My husband, Charles, and I were so excited (and surprised) to be pregnant with #3 that we told our kids, Violet and Charlie, right away. Soon the growing bump became "JohnnyJune," a combination of our favorite boy and girl names. We knew Violet, who was just over 3, would be thrilled by the idea of another baby. But we worried that Charlie, 1 1/2, might not understand why my tummy was getting so big, and that he might be jealous once his brother or sister arrived. To help with the transition, my husband decided to document the new baby's journey.
Violet and I show Charlie the ultrasound pictures and even compare them with those of him when he was in my tummy. We also look at pictures of Charlie as a baby. Several of our neighbors will be giving birth in the next few months, so we plan on visiting their newborns, reminding Charlie that we'll be getting one too.
I take the kids to my doctor's appointments so they can listen to the heartbeat. Violet loves this, but Charlie is too young to understand it. They listen to each other's tummies too and also measure their bellies.
Charlie doesn't seem to get it the way Violet does. As I gain weight, we talk a lot about the baby growing in Mommy's belly and the fact that Charlie grew in my tummy and started out as a little baby too. I ask Charlie to kiss the baby, talk to "JohnnyJune," and feel the kicks. But he seems more interested in my belly button.
At night, we read a few books about new babies (Za-Za's Baby Brother and What Shall We Do with the Boo-Hoo Baby?). Violet likes to make a game out of "playing baby," which Charlie loves too. They talk like a baby -- "goo goo, gaa, gaa" -- ask to be rocked, and pretend to drink from a bottle.
Violet has a sad moment -- she's upset that she's not a baby anymore. She tells us, "I wish we never had to grow up. I don't want another baby. I want to be your baby, as small as JohnnyJune." Charles hugs her close, and we tell her that she'll always be our baby, no matter how big she is.
I ask the kids to help get out all the baby gear and clothing, and we practice feeding and putting a doll to sleep. I explain to them what having a baby in the house will be like (crying, sleeping, breastfeeding), and how Mommy and Daddy will be more tired. We talk about what it means to be a big brother and sister to another baby. This time around, Violet understands a lot more; she has lots of questions and wants to help me get ready.
We play a game of listening to each other's tummies and talking about what's in there -- they feel the baby kick in mine, and Charlie decides he has an alligator in his. Still, with Charlie, it hasn't seemed to click yet that a baby's coming home soon.
We leave the kids with Nana while Charles takes me to the hospital to be induced (and eventually have a c-section). Violet visits before active labor begins, but she goes home once the real pains start. We feel Charlie is too young to see me hooked up to IVs, but he visits the next day, after our baby boy, John Henry -- we call him Hank -- is born.
We worried that Charlie, who's very physical and likes to wrestle and throw things, might be aggressive with Hank or even jealous. Instead, he seems to have a real sweet spot for his new brother -- several times a day, he kisses him on the head (he rarely gives out unsolicited kisses to the rest of us).
From the moment Violet saw Hank at the hospital, she was incredibly loving and motherly. When he cries, she immediately runs to comfort him. She'll let me know if she thinks he's hungry or needs a new diaper. And she wants to be involved in everything -- feeding him, holding him, and playing with him.
Hank is 3 months old now. We're all crazy about the little guy and thrilled to be a family of five. Charlie calls Hank "my baby," as in "Where's my baby?" Violet has told me he's the best thing in her life and she's decided she wants to keep him forever.
Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the September 2007 issue of Parents magazine.