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Girl Talk: Preparing for Two

Q. My daughter just turned 2, and I'm expecting another baby. I can't imagine loving another child as much as I love her. I almost feel guilty, like I'm betraying her. How can we prepare for this big change?

A. I had the same fears before the arrival of my second child. As my expanding belly literally started to come between my son and me, there was a little voice in my head warning me that this separation would only grow. I couldn't figure out how, as I divided my love between two children, my son wouldn't feel a loss.

So naturally I started clinging to my firstborn (although I told everyone else that it was his idea). I hugged him more, carried him even when he wasn't tired, and stretched out our 10-minute bedtime routine into a 45-minute marathon of stories and snuggles. Each night I would cover my son in kisses and promise him that my love for him would never change.

Once the baby arrived, however, I realized that I had lied to my son. My capacity to love him actually grew.

I'm not saying there wasn't a period of adjustment. (Actually, if you think about it, every day of caring for a child requires at least one period of adjustment.) One way to prepare your daughter is to help her feel involved in what's happening. Let her choose the nursery color from a few preapproved selections. Take her to buy a special gift from her for her new sibling. (Letting her pick out a "big girl" toy of her own doesn't hurt either.) Talk about all the ways she will be able to help you with her new little brother or sister.

As for you, it helps to remember that everyone who welcomes a new baby into her nuclear family experiences some fallout. Yet even as you divide your time and attention between your kids -- we won't even get into what minuscule fraction Daddy receives -- your love for each child will remain whole.

How is that possible? I have no idea. I'm no mathematician of love. Still, I don't have to be Einstein to grasp the concept that a new baby doesn't diminish the love in a family, but multiplies it. And this is not a betrayal of your firstborn, but a gift to her.

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