In the past two months, my pregnant tummy has been getting toddler-kissed aplenty. And a little toddler finger keeps getting thrust in my half-popped-up belly button. These are the ways I’ve been trying to ‘show and tell’ Eliza about Number Two growing in Mummy’s tummy. Kisses to show love for the baby of course, and prods of my belly button in a sort of button-on-a-speaker-phone style to enable communication with the baby within.
Eliza revels in it as the ritual inevitably ends up with much poking and kissing of her delicious, toddler-chub belly too. But sweet as it is, I don’t think it’s necessarily helping raise further awareness that there’s a baby growing and to be on its way in a mere 15 weeks or so.
I’ve also taken time to show Eliza the baby’s scan pictures but if I struggle to decipher a tiny foetal leg from an elbow, I expect she does too. She certainly doesn’t seem all that interested in all those black, white and grey blobs anyway....
So just how do you prepare a baby for the onset of, um, another baby? At 18 months she’s surely too little to understand what’s going on despite my best tummy adoration efforts.
Friends with toddlers Eliza’s age tell me how much their kids are enjoying playing with baby dolls. They cuddle and bottle feed them, change nappies and wheel them around in strollers. The trouble is Eliza doesn’t seem to have that maternal urge. The only things getting a ride in her baby-doll stroller are a nest of measuring cups, three tweeting eggs and some plastic keys. Meanwhile the baby doll, known affectionately as ‘Baby’ lies abandoned on its pink head in a lonely corner of the room stripped of all clothes as they’re now being worn by the googly-eyed octopus instead.
So is this how it’s to be? Are Number Two’s onesies destined for eight-legged stuffed creatures too? Will Eliza prefer cuddling kitchen utensils over her little brother or sister?
I can’t really blame her. I didn’t feel much in the way of maternal tugs before having Eliza. I was terribly stiff with babies and always resembled a cardboard cut-out if I was forced to hold one. On my wedding day, a friend wanted a photo of me with their newborn so I made some cake-cutting excuse and fled. She probably thought I was worried about puke on my dress but in truth, I was too scared to hold her baby. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them – who doesn’t? But newborns just seemed so fragile and vulnerable and then there were those little limp necks to support too! On that particular day, it was too much for a champagne-giddy bride to contemplate.
That said, I don’t think Eliza’s overly concerned about her ‘Baby’s’ fragility. When she does pick Baby up, the doll is usually carted around by the leg so suffers various bumps against furniture before being unceremoniously dumped head-first by the dirty laundry basket.
Friends have reassured that from their experience, when Number Two comes along, Number Ones of a certain age turn into ‘Mummy’s Little Helpers’ – fetching diapers, wipes, sick cloths etc. But to get to that stage, don’t they need to be prepared for another little being coming along in the first place? I guess I’m just concerned that all being well, we’ll return from the hospital with a healthy newborn and Eliza will be like, ‘No one ran this idea by me. I’m outta here.’
So, second/third/fourth time mamas, please share your experiences with me! How did you prepare your kids for a new baby? Were there books or DVD’s that you found helpful in explaining what was about to happen? Did your little ones find role-play with dolls useful? And erm, do you think role-play with measuring cups and an octopus might help or hinder the process?!