I pictured the moment in my head for, oh, approximately nine-and-a-half months. Once we knew our family was expecting a new baby, I went through a round of emotions, from excitement to anxiety to delight to distress. When we found out we were expecting a second little girl, that’s when it crystallized for me.
I was happy. I was still concerned, but I was able to let some of that go and just feel real, true happiness. I really felt that I was giving my older daughter the very best gift possible: a sister. Someone to love and admire and gossip with and laugh with until she cries and cry with until she laughs. Someone to get annoyed with. Someone without whom she won’t remember life and will never want to experience it. I was blissful about the fact that my daughter would have the same wonderful experience I had, being the older sister and growing up with someone she loves so dearly. (And, all of this is true and heartwarming, but I’m not giving her three younger sisters like I had. I’m not that patient.)
The moment that I mentioned—the one that I envisioned over and over? It was the moment they would meet, the second that my older daughter would realize that she wasn’t an only child anymore but that her best friend was here. I wanted to make sure it was perfect. I thought through the process, trying to decide what we’d do if I went into labor unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Would we have to drag a three-year-old out of bed and to the hospital to witness the
joy horror of an unmedicated birthing experience? How would we all get to the hospital together? Would they even meet one another at the hospital, or would we wait until we got home? How would my older daughter feel knowing she was being left at home with grandparents while we went to the hospital to get that Great Interloper, the baby sister?
Yes, I’m an overthinker.
In the end, I actually got to work everything out exactly the way I wanted it, thanks to my very understanding husband, my mother, and my father-in-law. Because of the potential for issues if I went to full-term, I had a scheduled induction (by the way, I was scared to death about it, but it was actually awesome!). That meant we were able to get my mother here the night before (along with my wonderful sister) to have a sleepover with Big Sis. We were able to let family members know that we wanted our older daughter to be the first person to meet the baby after family. And, we were able to coordinate the visits to the hospital room in such a way that everyone got to see the baby and no one, especially the big sister, got overwhelmed.
So, how did I work out this whole plan in my head—and stick with it after labor and delivery? Here are my tips:
- Make it about the big sibling first. When my daughter came in to visit, we had the nurse move the new baby over to the other side of the room. That way, when she joined us, she was able to express how much she missed us and get lots of hugs and kisses, instead of coming in and seeing us with the baby and feeling like an outsider. After we talked with her for a few minutes, the baby joined us and they got to have their wonderful first meeting.
- Have the baby bring a gift. There is a previous video of my husband when he became a big brother, in which he gets so excited because his new sibling “brought” him a truck. We did something similar for my daughter and brought her a book about being a big sister. She loved it and still remembers when and how she received it.
- Get someone to take a TON of pictures. You’re going to want to remember this moment forever, but you won’t be able to focus on it if you have to try to snap photos at the same time. I recommend sweet talking one of your nurses to come in a few minutes after the older sibling meets the baby. A relative’s presence could be distracting, because older sibling may want to show off for a grandparent, but a member of the hospital staff (if willing) can fade into the background.
- Once baby’s here, be intentional in your activities. Your older child’s entire life is changing with this new arrival, at the same time that your life is becoming much more stressful. Our pediatrician recommended reading with both kids each and every day as a shared activity, as well as spending at least 15 minutes one-on-one with the older sibling, no interruptions. We’ve also found it helpful to do special big sister things, things that only our older daughter can do: eat a popsicle, pick a certain pair of character undies, other things that are small to us, but huge to her.
Once the new baby is here, it’s hard. There’s so much to try to remember, and it’s not easy to juggle two (or more!) kids at one time. Make a little time for yourself, too!