My best buddy gave birth to her gorgeous son 6 months ago. He’s honestly gorgeous, following suit from his big sister. But when he was born, her daughter suddenly became frustrated and angry by the change in family dynamics. This made me see a little girl act completely out of character and my friend break her heart at each outburst. I am so grateful that my wonderful friend was willing to share her experience in a really raw and honest post…
“Oh, she just loves the new baby…”
Well, this really wasn’t our experience.
Our little girl is a real character, she’s cheeky, precocious, stroppy (oh jesus is she stroppy!), vibrant, affectionate, hilariously funny, I could go on for a while. Of all these things I know of her, I didn’t know how she would feel about a baby sibling.
When she was 23 months old, we told her that mummy had a baby growing in her tummy. For the next five months we included talk of the baby in daily life, and tried to prepare her for this story we kept telling to become a reality. We would chat about the baby, she would kiss my tummy, she would tell me what she would show and teach the baby. It was heartwarming, but I knew she was just playing along with this story we kept telling her, not really understanding that an actual baby would soon become part of our world, why would she.
Not long after we told her about the baby, her behaviour nose-dived. Playgroups and playdates became things of nightmares for me. She suddenly hit a stage of I cannot and will not share anything/take turns/be nice to other children. She started hitting if another chid tried to take something from her, and she had her first tantrums. Terrible two’s coincidence, or a reaction to this story about a baby coming? Who knows. Luckily this only lasted for a month or two and then she settled back down.
When our baby arrived, a beautiful boy, we wanted her to be the first to meet him and Daddy brought her to the hospital. She was suprisingly uninterested in him, much preferring her big sister present instead. I’m thinking it’s going well. Then came the question. “Mummy, where’s his mummy?”. It broke my heart to say “darling, I’m his mummy”. She didn’t respond and I didn’t know whether she understood or not. The next day I was discharged and we wanted our little girl to be part of bringing the baby home, so she came with my husband to collect us. The baby needed a feed not long after they arrived and, as I put him to my breast, she looked at me, no screwed up whining toddler face, no sound of crying, just tears streaming down her little face as she put her hand on her chest and said “mummy, me”. To this day I am confident I will never feel more guilt and sadness than I did in that moment.
The first week at home was non-eventful. Our little girl was sleeping as well as she normally did and I used this as a measure of everything being ok. I was wrong. She then woke one night crying out & daddy went in to her and quickly called me – she was roasting, 40°, and was then very sick. This was unchartered territory for us as in her entire life she’d had two very mild colds. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong & put it down to a virus. For the next 6 days her temperature kept spiking and she was under the weather. I remain convinced that it was the upset of the baby’s arrival that caused it. My mum tells me I used to get so over-excited every Christmas as a child that I ended up ill, so I do believe emotions can play a part.
Until the baby was about 6 weeks old our little girl wouldn’t go near him, and she just wasn’t her usual self. I felt so guilty for ruining her life as I saw it. We had such a close relationship and were stupidly cuddly, and all that changed, courtesy of an emergency c-sec delivery. Daddy became ‘the one’ to her, got her dressed, took her to the potty, prepared her meals, everything. She couldn’t understand why I couldn’t pick her up and it killed me when she would cry and beg me to. Her behaviour nose-dived again, particularly at home, she was clearly punishing us for having changed things. Playgroups and playdates were no longer just the stuff of nightmares, they were the stuff of mini breakdowns for me. I tend to be very irrational at times of upset and I was convincing myself that my little girl wasn’t normal, thinking everything from ADHD to sociopath. One of my closest friends rationalised things for me and got me through this phase, and I’m so grateful to her. She put up with her children being on the receiving end of mine’s unkindness at all these playdates, and with me being a weak, worrysome, blubbering mess. She had to cuddle me more than the baby!
Then, when the baby was around 6 weeks old I started to notice something… she was different with him. Me, daddy, other kids, we were all fair game to be naughty, push boundaries, really demonstrate just how unhappy she was at no longer being the sole centre of our world. But, the baby, well he must have been ok. I would suddenly see out of the corner of my eye that she was sneaking in a quick kiss on his head, stroking him, offering to share her biscuit, talking to him. Then it happened, she asked to cuddle him. I cried happy tears as I took about a million photographs and then sent one to just about everyone we knew. Finally, the moment I had been desperately waiting for.
Things then very quickly improved. Our little girl went back to her usual self, my bond with her was back on track as I could start doing everything with her again. In a nutshell, my world suddenly felt complete.
Now, the baby will soon be 6 months old. Our little girl adores him. She likes to know where he is all the time, if he wakes from a nap grizzly she often gets to him before I do, mimicking just how I say “it’s ok baby boy”. I know, and am regularly reminded by friends with older ones, that it will change, probably as soon as he starts to crawl and get at her toys – he’ll no longer be favourable to her. But, for now, I’m happy to admit I’m smug about my little family. What we went through for the first 6 weeks was without doubt the hardest time of my life, so I’m going to allow myself a little smugness now.
I hope my story gives hope to anyone going through or anticipating going through the same with the arrival of a new baby. It’s not always the perfect picture that many paint (I think perhaps a lot of people hide the less than perfect reality), but given time it will get better.
Have you had a similar experience when introducing your new bundle of joy into your family?
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