Recently, I realized that mommies might be struggling with helping their firstborns manage and adapt to the idea of having another baby in the house. This topic came up when I was talking to the mom of Kyle’s friend who also recently gave birth. She was sharing how her firstborn got a low-grade fever (nagkasinat) after the new baby arrived. I told her that it was the same for Kyle, nagkasinat (getting feverish) after Kurt arrived. That’s when I realized that other moms who are expecting a second child might be at a loss with what’s happening to their firstborn. I think a lot of moms can benefit from my experience.
In terms of getting Kyle used to the idea of having a sibling, I was quite lucky. Even before we had Kurt, Kyle was already asking for a baby. Although he wanted a baby sister, the mere thought that Kyle was looking forward to a younger sibling helps in managing his expectations. When we decided to tell Kyle that I’m pregnant, I instinctively knew that acceptance of would be easier. I say this because I know of some kids in Kyle’s class that still have a hard time accepting a younger sibling. If their parents would ask them, ayaw talaga nila magkaroon ng kapatid (they would really say they don’t want a sibling.)
When I got pregnant, I was really wishing for a baby girl so that it’s a wish come true for Kyle. For me, I’m happy with whatever God wants to give me and Paul, whether it’s a girl or a boy. I was more focused on Kyle’s feelings. He was with us at the hospital when I got my ultrasound to find out the baby’s gender. When we found out it was a boy, my first thought was how to tell Kyle. He was waiting outside the room and I told him straight that it was a boy. As expected, he was very disappointed and he looked really sad. Yun shoulders nya, bumaba and yun head nya, sumabay. (His shoulders and his head drooped.) “But I want a girl,” he said. I explained to him that we cannot choose although I don’t expect him to fully understand. He kept asking why it’s a boy. I didn’t dwell so much on his questions and chose to focus on the advantages of having a baby brother. I told him if he wants to watch something together with his sibling, if it’s a girl, they won’t agree and he won’t like to watch the girly stories. He’d want to watch cars and other shows for boys. When it comes to toys, they also won’t like the same things. If he wanted to play, they won’t have the same play date. I knew that he won’t accept it that quickly so I gave it time. I had a few months to get him used to the idea of having a baby brother instead of a sister. It became my mission to shift Kyle’s thinking to “baby brother is better than baby sister” while I’m pregnant.
Throughout my pregnancy, I would drop ideas to Kyle during opportune moments. When he gets a new toy car, I’d say, “See, you can play that with your baby brother when he’s out. It’s going to be fun, you won’t be alone.” One of Kyle’s comments is that he’s always alone. Medyo sabik talaga si Kyle sa (Kyle is really excited to have a) big family. So I redirected his focus to how his frustrations about being alone would be addressed once he has a baby brother. Two months before I gave birth, Kyle was already excited to have a baby brother. I tried to build the bond between Kyle and Kurt even while the baby was still in my tummy. I would tell Kyle that he’s going to be a kuya (big brother). He would kiss my tummy and ask when the baby is coming out. He was really excited and I thought that he would be okay once Kurt was born. Hindi pala ganon. (It didn’t turn out that way).
When I gave birth to Kurt, I was really worried because some of my friends already warned me that the firstborn might not adjust well to having another child. The firstborn might end up hating the baby because the attention is already divided. My friends were telling me to be very cautious about my actions at home. Because of these warnings, I already set some rules at home. Once the baby is around, I told everyone that they should prioritize Kyle before the baby. The rationale behind this is that Kyle already understands what’s going on while the baby doesn’t. Wala munang magpapakita ng sobra-sobrang love sa (no one should show too much love to the) baby while Kyle is around. We shouldn’t make Kyle feel that the attention is suddenly shifted away from him and to Kurt. Imagine, four years of being the center of attention at home and being well-liked by everyone then all of a sudden may iba nang bida, he’s not the star of the show anymore. When a new baby comes along, it’s really hard for the firstborn because all of a sudden the attention of everyone at home is no longer just his. Kumbaga, may kahati na sya. (In a sense, he has to share.) And with kids, it’s natural for them to not want to share.
Kyle was actually very happy when I gave birth and Kyle was totally fine with Kurt. But there were major changes with behavior. After I came home from the hospital, Kyle got really clingy. He didn’t want to go to school, laging pilitan (it’s always forced). If we are in the same room, Kyle will just stay with me. He won’t want to eat, he won’t want to play. At sleeping time, he will always look for mama.
I used to put Kyle to sleep in his own room at night, even when I was pregnant, kahit mahirap sya (even though it was a struggle). I would stay with him until he fell asleep then I would go to my own room. After Kurt arrived, I would still stay with Kyle until he falls asleep then leave after. But Kyle would wake up after midnight and look for me then he would start crying. He also started getting nightmares which he never had before. So my routine became put Kurt to bed then put Kyle to bed and stay with him until he’s asleep. With Kyle constantly waking up and looking for me, I finally asked Paul if I could just sleep with Kyle. Ayaw naman niya (Paul doesn’t want that.) We’ve decided early on that Kyle needs to sleep on his own and be independent. But things changed when Kurt came. It took us almost two weeks to finally decide that we will have Kyle sleep with us in our room. Until now, Kyle sleeps with us. It was a major decision for Paul kasi naawa na rin sya sa bata (because he felt bad for Kyle). We don’t really know what’s going on but Kyle just keeps waking up in the middle of the night. Maybe subconsciously Kyle thinks that I’m going to be far from him na. He doesn’t share what’s on his mind but I constantly remind him of how I love him and I don’t want him to feel neglected. He needs assurance kasi.
When Kyle didn’t want to go to school, there were a few days na hindi ko na pinapasok, hindi ko na pinilit (that I tell him to go to school, I didn’t force it). Parang nade-depress sya. (It’s like he’s depressed). He’s no longer the happy Kyle, he would just stay quiet, unlike his normal self. He just wants to stay with me the whole time. When we finally encouraged him to go to school, I asked the teacher how he was. She told me that Kyle just stood by the window, looking out. When she asked if he was okay, he said he only wants to do everything with mommy. I realized that he really needs to go back to school because it’s another diversion. It can help him forget the situation at home. It’s really an everyday struggle.
Kyle also started grinding his teeth around the third week I came back. I read up online and I learned that it’s a stress reaction. I realized Kyle must be really stressed about the situation. That whole month, I focused my attention on Kyle. I always talk to him and let him know how much I love him. Nagkasinat rin si Kyle (Kyle also got feverish) for a few days, like his friend. The low fever is also his body’s way of reacting to the stress.
All these changes happening can feel really overwhelming for a mom, especially when you have two children to look after. The key really is to make your firstborn feel secure and loved. They should not think that they are being replaced by the new baby. I’ll share some tips on how to manage this transition in my next blog post. These are things I’ve learned while taking care of my two boys in the first few months of being a mom of two.
Do you have similar experiences with your children? Let me know! I might learn a few tips from you as well 🙂