Autumn Newsletter Editorial: SISTERS AND BROTHERS; BROTHERS AND SISTERS

Autumn Newsletter Editorial: SISTERS AND BROTHERS; BROTHERS AND SISTERS

By Stephanie Ondrack

Focus on SIBLINGS

Whether it’s the idea that our little one needs a sibling, or that we always wanted a larger family, many of us decide at some point to take a second shot at this whole pregnancy, birth, and parenting thing. Having done it once before, we think we know the ropes. But as many of us discover, having a second baby can be a very different experience from having a first. How do we help prepare our existing child to become a big brother or sister? What if we were not happy with our first birth experience, and are hoping for something different this time? In this issue, we look at many different aspects of having another baby. From tips from experts, to tales from the trenches, this issue is for everyone having, considering having, or who already has, a second baby.

Autumn News

Independent workshops happening in our space this fall:

PINECONE PARENTING

Do you ever feel stuck in parenting patterns that aren’t working? Do you ever wonder what motivates your kids to do the things they do? Is parenting fine, but you’d enjoy a deeper understanding of what goes on in your child’s head?

Pinecone Parenting presents:

“Smoothing out the Struggles: Practical & Useful Tips to Make Parenting More Enjoyable for Everyone”

coming to our Commercial Street location on Fridays 23 & 30 November 2018, 7 – 9pm.

Attachment-based, effective, and well worth the time, this class will change the way you see your kids and your own role as their parent. Treat yourself and your kids to an easier, more enjoyable family life.

more details

register

 

DOULAS OF VANCOUVER

Free monthly info nights at The Childbearing Society. These events, presented by the Doulas of Vancouver for both expectant and new parents, are opportunities to learn and gather information relevant to pregnancy, birth and parenting.

AUTUMN 2018 dates: Sept 26, Nov 16 

 

CORE WORKS

Register here

LETTERS

Dear Childbearing,

 

Thanks for the excellent prenatal classes. I liked that we had the option to watch birth videos for 15 minutes before the start of each class. I also enjoyed the ways in which the material was presented, particularly the use of dummy body parts to illustrate the process of birth, and that during each class we had the opportunity to brainstorm questions as a group or split into smaller sub-groups. There was always time for a comfort measure activity that we could practice, and that was truly helpful. The instructor’s enthusiasm for the topics under discussion was tangible and contagious, and we truly enjoyed the fun, informative ways in which she presented the material. We always learned something new, and found that the things we were learning helped to reinforce our values regarding parenthood. We’re so glad we took this series of classes!

Graduate of the Spring 5 Series

 

Dear Childbearing,

 

The Weekend Workshop totally helped Derek and I get into the right mindset about labour and postpartum. We were thinking of going in and just experiencing it and doing what is suggested by our medical practitioner, but now we feel way more engaged and informed. We also are doing more research as our instructor said to do. I feel more in control of this pregnancy. Derek feels much more ready as a new dad, and feels like he had been “put into the game” as a supporting role, not just someone “on the sidelines” (his words). Everything was great

 

Graduate of the July A Workshop

ASK CHILDBEARING: I am expecting my 2nd baby… How do people do it!??

ASK CHILDBEARING: I am expecting my 2nd baby… How do people do it!??

Q: I am expecting my second baby and I am wondering how on earth I will be able to look after him or her while also taking care of my very active toddler??? How do people do it?

A: Many of us remember how hard it was when our first baby was small. Looking after this tiny new person seemed to take all our time, all our energy, all our hands, and all our attention. How do we juggle this with meeting the very high needs of a toddler?

Well, many mothers discover that it’s a whole different experience with baby #2. Not that your new baby will have fewer needs, oh no, it’s more that our expectations are more realistic: we have already adjusted to being needed all the time. The baby’s needs, after all, are relatively simple: mostly just body contact and feeding, which can be accomplished anywhere. A good sling, wrap, or soft carrier can be a life-saver. You can load the baby up and continue enjoying your toddler’s energetic pace, thus meeting both children’s needs at once…at least some of the time.

For many people, holding a baby all day and night the second time around doesn’t seem nearly as onerous as it was with baby number one. In fact, many parents find it easier than keeping up with their toddler’s activity level. After all, sitting around nursing, napping, and cuddling can be a lot less demanding than the kinds of interaction and energy our older child requires. Which makes many of us look back and wonder; why did we think it was so hard the first time around? What, exactly, was so difficult? It’s a weird bonus gift for many of us, that having a second baby gives us a new perspective on the first.

 

Practical Survival Tips for when Baby #2 Arrives

  1. Get a Sling, Wrap, or Carrier. This will allow you to carry a sleeping baby almost anywhere that you take your older child. In most cases, it is easier than a stroller.
  2. Enlist help. Partners, dads, grandmas, aunts, best friends, babysitters…if someone else that your toddler likes, and with whom he feels comfortable, can take him to the park or to a playgroup occasionally, you can have some time to nap or relax with baby.
  3. Lower your expectations….AGAIN. You probably already did this when you had baby number one, but they can always go even lower. Sweeping and folding laundry are over-rated anyway. So is answering the phone.
  4. Start the day later, or end it earlier. Depending on what works for your family, dedicate a couple hours every morning or afternoon for quiet time, a time when you can rest while reading books or playing on the floor with your little ones, with a big cup of coffee or tea.
  5. Find activities you all can enjoy together. Dancing, reading, butterfly yoga, going for walks, library-group story time, singing… There are many things babies and toddlers both enjoy.
  6. Do less. If your toddler is enrolled in a whole bunch of activities that require transportation, consider committing to less for the first six months after baby arrives. You all might prefer a quieter, slower pace for a while.
  7. BONUS—Here are a few subtle tips to reduce negative feelings between siblings. Both of these are parental “sleight of hand” manoeuvres that have less to do with action, and more to do with representation. These tips are both about how to phrase or posit things to maximize good feelings from the older toward the younger:
    1. COLLABORATING: Try to avoid making the older child feel ‘demoted’ when the new baby arrives. Instead, treat the older child like an associate parent by inviting them to join you. Rather than lumping the kids’ needs together, subtly imply that you and the older child are collaborating in looking after baby. For example, “what shall we sing to junior next?” or “which toy do you think junior would like for the car ride?” or “let’s you and I change junior’s diaper, and then we can all go for a walk”. But caution, this is about relationship, not responsibility. If your older child feels connected to you in caring for the sibling, s/he is less likely to feel supplanted or resentful, as this new endeavour becomes a shared bond in which first child & parent are on the same team. But the older child neither needs nor wants a bunch of new chores now. S/he should still be free to be a small child, and should not experience the new baby as a burden. So please have no expectations regarding actual help, it’s more a matter of how to phrase things to promote good feelings. You are still the adult and parent, and both children will still need to be ‘babied’, but you will be positioning their natural age & ability differences to reduce rivalry.
    2. MATCHMAKING: Give your older child the impression that the baby **adores** him/her. You can point out that the baby’s eyes always follow senior child around the room, or that baby lights up whenever senior walks in, or that baby always seems to settle when senior sings. You can get senior child to place his/her finger inside baby’s palm, saying that baby will grasp to show love (no need to mention that this works on anybody). When baby first smiles, or laughs, or crawls, you can help senior see how s/he helped cause it. You can foster a feeling of genuine warmth between siblings by ‘matchmaking’ like this, helping the older child feel special to baby. But make sure this is one way only. The older child will have lots of ambivalent feelings about the new child, many of which will be far from adoring, and we must make room for all of them. All the adoration you point out should be coming from the baby. Also, please only use this for matchmaking purposes, never for guilt or recrimination. Telling a toddler that they upset their baby sibling is simply too much for them to bear, and will not create any good feelings at all.
    3. EMPATHY BUILDING: Having a baby around is a handy way to draw your toddler’s attention to other people’s feelings, and laying the groundwork for an awareness of empathy. You can ask senior child, “What do you think baby’s feeling/thinking now?”, or when baby’s upset you can say, “Baby sounds like she needs some cuddles, don’t you think?” You can draw attention to the cause of feelings, “I think that loud noise scared the baby, and now he needs help calming down”, or “Look at how baby is so interested in watching you build that tower!” And best of all, you can use baby as a gateway into the senior child’s feelings, “Baby’s having trouble settling. She’s tired but she doesn’t want to sleep. You feel like that sometimes too, don’t you?”

-Stephanie Ondrack

Older Kids at a Birth

If you are considering having your child attend your second birth, here are a few tips to improve the experience.

  1. Arrange to have someone on site dedicated to looking after your older child.
    He will need full time care from a loving and trusted adult who is able to stay with him, and attend to his needs, throughout the entire labour and birth.
  2. Prepare your child. Read books about birth. Watch films about birth (youtube has many). Discuss the sounds and faces mom might make ahead of time so they don’t seem alarming to your child.
  3. Allow your child to come and go as she feels comfortable. Don’t expect she’ll necessarily stay to watch—she might, or she might not want to.
  4. Have a job or two that your child can do. Whether it’s massaging mom’s hands, or pouring water over mom’s shoulders (if you’re in a tub or pool), or fanning mom’s face, some children enjoy having a focus, and being able to help.
  5. Have a back-up plan. Some moms find the presence of their older child too distracting, which can interfere with oxytocin production and effective labouring. Some children find witnessing the labour distressing, which can upset and alarm them. Have a strategy in place for either of these possibilities, such as a book, movie or excursion lined up for the child. It is important that the child feels invited to participate in something else, rather than excluded from her mother’s presence. So try to plan something you know the child would be excited to do instead, whether it’s a rare and special treat, or a familiar and favourite activity
  6. Keep your expectations open and flexible. Like any aspect of birth, we don’t know how things will go until we’re there, so having an open mind and open heart is essential.
Paving the Way for Siblings

Paving the Way for Siblings

By Katy Thomson

Having another child can bring many changes to a family. Preparations for a new baby can take a lot of parent’s time and/or emotional energy. After the baby is born, much of the family’s attention revolves around caring for the newborn, much as it did when their first child/children were born. The challenge comes with learning to balance the needs of a newborn with those of older children.

 

Keeping communication open, tapping into your empathy, and using these tips below can help to make this transition a smoother and enjoyable one.

 

Parents can help prepare children for a sibling by discussing the pregnancy, changes that may happen and what babies need/do in terms that make sense to them. Allow your child’s questions to guide you into how detailed to get.

 

DURING THE PREGNANCY, PREPARE YOUR CHILD FOR LIFE WITH A BABY:

 

  • Establish the routine that will be in place once baby
  • arrives; daycare or other changes in routine or
  • adults in their life
  • Look at the child’s baby books or photographs
  • Involve the child in caregiver appointments with the midwife or doctor
  • Read books about babies and becoming a big brother/sister
  • Give child a doll/teddy to care for
  • Let child know who will care for them during the birth, prepare them for home labour and or birth
  • Pack their own birth (sleep over) bag
  • Spend time with other newborns
  • Child can make a box with their older baby toys/clothes to pass on to baby
  • Child may want to buy a gift for baby, or pick out an outfit/blanket to pass on
  • Any big transitions like moving to a toddler bed, toilet training, car seat position changing, new room, should be done a few months before/after baby is born, and not too close to the birth

 

ONCE BABY ARRIVES, HELP YOUR CHILD FEEL CONNECTED TO THE BABY:

 

  • Let the child introduce their new sibling to visitors
  • Bake and decorate together a birthday cake for baby
  • Include child in baby care, by asking if they would like to and accepting when they don’t
  • Child can sing and entertain baby (this gets better once baby starts to laugh)
  • Ask the older sibling what they think baby needs/why they might be crying
  • Emphasize baby’s love for child but never the other way around. Your older child may not be feeling loving towards baby at that moment, it is important to let children air their feelings, and to listen no matter what they say. You may help younger ones by paraphrasing feelings with empathy, helping them to name emotions.

 

STRENGTHEN YOUR BOND WITH YOUR CHILD AFTER THE BABY IS BORN:

 

  • Make special one on one time with child, with full attention, daily if possible even 15min
  • Physical contact; holding, carrying, piggybacks, cuddling….. with older child
  • When child first meets baby, put baby down and greet them first with a hug, then introduce baby and say how excided you are for them to be big brother/sister
  • Surprise bags for when baby is getting gifts. Ask for no gifts, or also for big brother/sister gifts
  • Snack baskets and activity baskets prepared for cluster feeding/fussy baby times, e.g. Aquadoodle, puzzles, Magnadoodle, books that colour with only water, Duplo set
  • Use slings/carriers to meet babies needs and have your hands free to meet child’s
  • Never blame the baby as the reason the child’s needs cannot be met. This will breed resentment. Example; “I can’t because I’m feeding the baby”. Instead try; “Yes I would l like to in x amount of minutes or when daddy gets home”

All this change can be hard for new big brothers/sisters to handle. It’s common for them to feel jealousy toward the newborn and to react to the upheaval by acting out. Try to understand what emotions might be motivating that behaviour. A month or two may even pass before you see real tantrums and attention seeking behaviour. Try and work in as much one on one time with your child during the honeymoon period to alleviate feeling left out. Encourage older children to talk about their feelings, and make space for their other interests as well, not always talking about the new baby.

 

It truly does take a village to raise a family and siblings are one of the biggest influences on each other. One of the most joyous parenting experiences is watching the bond grow between your children. Enjoy.

Katy Thomson has been involved with the wondrous world of birth for over fifteen years. Katy is a mum of three, a Breastfeeding Counselor, Childbirth Educator, as well as a certified Birth and Postpartum Doula, who is always continuing her education and working towards a lactation consultant certification.

Katy Thomson is the instructor of our Refresher Workshop.This rewarding four hour prenatal workshop is specially designed for second (or third) time parents. It includes everything from birth to breastfeeding. Discover ways to reduce sibling rivalry, to help your youngsters cope with the changing family, and to connect with your new baby while maintaining your bond with the first.

Register here

 

Surviving Siblings: One Parent’s Reality

Surviving Siblings: One Parent’s Reality

By Charlotte Watson

As I sat down to write this post, I decided to start with a nostalgic trip through photos of my two children together. My trip through rose-tinted glasses down memory lane where children looked all angelic and sweet was soon interrupted. I was thrown back into reality by my 8-year-old and 6-year-old playing “tag” round my legs which soon escalated into that well known game of “kick your sibling until everyone is crying”.

 

My transition into parenthood was easy and oh-so-enjoyable. I had one content and easy baby and I thrived on motherhood. We practiced Elimination Communication aka Diaper Free Baby, and even took them backpacking round Asia for six months.

 

When my firstborn was around eighteen months, all the questions and comments started. “When are you trying for number two?”, “They’ll be wanting a sibling soon” and “You’ll regret it if you leave it too long”. So, in keeping with societal norms, baby number two arrived when our oldest was 2 1/2 years old.

 

If having one child was my time to thrive, having two children was my time to survive.

 

What had been idyllic walks to the grocery store with just number one, became this no-win scenario of the toddler insisting on stopping and studying every leaf we passed, or playing some game that only they knew the rules to, involving the cracks on the sidewalk and melting down if I broke one of the unknown rules. Meanwhile the baby would scream if I stopped moving the stroller. I often felt like Frank Costanza shouting “serenity now” at this no-win scenario my children were presenting.

 

With number one, when their needs came up, I could nearly always have either pre-empted them or could stop what I was doing to meet their needs. I barely remember them crying at all. I felt so accomplished. This was not the case with number two. It seemed like there was always a time when one or both children were crying, which might be a slight dramatic memory, but at the very least there was always someone needing something and not enough of me to go around.

 

I have blissful memories of binge watching old re-runs of ER whilst breastfeeding number one, having carefully prepared my nursing station, with drinks, snacks, charged phone and remote control. With number two, the toddler would nearly always need to use the potty just as I sat down to breastfeed … the idea of a nursing station, was a distant memory.

 

I am still in awe of my skills to breastfeed and hold the baby in one arm, whilst wiping a toddler butt and then emptying and cleaning the potty with the other. There are skills that no one knows they need to have, let alone are capable of, until parenting more than one child.

 

I learned that babies do not need silence to sleep and are totally capable of sleeping through toddler music lessons amongst other high decibel activities.

 

With number one, I had always been able to prepare and get organized during naptime. I even had the occasional nap with baby. With number two this was a distant memory. I needed to be more organized with less time to be so. And my children also had opposite sleep habits. The oldest, who has always slept like a teenager, would just be waking up mid morning around the time the wake-at-the-crack-of-dawn baby would be getting ready for their morning nap.  If I wasn’t totally organized and ready to action us out of the house during this magic window, then my opportunity to see other parents at playgroups would be lost, and I would often not speak with another adult all day.

 

I learned that I needed to be as prepared as possible, while keeping my expectations as low as possible so I didn’t need to deal with my disappointment among all the other emotions presented to me each day by these little people.

 

Nothing could prepare me for the day I was on the verge of successfully getting us out, with diaper bag packed with changes of clothes for each of the children, snacks, and all the other paraphernalia that we might need, during the magic window, when the baby in the carrier vomited into my top and bra. I remember taking this three-second pause (any “7 Habits” fans will know that Stephen Covey would have been especially proud of me in that moment), going completely in on myself, as I assessed my choices in that very moment.  My three-second pause presented me with two choices.  I either needed to stop to get changed, which would involve taking the baby out of the carrier and risk losing my window of opportunity, as no doubt the toddler would take the opportunity to take all their clothes off and refuse to get dressed again. Or I could just leave the apartment with a breastmilk vomit filled bra. I choose the latter.

I think this story might be the pinnacle of giving insight into what my life was like back then. But it does put life’s little dramas into perspective.

 

I grieved the relationship that I had with my eldest, as I felt that I was now just managing them, as opposed to enjoying them. I grieved not being able to enjoy those newborn days with number two, as I had been able to with number one.

 

I faced my perfectionism issues head on realizing that I would never be able to stay on top of everything that needed to be done or be the perfect mother. And I had the absolutely heart-breaking conflict of feeling my Mama Bear want to rear up at my toddler when they hurt the baby, yet the toddler was also my baby.

 

But we learned.  We learned to adapt.  And as they grew and learned, I also grew in my capacity, in my perspective and in my learning.

 

I learned how to drop my expectations of myself and became content with being “good enough”.

 

I learned how to use whatever was in the fridge to make dinner in the slow cooker.  Dinner could then be prepped with just the waking-at-the-crack-of-dawn-baby and not while everyone was melting down, “hangry” in the pre-dinner chaos.

 

I learned that a combination of the stroller with hop-on-board and carrier (which could take either baby or toddler) gave more choices than people, so it was likely everyone got what they wanted.

 

I learned that my inner voice could be calm and compassionate towards myself, and my fear of judgment by others diminished.

 

I learned how to get super clear on what needs were and how to articulate for them to get met because there just wasn’t any capacity not to. This also started silencing the voices of insecurity and self doubt that had often crept into that spare capacity in me previously.

 

I learned to set expectations and have boundaries. “There is only one mummy and two children” is a line that I still use today and often gets a knowing smile from parents of multiple children in ear shot.

 

I learned what my values are and realized that I need to live by them as it’s too exhausting not to, and life was exhausting enough.

 

I learned that there were nearly always three sides to every story: the oldest’s versions; the youngest’s version; and then probably the truth. And that I could validate everyone’s feelings and experiences without having to take sides.

 

And I finally learned why so many seniors take all morning to read a newspaper and drink their coffee …. just because they now can.

 

There were times when I wondered what those people meant when my oldest was eighteen months and they were encouraging us to have number two. And also, where were they now to be helping out? But then it happened. The moments of calmness got longer. And I got to witness these moments of magic.   You witness interactions that make you think that your heart might burst with love.

 

You watch your oldest share all their favourite stickers with their sibling.

 

You hear the baby try to say their siblings name as one of their first words.

 

You find them snuggled together in bed, fast asleep and looking like angels.

 

You experience the synergy of their excitement at having co-created a birthday card for you and explaining in extraordinary detail how they helped each other.

 

You watch your oldest mentor their younger sibling through learning a new skill.

 

You witness them sharing little moments between them with their own unique bond that only they will ever experience.

 

And although you often wonder if number two lost out in some way by always having to share you, you realize that they were given the gift of learning how to sleep through anything …. even toddler music lessons and the playground, which is quite the future gift for music festivals and Vancouver construction noise!

 

As well as being a mother to two children, Charlotte Watson is an EFT Practitioner specializing in supporting mothers and birthing parents, who struggle with feeling overwhelmed and to feel good enough, so that they are able to parent with confidence, clarity and ease as themselves. You can find her at www.charlotterwatson.com, on Facebook and Instagram

 

Summer Newsletter Editorial: TOO MUCH STUFF

Stephanie Ondrack

A CLOSER LOOK AT BABY GEAR

One can go a little bonkers when it comes to baby gear. There are so many nifty gadgets and devices that seem to promise a smarter baby, a happier baby, happier parents, more sleep, more quiet, more learning, or more time. Plus, so many items are simply too cutesy-adorable to pass up! Trying to filter the truly necessary from the nice-to-have from the total-waste-of-money items is not easy. New parents can be easily seduced by all the gizmos and gear available, while veteran parents’ advice varies wildly from person to person. So what is a new parent to do? How do we pick our way through the endless aisles of options in any reasonable way?

This issue on Baby Gear explores these very questions. Since we are ill-equipped to endorse specific equipment, we have instead provided a few expert opinions to consider: Sandra Poelzer, former owner of Wee Ones Reruns, and Tanis Frame, owner of MamaMaven, both weigh in on what to consider when choosing baby gear. Our question of the quarter considers what to look for in a Baby Carrier. Finally, we have reprinted the results of our 2011 online baby gear preferences poll: What have our readers found to be the most, and least, useful? Read on, the answers may surprise you.

SUMMER NEWS

PINECONE PARENTING

Do you ever feel stuck in parenting patterns that aren’t working? Do you ever wonder what motivates your kids to do the things they do? Is parenting fine, but you’d enjoy a deeper understanding of what goes on in your child’s head?

Pinecone Parenting presents:

“Smoothing out the Struggles: Practical & Useful Tips to Make Parenting More Enjoyable for Everyone”

coming to our Commercial Street location on Sundays 22 & 29 July 7 – 9pm.

Attachment-based, effective, and well worth the time, this class will change the way you see your kids and your own role as their parent. Treat yourself and your kids to an easier, more enjoyable family life.

more details

register

DOULAS OF VANCOUVER

Free monthly info nights at The Childbearing Society. These events, presented by the Doulas of Vancouver for both expectant and new parents, are opportunities to learn and gather information relevant to pregnancy, birth and parenting.

2018 dates: July 20, Sept 26, Nov 16 

 

LETTERS

My name is Laura Robertson and I took a prenatal class with the Childbearing Society just before my oldest son was born and it was that class that first made me consider the possibility of a home birth. I just wanted to say I am so happy you are running a course specifically on this topic. I had both my babies at home and I can’t imagine doing it any other way (although obviously I would if medically necessary). I am constantly surprised at how few people have home births and how few of my informed, smart friends would consider having a baby anywhere other than a hospital. I hope you have great success with this class. If I hadn’t already had my babies at home I would totally come. I will try to spread the word – I think this is such an important topic for people to know about.

Thanks for all that you do! And if there is anything I can do to help get the message out please let me know.

Laura Robertson

 

Thanks Laura! More info here: homebirth seminar

 

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