Toddler Tuesday: Sibling Fears

The emotional impact on your soon-to-be big sib might be more positive than you think.

Toddler Tuesday: Sibling Fears

When I was hugely uncomfortable and overdue with my second son, I spent days lumbering around Central Park with my mom in an attempt to coax him out. But as eager as I was for this baby to make his entrance into the world, I was also anxious about the impending change that my little family was about to experience.

Cracks of confidence in my ability to parent two children widened as we walked, and tears of anxiety burned my eyes as I confessed my deepest fears to my mom. My fears were not about being unable to love two children—I trusted in my heart to grow and expand with this new arrival. And I wasn’t particularly nervous about caring for two—after all, women across the globe have successfully raised much larger families for eons.


What festered were deeper fears about the emotional impact that a new baby would have on my older son and on our sacred relationship. I circled that lawn with a lump in my throat that rivaled the size of my belly and a list of worries that was as long as I was pregnant.

Three fears especially echoed the loudest and (along with unrelenting heartburn) kept me awake at night. Not coincidentally—almost five years out from welcoming my second son—these three fears are still the most common ones I hear in my practice working with new and expectant second-time parents.

What parents on the cusp of welcoming a new baby don’t realize, and what I didn’t understand as I waddled in the park that day, is that so many of our fears are unfounded. Here’s a few reasons to let go of those fears, and trust in the path ahead.

FEAR: I’m ruining my older child’s life by having another baby and he’ll hate me for it.

REALITY: You’re not ruining it. You’re changing it. For the better.

I worried constantly that a new sibling would rock my oldest son’s world. As our first, he was the sun around which we orbited day and night, the fingers around which we were tightly wrapped and the willing beneficiary of 100% of our attention.

At barely 2 years old, he was only just beginning to grasp the concept of sharing a toy—we hardly expected him to make a leap from that to sharing his parents. We knew that with the impulsivity and lack of patience typical of a toddler, as well as his inability to reason or wait for anything, introducing a baby into our family would be a significant shock to his system.

And in many ways, we were right. How could a new family member NOT disrupt the balance and stability that once was? We as parents, were knocked off course ourselves with the arrival of a newborn, so it’s only natural that our toddler would be as well.

We had our share of challenges & breakdowns (for him and me!)…fits of jealousy and frustration, but I eventually realized that for the many tears that fell, there were a dozen more moments of laughter and smiles. There were gazes of wonderment from big brother as he cradled his new baby and bursts of delight as he declared himself a BIG BOY!

Where we once feared we would ruin his life, we came to understand we merely changed his status in life. He never would have known or experienced the role of “big brother” and all the influence, clout, responsibility and chest-puffing pride that comes along with that title without a baby brother.

I have no doubt there have been times over the years where my older son has felt powerful anger and rage towards me for some reason or another, but I am certain giving him a sibling is not one of those reasons.

FEAR: The new baby will compromise and forever alter my relationship with my firstborn.

REALITY: Adding a new baby allows you and your firstborn to gain some space…which actually brings you closer.

I stayed at home with my first son as his full-time caretaker. I cherished the time we had just the two of us, carefree days exploring our great city together, discovering and learning about one another.

I felt myself mourning the loss of my one-on-one time with my son before the baby even arrived…counting down our “lasts” together with melancholy and nostalgia. Last time visiting the zoo before the baby. Last swim lesson or holiday as a family of three. It was hard to fully relish the excitement of a new baby when the occasion was also tinged with a sense of sadness over what would change.

However, after having our second, I began to regard my older son as more of a person and less of a baby. With an infant in the house, his capabilities, opinions and competencies were that much more highlighted. Sure, he was still only 2, but he could do things! He could be independent! And helpful!

There were plenty of refrains about sending the baby back and frequent demands to “put the baby down!” but with our guidance and empathy, we also saw our toddler’s tolerance, patience and independence bloom.

In turn, I began to give my older son more choices and freedoms. I let him try things to encourage him to develop new traits and skills that may not have occurred to me had I not been desperately trying to juggle him and a newborn.

I let him climb higher at the playground because I was nursing the baby on the park bench. I encouraged him to get himself undressed and into the tub while I swayed the baby to sleep nearby. I allowed him to walk beside me and hold my hand while we pushed the baby in the stroller. And, oh how he flourished! It’s as if by discovering all the things I couldn’t do, he discovered so many more things that he could do, things that were significant and important to his burgeoning autonomy.

Instead of change, our relationship evolved. The more trust and independence I gave him, the more he blossomed—and the more he trusted me in return. I stepped back out of necessity but also because he began to prove he didn’t need me as much. Ironically, in giving him space, we actually grew closer. Having a new baby made my relationship with my firstborn richer and deeper and more connected…the exact opposite of what I worried would happen.

FEAR: None of my second child’s “firsts” will be as exciting as those same milestones with my first.

REALITY: You will actually enjoy them more because you are more relaxed and prepared!

It was unclear to me how our second son’s firsts would be exciting after we had celebrated, photo-documented, emailed, texted and otherwise overshared our first son’s every milestone. Not only did I not think they would be significant, I wasn’t sure I would have the energy to record each first with the same diligence and care.

But what I discovered was that every first with our oldest son was new and exciting because we didn’t know what to expect or what they would lead to. We had no past experience against which to compare it and the learning curve was indeed steep.

We didn’t know that while a first tooth is exciting, it can also draw blood while nursing. Or that while first solids can cause tummy trouble. Along with those first steps comes the first major goose egg on the forehead, and whoops…that first time in the pool means we quickly learned about swim diapers. These firsts, while meaningful, also caused significant stress and anxiety.

While the second child’s firsts aren’t necessarily new, they are still exciting because now you know what they mean and what’s to come. The second time around, you have a historical database from the first that allows you to greet each milestone with confidence and ease and you can savor each first even more.

Now that we know what to expect, we can dream about the future of our two children together. First steps mean soon your baby will one day be chasing after his big sibling, and the first tooth will soon be followed by a family dinner for four. And that first birthday--while bittersweet--is only the beginning of memorable milestones yet to come.

We bring so much more knowledge and experience into parenthood the second time around—a new arrival allows us to put into practice all that we have learned and helps us to tame our fears by replacing them with new discoveries…unexpected learnings about ourselves, and our older children, and surprising realizations about how competent and capable we really are.

Are you expecting your second? What have been some of your fears? How do you think having a second will impact your relationship with your first?

Image source.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


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A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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