New babies are a great life changer – for everyone in the family! And everyone adjusts differently. When we had Beanie, the transition from a couple to a family was interesting enough. We were both adults who had an idea what to expect. Still, an unexpected NICU stay took its toll on us. And we still had to make the usual adjustment to what our relationship would be like with another person involved. We had to learn that even though I am a very high touch person, at the end of a day of breastfeeding once an hour and carrying around a baby who cried if anyone but me held her, I did not want to be touched anymore. We learned that there would be no conversation between 7 and 9 in the evening, because Beanie screamed at the top of her little lungs for those 2 hours every night for 6 months. We had to change our expectations of my job as a stay at home mom when I couldn’t put the baby down for more than about 30 minutes at a time. It completely changed our relationship, and while we came out stronger, it wasn’t always easy.
When the Bug was born, we had to readjust our expectations again, but we also had to help the Bean adjust. Teaching a 2 year old how to interact with a baby can be a huge challenge. Luckily, Beanie has adored her brother from the moment she laid eyes on him. She has always been gentle and careful with him. The first time I laid him in the baby gym, she crawled in with as much care as I could have and lay next to him, batting toys for him to watch. He watched her instead. One of our difficulties lay in the area of sleep. At this point, it seemed none of us were getting enough. Bean woke the Bug, the Bug woke the Bean, Daddy was trying to help and staying up late, and Mommy was up all night nursing. When we finally got the sleeping arrangements figured out at about 9 months, everything went much more smoothly. By that time I had figured out how to get 3 meals a day on the table again, how to incorporate our new dietary restrictions, how to clean up most of the time, and how to handle getting in an occasional conversation with my husband.
And now, we are five! This time has gone much more smoothly. The Bean is an experienced older sister. She has assured herself of her status, knows what to expect of a brand new baby, has been there for Mama’s hormonal highs and lows and knows that I always even out and that I still love her. Seriously, she could give lessons in how to be an older sibling. The Bug, on the other hand, is struggling. He adores his baby brother, and is glad that he is here. But he has never undergone a trial so intense with us before, and isn’t positive that his place will remain when the dust settles. He’s struggling to maintain impulse control, do things we ask of him, or remain calm in any form of the word. It’s like a probationary period at a new job where you want so badly to succeed and be liked that you get everything wrong no matter how you try. And getting upset with him only makes it worse. So, he and I work together to find a place of calm and composure each day. I keep loving him and guiding him through the process as calmly as I can. He keeps checking in with us and establishing special rituals to reconfirm his place. And we all keep as much love and patience on hand as we can muster.
The adjustment doesn’t last forever. Calm, love, forgiveness and care are the keys to making it successful. Apply these things to everyone in the family, including yourself and soon enough you will be back to your new normal!