Being pregnant is a wonderful, sometimes challenging, time. To know that you have this new life growing inside you is something that you can’t explain or comprehend until you have been through it. There is magic for both Mummy and Daddy to be, and nerves too! If you already have children though, those nerves could be so much more for them – this is a magical time for mummy and daddy, but it can be really unsettling for little ones who don’t understand what is happening, why mummy is physically changing in front of them, why she is so tired, why rooms are moving or why old baby things are coming out of the loft. It’s all change, change, change and that’s scary for grown ups, let alone toddlers and children.
I’ve noticed this so much with Reuben this time round, obviously we have been here before when I was pregnant with Toby, but I feel like he was a bit too young to worry or be concerned – he was only 19 months old when Toby arrived, so for him it has been like Toby has always been here… this time he has a better concept of the changes around him and he is worried, stressed and showing it! He’s nervous and clingy in some instances (he has asked a few times if we will always love him) and in other’s he is stroppy and grumpy, not really sleeping well or happy in himself. This is all (so everyone tells me!) perfectly normal, so I have been working as hard as I can to try and involve him in my pregnancy – just to make the whole thing less worrying. On top of being really nervous about the impending baby and where that leaves him, he is extremely excited (some nights he hasn’t been able to sleep because he wants to meet baby NOW!) and that is also a difficult emotion for a toddler/preschooler or child to grasp and contain!
Here are five ways to get your children involved in your pregnancy:
1. Take the kids to the odd midwives appointment and talk to them about what is happening.
I haven’t had to take the boy’s to all of my midwives appointments, I’ve been lucky enough to arrange them for preschool/nursery days where I could, but on the odd occasion I have taken the boys with me, and instead of preoccupying them with toys or my phone while I talk to the midwife I have involved them in the conversation and in particular got them to come and have a listen to baby’s heart beat and have a feel of my tummy. They now have a good understanding of how to take a person’s blood pressure (!!) but on a serious note they have some physical connection to the fact that there is something in my ‘tummy’ and it has a heart beat. They can hear the heart beat and we can talk about that when we are talking about baby – it makes it more realistic for them. On top of that, I ask them (once I’ve answered the midwife) ‘Have you been feeling baby move? Has mummy’s tummy been growing and wriggling?’ and they can then tell her in their own words what they have seen, involving them and making them feel a part of the change.
Just to note, I’m not suggesting you take your kiddos to your stretch and sweep, but that you let them get involved in the odd appointment if you can.
2. Make something for baby.
Do you remember my post about leaf printing bodysuits? You can read it here if you don’t, but essentially, we made personalised body suits and sleep suits for baby using fabric paint, plain white suits and leaves from our garden. The boys had a blast and we talked about how baby would wear the suits and be really grateful that her big brothers had been so thoughtful and made her such beautiful suits to snuggle up in bed in. Reuben really enjoyed making the body suits, and I am hoping to make some more with him as she grows, possibly making something a bit more difficult like a little felt toy or something, just to keep the ‘best big brother’ role fresh in his mind, without any pressure on him – it just allows him to feel a sense of pride when he sees her with the fruits of his labour!
3. Let them help you decorate the nursery.
If you are having a separate nursery, let your children or child help you choose the decorations! Obviously, this has to be done to a certain degree, I’m not suggesting you go freelance interior design toddler, but allowing them to choose something like a piece of artwork, or a little ornament to put on the shelf, letting them help you paint the room (obviously this requires a certain age, but Roo helped me paint our hallway and was offered the chance to paint baby’s room – though transformers toys took precedent that day!).
Simple things like asking them which colour they like the best, asking their opinions about wallpaper etc… it all makes a child feel a part of the process and it’s the ideal way to let them have their little stamp on things.
4. Arrange to see young babies with friends.
Ok, let me explain this because I’m not suggesting you book a visit to the local nursery just so you can see new babies! I’m talking about when a friend has a new baby, or young baby, then take your children with you to see that friend – explain to them that this is a baby, this is how small they are and (depending on your child’s age) ask them to do something for the new baby, like pass mum a nappy or packet of wipes. Recently Reuben went to visit my mother in law’s neighbour and her new granddaughter was there at only a few weeks old. Mum was really kind to let Reuben sit with the baby (I want to mention here that you should remember that OTT mothering instinct you first have with a new baby, so don’t just assume your friend will be happy with your child being all over a new baby, wait for them to offer etc) and eventually he even helped her give baby a bottle. This was such a big deal for him, he couldn’t wait to tell me when he got home what a wonderful and helpful boy he had been and how he had been practicing for helping with his sister! Sweet!!
5. Talk, talk and talk some more.
I talk to the boys allllll the time about baby arriving – we talk about what that means (a new little sister), we talk about what will happen when mummy starts to have her (I will go to the hospital and bring her home with me, along with a gift she has brought with her for her top big brothers!) and we talk about how they will be my ‘handy helpers’ once she’s here. I reiterate to Reuben how he has always been so helpful with getting nappies for Toby when I ask and how he has always been a super big brother. I talk to the boys about what to call baby (we’ve had Georgina, Henrietta and Snowy…. it’s an eclectic mix…) and how just because she is arriving doesn’t mean that they will be any less loved, in fact there will be another family member in the house to love them, so they will be loved even more.
Talk about your pregnancy. Tell your children when things are happening and for goodness sake NEVER try to pretend nothing is happening!
Do you have any other suggestions of how to get children involved in your pregnancy and make them feel more secure about the whole thing? I’d love to know!