My third rainbow will be 20 months younger than her brother if all goes the way we hope. I’m 30 weeks pregnant with a plan from my high-risk team to go no longer than 37 weeks.
With my first and second rainbows being two years plus nine months apart from each other, I find myself trying to mentally prepare.
Not just for three living children under the age of five, but for the youngest two to be under age two. This will be a whole new experience.
Since I have brought a baby home when I already had a living child, it’s no longer a mystery to me what will potentially change about the dynamics in our home. As much as we tried to prepare the first time, in hindsight there was not much we could have done differently to change the fact that a LOT changed in our family when we brought home a new baby.
We set aside as much time as we could for our daughter to have one on one time with me and/or my husband and to encourage a bond between the two kids. We were lucky, she was so gentle and sweet with her little brother from day one. But with those first few weeks also came the expected lack of sleep, round the clock nursing sessions, general postpartum hormones, and recovering from my first C-section. So my husband and I became the safe place for her to communicate her understandable frustration as she navigated sharing us and, to be honest, seeing new sides of us.
This time, I’ll know that that is a way that adding a sibling can play out. And I’ll also have the insight of knowing that the siblings could end up being incredibly close as the younger one grows and can “do more” while the older sibling becomes more flexible in his/her expectations from me and my husband.
Adding our third living child will differ in some ways from adding our second, however, due to the age differences.
When my son was born, my daughter was nearly three years old, pretty verbal, walking, running, and seemed to somewhat understand what was happening. When I first saw her in the hospital two days after my son was born, she looked huge! I had spent every moment that weekend with this tiny newborn and here was my “baby girl” meeting him for the first time. It was beautiful but I was also emotionally overwhelmed. Her only sibling up until that point had died a year before she was born, so all of this was so new to her, and I felt that deeply.
In contrast, my petite 20 pound 18 month old has just taken his first steps this month, and knows only a handful of words so far. Maybe because he has been the baby of our family for the past year and a half, he still seems very much to be a baby.
Whereas my daughter was already starting to spread her wings, my son is still wanting to be within an arm’s reach from his dad or me. He comes to us often to refuel with love, finding a sleeve or a shirt collar to hold onto before venturing a little further away. Where my daughter can be fearless and strong-willed, my son can be mellow and sensitive. I can only imagine how the addition of a new family member will affect him, but we will try to be as compassionate and nurturing as possible and see where life takes us again.
Adding to all of this, there is an unspoken promise I made to myself sometime between when my first son was born still and when my first rainbow was born living.
It fell along the lines of wanting to show my living children enough love to make up for what I couldn’t show to my son who had died. No one put this on me, and I don’t think it has manifested in a way that has stifled their growth, but it’s there in the back of my mind, constantly.
“You’re so lucky,” I tell myself. I know the pain of not having the chance to savor these times with my first son, the chance to be a mom in person and not just in spirit. When I have three living children, I know that my heart will grow, not divide. But I hope to honor that part of me as well, the part that wants to fulfill that promise to love so fully, and not to feel pressure from it. I might need to ride the survival waves for the first few months and just do the best I can, and that’s okay.
In the big picture, I truly welcome this close in age twosome coming my way.
I am 16 months older than my brother. Growing up, he was my insta-playmate and now I consider him one of my closest friends. I dream of a similar closeness to each other throughout all of my children’s lives, like I have with my three siblings.
For these last fleeting weeks with my baby boy being the true baby of the family, I’m giving him all the cuddles he needs, all of the cheering on as he takes those big boy steps. We go on adventures when his big sister is at Pre-K and when my part-time work schedule allows and I love watching his eyes light up at all he sees and explores.
When his little sister arrives, I hope to provide the mothering he and his big sister need while caring for a newborn as I recover physically, mentally, and emotionally from her birth. There are big changes ahead for our family, but they are welcome ones on this journey of parenting after loss.