New Sibling to the Family

Some women experience morning sickness. Others suffer drastic ups and downs in hormone levels. I had neither. Instead, I was the pregnant woman who worried about anything and everything for 10 whole months. There was one particular worry that ran through my brain over and over like a hamster on a treadmill: How was my seven-year-old stepson going to handle the change?

New Sibling My stepson was an only child, and while a baby brother or sister was always top on his Christmas and birthday wish lists, we weren’t really sure how he would react when his wish came true. At seven years old, an only child gets used to having the full attention of both his parents. We spent hours in the early days of my pregnancy discussing how we could help make a smooth transition and how we could involve our big boy in every aspect of welcoming baby into the family, starting with breaking the news.

When we finally decided to share the news of a new sibling, we crafted the moment and imagined his reaction. We brought him into the guest room and told him we needed his help; we wanted to paint the room but couldn’t decide on a color. He wanted orange, his favorite color du jour. We explained it depended who lived in the room. He furrowed his brow, as we scripted he would. “Who’s gonna live in our guest room?” he asked, again, as predicted. We led him through the rest of the conversation until he finally came to the right conclusion. “I’m getting a baby brother or sister!” he screamed. He screamed; I cried. It was all going so perfectly. We tried to lengthen the moment, but as with any seven year old, his attention span was minimal. After a few jumps up and down and hugs all around, he asked if he could go back to his cartoons. No, he didn’t have any questions, he said. “O.K.” Why did I ever worry?

We must have made the offer to answer questions a million times during the next six months. I worried I would have to explain where babies come from, and I did. I was relieved to learn that a simple explanation of love, decisions and doctors was enough to satisfy his curiosity. Whew! Of course, I worried I would have to go into more detail when baby came. Thank goodness, I did not.

I worried right up until the moment I went into labor. Fortunately our son was in school when it happened. I always feared I would go into labor in the middle of the night, and our son would have lasting resentment at being whisked off to a relative’s home in his sleep. I worried again after the baby was born, and my husband left to surprise the new brother at school.

I took a deep breath when our boy walked through the hospital door. His face lit up, and he ran to hug me. He hovered over his baby sister. He was in awe of every aspect of her smallness. He watched sweetly as I fed and burped her, and he held her so gently, it was as if his arms had been waiting for her forever. His voice immediately changed into a singsong replica of his own, cooing and talking away. “I love you, baby sister,” he said. It was at that moment, I knew I would never worry again.

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