by Donna Arvay, Birth Center Mama

Five days after celebrating our son’s third birthday, we welcomed our daughter. She was a Birth Center baby who had to transfer to NICU for about 30 hours. My vision of my son Jude, meeting his sister Caroline, was delayed until we were discharged.

Months prior, we tried to get our son excited about the change in our lives. I was getting bigger, which he noticed. We talked to him about him getting a brother or sister soon. Every night, I would read to him and hold him while we sang his favorite lullabies. When it became difficult to hold him, we would sit in our rocking chairs to sing.  Before the baby arrived, we decided to move him across the hall to his new room. He picked the paint color and help decorate his room with vehicle wall decals. The transition was very easy and I could lie down next to him to read to him each night

About a month before my due date, I started getting out bottles and other baby items. Jude asked about the new baby items and I explained that they were his toys and beds when he was a baby. He really liked the bottles and would pretend the baby was crying and feed the baby through my bellybutton. He seemed excited about the idea of a baby and I hoped that this would continue.

On August 11, at 12:10 AM, we welcomed a girl. The following morning, she was discharged from NICU for tachycardia, which also sent my son to NICU after his birth. My husband told me that Jude was excited to meet his sister and kept asking about her. They met me at the entrance to NICU and walked with us to the hospital exit. Jude was really excited to see her and was entranced looking at her in her car seat. My husband and son met us at the maternity ward entrance and put Caroline in the car and the reality set in. Jude started crying and screaming for us to return her to the hospital.  Then Caroline started crying. I looked at them crying and started to laugh. This was our new reality.

Once, home, it was a little easier. Jude didn’t like that I was resting and feeding Caroline. We explained to him that I had to get better and dad would have to put him to bed and cook food for him. He soon learned that mom and Caroline would make an appearance before bedtime so he could give us a kiss and hug goodnight. He even “read” a book to her one night.

I was lucky to have my husband home for two weeks. He could keep Jude busy with trips to the park or pool and play with him. Once those two weeks were over, I wasn’t sure how he would do. Luckily, Caroline is a very easy baby. She is content to lay on the floor while I play with Jude and Jude has warmed up to her. He throws out her diapers, helps wash her hair, and talks to her when she is awake. I pumped some milk so he could feed her which he really enjoyed. I also make sure we have some time together. I took him to see his first musical while dad stayed home and watched football with Caroline.

The transition wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I’m glad they are 3 years apart. Jude is becoming more independent and I’ve learned some tricks to keep him that way. I always keep a full cup of milk in the fridge. If he asks for a drink and I’m with the baby, I tell him to get it out himself. Jude no longer wears any pants with buttons or snaps unless my husband is home with us. It makes it easier for him to use the bathroom on his own. The baby can fuss for a minute if he needs me to help him. One of the best things I’ve done now that I have two children is online grocery ordering from Walmart. I never thought I would do it, but it has made our lives so much easier especially now that my husband is back to work.

It has only been six weeks since the transition. I know things are going to continue to change especially when I go back to work, Jude goes to daycare fulltime again, and as the baby becomes mobile.