Philomena was almost 17 months old on the wonderful day I found out that she was a big sister. I was excited to tell her, although at that age she didn’t quite understand. As the months went on though, she knew exactly what was going on as we took the following steps to prepare her for baby:
1. Let’s Talk
Philomena wasn’t saying many words when I first found out but her comprehension was very good. So, I talked about baby to her matter of factly throughout the day. I was morning sick for a good sixteen to seventeen weeks, so I would tell her that the baby in my tummy was making me feel sick.
When I started doing my pregnancy exercises, I would tell her these were baby exercises to get ready for when baby would come. She loved doing these with me too!
2. A Video To Help
Since we homebirth, live far away from family, and Philomena’s own birth took three days, I knew there was a decent chance she would see me labor some. (And as you can read from Zelie’s birth story here, she was around for a few hours before going to stay with friends for the birth.)
Philomena doesn’t watch television, but I did let her watch what she came to call the “baby video” (Birth of Sloane by Natasha Hance). This is a really nice home birth video with pretty music where baby is born in the pool so Philomena wasn’t seeing everything, just a baby popping up our of the water, but it still showed her what labor and birth looked like in a non-scary way.
At the beginning of the video the woman is using a big exercise ball, just like I do in pregnancy, she has her birth pool which I also use, she happens to make the same sound I do during contractions, and at the end her firstborn comes in to meet her baby sister.
Philomena loved the big sister moment of the video, and as the weeks went on I could tell she understood that she was the big sister about to meet her baby. Of everything we did I feel like watching this really helped Philomena grasp that a baby was coming.
3. A Baby For My Baby
I went to a thrift store and found this cute baby dolly that I bought and ran through the wash so she would be clean, and set her aside to give to Philomena as her own baby to care for when the big day arrived.
Once I gave it to her on Zelie’s birth day, dolly immediately became her precious little friend. She takes her little charge seriously, changing diapers and “nursing” right alongside me. She even tucked dolly in to her bed for a nap the other day and said, “Dolly needs quiet time. She is veeeeery fussy!”
4. Meet The Midwives
Ethan brought Philomena for the first few minutes of several of my 3rd trimester prenatal appointments. This let Philomena see my midwives and watch them take my vitals, measure my belly, listen to baby’s heartbeat etc. They patiently and lovingly let her help with these tasks. She got to know them well this way, and when they came during Zelie’s birth to check on me it was nice that Philomena was totally comfortable with them and what they were doing.
This also just made baby coming more real for Philomena. She understood we were feeling baby, measuring baby, listening to baby’s heartbeat etc.
5. Help Me Out
I tried to get Philomena involved as much as she wanted to with tasks before and after Zelie’s birth. Overall she loved to help sort clothes, diapers, dress Zelie etc. I never pushed it but she was usually enthusiastic to help with her baby.
Ironically, Philomena met her little sister *just* like the girl in that video did. I was snuggled in bed with baby and Ethan had gone and picked her up from our friend’s house. She came in and just giggled knowing it was finally her big sister moment.
She kissed Zelie, inspected her little hands and feet, and did so well with the big change.
I think that Philomena is a pretty natural mommy and would have done well with baby no matter what, but I do believe all of these things helped with the transition and I hope to do them with Zelie when we (hopefully!) have a new little babe on the way.