Parenting Siblings: Preparing yourself for the arrival of a second or third child.

Six years ago we celebrated the birth of our first child. His arrival ushered in the start of a new season for my husband and I, but we anticipated that change. There would be sleepless nights, exhausted days, a stretching and a pressing like we’d never experienced, but we expected much of that. We were bracing for nothing short of a radical upheaval in our lives.

Parenting Siblings: Preparing yourself for the arrival of a second or third child.

Fast-forward 18 months later, and we discovered we were expecting baby number two. Having logged a year and a half as parents, we assumed we had this parenting thing down. We’d navigated the waters of first-time parenthood, and we had learned to love with a capacity we didn’t know we possessed. Thus, we didn’t really expect baby number two to be a life-changer.

But then she was born, and the transition impacted me in a way I never anticipated. Suddenly, the demands on my time were doubled and my energy reserves were halved. I no longer had to meet the needs of one child; instead I had to meet the needs of one child with a squalling baby in hand. I was waking at night with our daughter only to be woken with the sunrise by our son. I was exhausted, poured out.

I vividly remember sitting in the rocker shortly after she was born, sobbing. I had expected the transition to be peaceful. Instead, it was stretching me in ways I never imagined.

That was three years ago. We’ve since welcomed baby number three, and I’ve learned a thing or two about making the transition from one child to siblings. Here’s what I wished I’d known then:

Every pregnancy, every birth, every child is unique. Don’t expect your postpartum recovery with number two to be like your recovery with your first. It may be similar, but there’s also a chance it will be drastically different.

Be prepared for the hardships of a newborn all over again. That seems obvious, but I think it’s important to be mentally prepared for your life to be turned upside down, again. Only this time, you’ll have an older child in the mix.

Know that you’re not robbing your firstborn of something, you’re giving them a gift. In the months leading up to your second child’s birth, you may feel guilty about the fact that you will be upsetting the only family dynamic your first child has ever known. That’s a common emotional response. I felt like I was cheating my son in some way, but I also quickly learned that instead of cheating him, I was giving him the gift of a sibling.

Plan some one-on-one time with your firstborn. Whether it’s a special date or simply extra cuddle time and a story when the baby is napping, plan some dedicated time for just you and your first during the day or week as needed.

Embrace baby wearing. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to get a quality baby carrier. They are fantastic when you have one child; they are a lifesaver when you have two or three.

Enlist help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and receive it graciously. If you need a few moments to rest, another set of hands, or help with meals, ask a family member, a neighbor, or a friend to assist you. They will likely consider it a privilege, and you’ll get some much-needed assistance or a quick break to breathe.

Give yourself grace. You didn’t parent one child perfectly–you’re certainly not going to parent multiples perfectly. It’s OK. Give yourself grace when the days are hard, and extend that grace to your children.

Shalene Roberts is a writer, photographer and mom to three. She blogs at Faith & Composition where she muses on gracious homemaking, intentional mothering and inspired living. Her ϋber popular post, When Mothering is Hard and No One Sees, received 500,000 hits. Her heart yearns to inspire mothers to see the beauty in the everyday mess, and the magnificent in the mundane. 

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