The transition from 1 child to 2 children is really hard. If/When you go from 2 to 3, you’ll realize it’s not that bad at all! I think that keeping the older child as involved in the prenatal baby care as possible will really help. Invite her to “read” to the baby while you rest in bed, or talk to him. Jonathan really loved coming to the midwife appointments and being the special helper. He could measure my belly and use the doppler to hear Hannah’s heart beat. It was so sweet when we got pregnant with Joshua and Jonathan showed Hannah how to do all the hands-on things that he had learned when she was in my belly!
Does your first born have a special doll or stuffed animal they like to care for? We got Jonathan a stuffed monkey and used it as Jonathan’s baby. Before Hannah was born, we would play like it was really a baby and put a diaper on it, give it a bottle, and I made a special sling out of cloth so Jonathan could carry it around. We did this for Hannah, too, when Josh was coming. Do this when you are still pregnant, so that once you need to focus on the baby, you can encourage the first born to get her “baby” and take care of it while you take care of your baby. We have hilarious pictures of Jonathan and Hannah “nursing” their “babies” while the real baby was getting fed, too! Encourage her to help you as much as possible, and she will feel important to Mamma.
I could say “don’t feel guilty”, but there are going to be times when you just will. The older child needs to learn that the baby’s needs will have to come first for a while. What works for me is that I’ll take care of the baby until he’s asleep, and then go have special snuggle time with the older ones, talking to them about how much I love them and how they are special to me. Also, communicate to your spouse and the people around you how important it is for them to focus on your older child when they come to see the new baby. I so appreciated some of our friends who came over with gifts for both the baby and the older kids, so that EVERYONE felt special. Your husband especially can help with giving the older child lots of Daddy time while you focus on the baby.
One of the crazy things I did that I think really helped was NOT weaning Jonathan when Hannah was born (he was only 25 months old). After I would nurse Hannah to sleep, I would nurse Jonathan and talk to him about how much I loved my big boy. I know that sounds totally crazy, but it helped a lot, since his love language is touch. It was initially hard to tell him that Hannah had to have milk first, but he would lay quietly until it was his turn, even waking me up sometimes to tell me Hannah was all done and it was his turn. =D (I’m getting teary thinking about this… he’s FIVE now!!!)
I think the greatest thing about having kids close together is how they pretty much grow up together. When Jonathan finally finished potty training, Hannah was old enough to start, and he encouraged her. When Joshua was born, they both were the proud older siblings, and could go play together while I took care of the baby. It’s so precious and sweet to see them growing and learning and loving together. I really would not have it any other way. When God called us to do something crazy like TRUST HIM with our fertility (and then me getting instantly pregnant), we were panicky. 3 kids in 4 years? That’s insane! But the blessings are so great, and we are so glad that we didn’t take matters into our own hands and prevent the conception of any of these little wonders!
I hope that you are encouraged! If you have any advice you’d like to share or questions to ask, please do it!