My sister Pam has always been my go-to person for parenting advice and wisdom, even before my first child was born. Pam guided me through the confusing maze of required baby supplies and calmed me when even the simple decision of which onesie to select was far too overwhelming for me. Long sleeve, short sleeve, snaps, wrap? On our first night home from the hospital it was Pam that I called at 10:30 PM in an absolute panic, “You have to come right now!” It was her thoughtful voice in my head that influenced our decision about when to have our second child. She always said that there is something so special and wonderful about the time that you share with your firstborn and I truly did cherish those first three and a half years alone with my daughter. The world revolved around my girl.
Unlike many mothers, I never doubted that I would have enough love in my heart for my second child and I was not distraught with any sort of mother guilt before #2 arrived. We had enjoyed 3 ½ marvelous years with our oldest and it was simply time to add to our young family. Looking back, we may have set her up with all the talk of becoming a big sister and gushing about how much fun it would be to have a new baby. Did she foreshadow what may be ahead when she declared that she heard a puppy on the ultrasound and insisted that we name our child “Oatmeal”?
Several months after the arrival of our second child I found myself in tears at the pediatrician’s office. “Please,” I pleaded, “Help me. There must be a boarding school for three year olds!” Pure bliss had quickly been replaced by chaos, confusion and jealousy. Our treasured moments together were now constant negotiations (hers) and outbursts (mine). How could this effervescent little girl that the sun rose and set upon each new day suddenly become so needy, demanding and annoying? And, honestly, what kind of mother would be asking to send her beloved child off?
The advice from my wise pediatrician was to take a deep breath and to attend an upcoming workshop hosted by Adele Faber, author of the classic parenting book, Siblings Without Rivalry. That night could not have come soon enough for our family! As I heard Adele take us through an exercise that began with “Imagine that your spouse puts an arm around you and says, “Honey, I love you so much, and you’re so wonderful that I’ve decided to have another wife just like you …” I knew that I was at the right place. With the support of Pam, my amazing pediatrician and Adele Faber we did get through those challenging first months. Somehow we even did go on to have child #3 and #4. Fast forward nearly twenty years later and I can proudly say that I do have four incredible kids who truly are “siblings without rivalry”.
The advice I pass along today to every new mom expecting their second or third child? Buy a copy of the book and if you’re in the Boston area, come to Second Time Moms at Isis. You’ll be surrounded by moms who truly understand what you’re going through and it will be a safe place where you can openly share the joys and challenges of this transition time for your family.