Sibling Bonding Series: Preparing your older child

Welcome to my second post under the ‘Sibling Bonding’ section. While the introduction post widely spoke about sibling bonding and preparing yourself positively to welcome the second child; this one is more about tackling the older one’s initial inhibitions. 

When we first broke the news of the second pregnancy to our family and friends; their first reaction was invariably directed to our son and not to us. They all told him how he would get another baby in the house to play with. Initially, it seemed all exciting to our little boy. But, as they further talked to him about the various possibilities of the future; he realised that the baby was more than a living toy – he or she would be a mini human who could come and invade his private space and rob him off everything that was solely his so far. To begin with, he will have to share his mother, then his father, then his toys, then his bed and ultimately everything. Slowly, within a month or so – he realised that this could be dangerous how much ever exciting it may sound to him. Not that he verbalised his insecurity, but there were these subtle signs that clearly hinted the beginning of a problem that could turn into a volcano if not handled sensitively. 

Breast feeding had been our elixir for all kinds of problems – physical, mental or emotional. For almost three and a half years, I had relied more on my breast milk than on any medicine off the counter. But in the second month of my second pregnancy; the milk production stopped. Even though I had read a couple of articles on breast feeding through a pregnancy; my body clearly drew the line in the first trimester itself. In retrospect I think it was the wisest thing for my body to do. It gave both, me and my son, enough time to prepare ourselves to welcome the younger one. So, while my son, who had been recently told about a baby growing in his mother’s body; was now even robbed off his ultimate soothing mechanism – breast feeding! A part of me knew that there is going to be some major episode around this – what seemed very smooth at the superficial level could have deeper implications. 

And then, what had never happened before – happened! My child developed chronic constipation. He was the kind who would pass his motions everyday without fail. And suddenly, the outflow was blocked. Not for a day, or two days, or three days; for one week straight, there was no ‘potty’. He had started developing a stomach ache so acute that walking or running was also troubling him. He looked tired and was extremely vulnerable. All day and even in my sleep, I was only worried about his constipation. So we would give him the medicine and that would bring out the result, but the pattern was formed and each time the process was becoming more and more painful for him because the stools were getting harder and his skin more bruised. I had spoken to all the mothers I knew and most of them had experienced something like that at least once with their child. But, this being our first experience and that too of that severity, it was becoming more and more difficult for me to come to terms with it and find a long lasting solution. 

I have, all my life, only relied on Homeopathy, except for the three major surgeries. I must not say this out loud, but I don’t even have an Allopathic family doctor. And my Homeopath doctor has been treating me since I was a child, so she understands me and my family in and out; making it very easy for her to give us the right medicine each time. Even this time around, I was in touch with her but initially nothing was working. She then told me to go and see the paediatric and get some physical relief for him. An allopath doctor will only give you a powder that will flush out through forced defecation. And it was extremely necessary at that point because he was developing the fear of the experience of passing stools because it was that painful. However, that was not the cure. Few of my friends had been using the powder for months and it was against my basic idea of a healthy lifestyle. For someone who would not take the prescribed supplements even during the pregnancy, was definitely not going to give some chemical formula to her child everyday for him to do the most basic activity of his life. 

My Homeopath asked me do some investigation. Though she understood immediately that this was in some way related to my pregnancy and his abrupt weaning; but she wanted me to help him express whatever was boiling up inside of him. Her simple funda was that the oversensitive child that he is, whatever he is bottling up inside him, is making him bottle up his stools too. The day he expresses his fears or griefs; he will be through this in no time. So every night before going to sleep I would talk to him about his cousins who got younger siblings and stories around how they felt and embraced them into their lives. Then I started telling him stories of how I was an only child and how much I wanted a younger sibling in the house but never got one. And this is when he slowly started opening up a bit. His innocent questions opened up pandora hidden inside of him. His biggest fear was that he would be left at his Nani’s (maternal grandmother’s) house and I would live with the new baby in our house. Someone in the neighbourhood jokingly told him this. However, the child being a child, took it at the face value and started living in the fear of having to live away from his parents. It sounds dramatic to the point of being unbelievable – but the night I assured him that he was never going to live away from me, and that even on the day of delivery I will request the doctor to allow you to sleep with me only; the very next day he passed his motions satisfactorily. For one whole month, while the constipation episode lasted in our house; it felt like I was living the film ‘Piku’ except that Mr. Bachchan was a small child and I was his mother – more worried about his potty than anything else in the world. 

Later I figured that there was a lot of unsolicited information given to him, creating a rather unpleasant image in his head for what was going to follow in the coming months. While most of things are either said in a good faith out of love or jokingly; it impacted our lives rather seriously. 

Some of those things that were directly or indirectly told to my older son:

  • So now the new baby will live with Mummy, you come and stay with us. 
  • Now you will have to learn to sleep without Mummy! 
  • Who will Papa love more – you or the child?
  • Don’t go close to mummy, there is a child in the stomach – he or she may get hurt. 
  • Will you get a new bed to sleep now?
  • All your toys will be given to the new baby now… 

We, as a society, have forgotten how innocent children are. Just because they can use the gadgets better than most of the older people, doesn’t mean they are emotionally equipped to deal with everything. They are still children and it is our prime duty to let them be children till they grow up. They are all born as empty slates, all loving and not a bit conspiring; but we fill them up with unnecessary information and prejudices. Yes, some of them have the animal instinct in them to hit or push; but that too is very momentary – they live in the moment – so if angry, the expression is conveyed using their limbs and then forgotten the very next minute unless the mothers of the quarrelling children stretch the topic further. So point being – when bringing in another child into your family – ensure to make the environment and all your talks around the new child only positive, only welcoming and only loving. If you don’t say anything that can seem threatening to the older child, then the child has only love to feel for the new baby – after all he, at his soul level, already knows that the person coming through you is someone he or she has met and loved before too. 

So before you get that new bunk bed or upcycle the older child’s crib; prepare your child to welcome his younger sibling. However, there will still be a lot of confusion in his head, but at least it won’t be threatening to his identity or his understanding of his position in your life. 

*** To read about the day of the delivery of the second child and its surreal experience – click here.

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