“We’re All Expecting a Baby!” Ensign, Mar. 1991, 71–72
“You’re going to have a new brother or sister,” my parents announced when I was eleven years old. It had been some time since my mother had had a baby, and I excitedly helped search for the right name and arrange tiny nighties, blankets, and diapers on the shelves we had cleared.
My joy was replaced by sorrow when my new little brother died at birth, but I feel great love for him to this day, in part, I think, because I helped to prepare for his arrival.
Children feel many different emotions when they hear that a new baby is coming—and some of those emotions may be negative. They may feel embarrassed that their family is larger than those of their friends. They may regret that parents will be less available for their needs or resent that the family budget will be spread even thinner.
We have found that giving each child individual attention soon after we announce that a baby is coming can help him or her put negative feelings into perspective. We do such things as express to each child the joy we felt when he or she was born, encourage our children to pray for feelings of love for the new baby, place a small gift under a child’s pillow, or take time to do something fun with each one.
Children are often curious about the birth process, so we explain, in detail appropriate to our children’s ages, why we go to the hospital to give birth, how we know when to go, what the doctor’s role is, how the baby arrives, and why mother and the baby may need to stay in the hospital for a few days. We have shared with our children books that illustrate a baby’s prenatal development and have enjoyed taking them to the doctor’s office to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Our children love putting a hand on my abdomen to feel the baby kick, and we occasionally remind them that the baby is hearing our voices and, we hope, enjoying the loving sounds of our home.
Children of any age may have apprehensions about childbirth. Might the baby die? Could it have birth defects? Will Mother suffer? We prayerfully develop answers to such questions so that we are ready if a child voices them or if we sense a concern. We bear testimony of our confidence in the Lord’s plan. And, prior to our departure for the hospital, my husband gives me a priesthood blessing in the children’s presence.
Children seem to accept a new baby better when they know what to expect after the child is born. It helps them to know who will stay with them while we are at the hospital, how long we will be away, and when they can see the baby. We also discuss what a new baby is like: that at first their new brother or sister will not be able to walk, talk, sit up, feed himself or herself, or play with us, but will sleep most of the time and will cry to tell us of his or her needs.
We try to help the children feel a part of what is going on. Wise friends have invited our older daughters to our baby showers so that they can record the gifts and share in the celebration. If I am pregnant at Christmastime, we give simple, homemade gifts to “The New Baby.” Of all the telephone calls we make from the hospital when the baby is born, the one to our children is always first. Then we let them make a few calls to spread the word. When hospital rules permit, my husband brings the children to visit me and the baby there.
After the baby and I come home, we give the children regular turns at the pleasant aspects of baby care: rocking, feeding, or strolling the baby around the block on a lovely day. This helps them feel closer to their new brother or sister and helps them to be more patient when the baby demands my time.
During the first few weeks, I take special care to eat properly, get adequate rest, and slow the pace of my activities so that I can be cheerful, loving, and attentive to all the children. It is easy to rejoice so much in an infant that we neglect the more complex problems of older children. I try to follow the example of a friend who I saw put down her baby so she could pick up her daughter who was struggling to adjust to the Church nursery.
We hope our preparation will help our sons and daughters realize the joy we felt as each of them came into our lives. We want the memories of their siblings’ births to be happy ones and to increase their desire to be parents themselves.—Jeanine Funk Franson, Farmington, Maine