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June 24, 2016
You are pregnant again. Congratulations! But this time, you don’t have time to bask in any glow, rest during the nausea of your first trimester or the fatigue of those final weeks. You have an older child to chase after, entertain and explain about the mysterious miracle occurring each day. Involving my first child in my pregnancy helped me to stay emotionally attached to and excited about this new life. Here are five simple ways to involve your child in life before baby arrives.
Most experts advise waiting until the end of the first trimester when the risk of miscarriage has dropped considerably. While I do not dispute the incredible wisdom of this advice, I felt compelled to tell my son right away, because he wanted me to participate in more physical activities than I felt comfortable doing while pregnant. As a result, my son did get some education about death when one pregnancy turned out to be a very early miscarriage. But he also saw very early ultrasound pictures of the successful pregnancy which followed. In short, be aware of the consequences of early revelation, but do what feels right for you.
Pregnancy appointments were usually times I could focus on the life to come rather than the life that was already there. However, it’s good to bring your child to a few appointments. This way, she can get to know your caregiver, watch a typical belly-measuring exam and hear the baby’s heartbeat.
You may have the urge to think of your first child/about to be older sibling as bigger, more mature, more independent. But I know my son became more enthralled with baby pictures when he realized that he used to be one himself. I think showing the pictures to him also helped to remind me that he is still little and still needs my mothering.
Children love books of all kinds, and books about the birth of a sibling or life with a new sibling are very easy to find. Because we were having a home birth, I found Hello Baby and Mama, Tell Me about When Max Was Born to be the most helpful. In one book, the child saw the entire birth, while in another, the child left with a relative during the birth. This way, my son could talk about what he wanted to do before the time came. But many great books exist to match your birth circumstances.
High-quality educational toys can also help to explain pregnancy, birth and nursing to your child. MamAmor dolls were the first dolls my son actually showed interest in, as he learned about birth, breastfeeding and his new role in the family.
If you are giving birth in a hospital, your child may not be able to attend the birth. If you give birth at home, you can decide how much your child should see of the birth. My son watched me during early labor, left with my sister during the most excruciating part of delivery and ran back in when the baby was born. He still remembers when his brother came out before he was even cleaned up. But he got a very good understanding of how birth worked by participating to a degree that was comfortable.
Allowing my child to participate in my pregnancy gave him a lot of time to prepare for a very big change in his life, but it also gave me a little time to “bask in the glow,” even while I still ran after him.
Kristen Witucki - New Jersey, US
March 14, 2023
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