their dynamics. We became pregnant when our eldest was 2.5 years old. She is a bright little thing, “doesn’t miss a trick” as they say. We thought she’d be pretty clued up and understanding about the arrival of a new sibling, after all, she spoke loads about baby brothers and sisters as there were so many mums at nursery who were pregnant. She’d be excited.
We didn’t tell her about the baby until I started to show. With hindsight, my bump was nowhere near as big to her as I thought it was. In fact, she probably wouldn’t have known until I was about 6 or 7 months. Yet, we broke the news to her around 5 months…it went well. She was chuffed…she couldn’t wait for a baby brother…hmmm. She did get a little frosty when we approached the subject that it may be a sister, “but I want a brother called Charlie!”. We did our best to prep her for every eventuality, but we had a gut feeling it was another girl…cross that bridge when we get to it, we thought!
As the weeks went on, she became increasingly more resistant to me. As the bump got bigger and more obvious, she got more anxious and distant. Bed time kisses and cuddles were reduced to “just a kiss off daddy tonight, please” and opportunities to favour her dad, in fact, almost anyone over me was snapped up.
Yep, my heart was slowly breaking. We spoke as little as possible about the baby, let her lead the conversation. We did get books however nearer the end of my pregnancy to help her understand more about the changes to come. And she loved acting out what she would do if the baby tried to pull her hair or take one of her toys. Her responses were always so cute, caring and gentle.
I had one of those pregnancies that ended up dragging on. It didn’t bother me as such, I was happy keeping the little one safely tucked up for as long as needed. I think because I was quite big toward the end, and family and friends (us included) assumed I’d birth early again like I did with her, everyone was starting to ask, “is it not here yet?”. And she was very aware of this. People would ask her “has mummy had the baby yet?”, “are you looking forward to a new baby brother or sister?”. At least by now, she was favouring a little sister. Phew!
Her behaviour was certainly an eye opener, a text book example of subconscious thoughts and fears playing out in a child’s actions. She was pushing me away, further and further each day. I held my head strong and constantly told myself, “keep showing her patience, accept how she is feeling, keep showing her love and care” even though some days it was really hard when she was so rejecting. Her behaviour was tiring some days, and not just with me – threenager? Anxious about a sibling? Parenting errors? All of the above??? Not sure, but she was certainly at that challenging stage of her toddler career.
Her rejection of me was hard for my husband too. He knew how much I was hurting. In response he could be quite stern with her, certainly strict with boundaries. When he stopped and reflected upon this he felt he was trying to push her back over, give her opportunities to try and favour me. Not that it ever worked; she was a daddy’s girl.
There was one occasion when she did make us chuckle, although we both knew there was a sadness underlying her behaviour. My husband had collected her from pre-school. As they were leaving, she dragged him over to her female key worker, smiled at them both and asked, “will you marry my daddy?”. I wish I was a fly on the wall to see my husband’s face…embarrassed probably doesn’t cut it. Joking aside, this was my little girl planning her own mother’s exit, pushing me away before I did the same to her.
It all came to a head one evening at bath time. She was tired, a bit grumpy, being a typical boundary-pushing now 3 year old, I guess. I can’t remember what exactly triggered it, maybe I said something as horrendous as, “ok, 5 more minutes before its time to get out”…and she lost it, big time. The type of episode when you think your neighbours are going to ring the police. And then the build up of all the subconscious hurt and messiness that she had been carrying; “you are not going to have that baby! You are never going to have any baby!!”. It’s the first time she had said anything like this. As you can imagine, 36+ weeks pregnant, hormonal and emotional, I was a blubbering wreck. Hubby came in to mop up and mend, while I sat on the toilet seat in tears wondering what the hell had we done to her.
Fast forward 9 months…we have a different child. She’s my little friend again, I am back in her “favourite club”. But it took a while, it really did. We did our best to give me and her 1-1 time where ever possible and I continued to plough through the rejection, keeping a smile on my face. It could have been easy to try and win back her affections by being the soft parent, the one who spoils her and gives in just to get her to like me again. But I knew that was a short term fix, so I stayed strong with my boundaries but always made sure I threw as much fun, giggles, care and nurture her way, even if was initially thrown back in my face.
With her baby sister she is beautifully kind, caring and gentle. I melt on those occasions where she wants to hold her close, kiss her, tells her she loves her and I know it is said from a place of real love. I am just so relieved our situation worked itself out. There was a time I was worried, worried if our relationship would ever be repaired. Of course, an irrational worry. With time, love, courage (lots of!) and fun we got there; it was never going to be an option of not getting there.