Besides making sure that this baby I am growing stays healthy and strong, my biggest concern during this pregnancy has been Aniston. I have heard all kinds of horror stories about what happens when the new baby comes home when there's an older sibling. I don't expect my children to get along perfectly, it's just not possible or logical to expect that. However, I do want them to love each other and to be able to develop amazing memories together. I hope that they can be friends. So in order to avoid Ani feeling left out when the baby comes, Spencer and I have been doing different things and establishing traditions that focus on her that we hope to continue after the baby comes that will continue to make her feel special and important and not at all ignored.
The first thing we did was move her into a big girl bed. We did that back at the end of June. We wanted her to be completely separated from a crib which is considered a baby thing. And after 3 months of using her big girl bed, she still does not get out of bed in the morning until someone goes in and gets her. She will just play or sing, which usually wakes us up, until we go and get her. I kind of feel like she sleeps even better in her big girl bed than in her crib. She loves her bed! We had a talk with her about how baby brother would be using her old crib to sleep in, and because she was making a good choice to share, she could pick out her own bedding. Minnie Mouse of course.
Even though Aniston begged to go to school this year, her happiness was not my main reason for starting a preschool at home. I wanted to have a set time each day that focused on her. Baby brother obviously won't be able to participate, and hopefully he won't cause much of a disruption during this time, but those 20-30 minutes in the morning are specifically about Aniston. I don't even bring my cell phone into the room when we have school time. I am amazed at how quickly she is picking up on letter sounds and other activities that we are doing. It takes a lot of work and preparation, and to do it right it isn't easy. But it's probably her favorite part of the day besides bath time, and I love watching her learn.
I spend time with Aniston each day practicing for baby brother with one of her close to life size baby dolls. We practice holding him, changing the diaper, giving him a bath and giving him "soft" kisses. Ani loves to put the baby in the baby swing. I think that practicing this will definitely be beneficial. I have seen her with other real babies lately and she is so gentle and soft with them.
We have begun to establish daddy/daughter date night. We live in Rexburg... there's really not much to do here. But every other week Spencer and Aniston will go out and spend an hour or so together, just the two of them, doing things that Aniston enjoys and getting that time in together just the two of them. This includes going to the library, bowling, going to the park, etc. The dates must always end with a treat of course. I think that this is really important not only to strengthen their relationship, but so that when Mom does have to spend more time with the baby that she will be okay going with Dad.
Every night before Aniston goes to bed we say a family prayer. It's tradition to have Aniston say it. It is seriously the cutest thing you have ever seen or heard! She loves to say the prayer. I think she enjoys that fact that Mom and Dad are smiling the entire time because we are dying of cuteness. This kid thrives on attention. But it's something that she knows that she gets to do every night and it means a lot to her to be able to do it.
Aniston has been very involved as I have prepared for brother by sorting clothes, washing clothes, and creating a space specifically for brother. The knowledge this gives her, helps her to be able to talk to others about what we have done so far to prepare for brother and it makes her feel like she's not being left out at all. I think that it has been very important to make sure that Aniston feels completely included in our preparations and that she doesn't feel like she is being left out or stepped over. She is old enough to tell and express to us her feelings and I don't want her to feel sad or hold any resentment towards her brother.
We have been sure to take a lot of photo's of this pregnancy that include Aniston. Her favorite picture is the one where she is looking at the ultrasound on our front steps. We actually have that photo framed above baby brother's crib. Ani and I also look at ultrasound pictures a lot. She likes to see his toes and hands. I even pulled out her old ultrasound pictures so that she could compare the two.
Aniston reads to and talks to her brother daily. Most of the time it's at a very inconvenient time for me, but I try to be as patient as I can be and let her have that time with her brother because I feel as though that bonding time is very important.
Aniston and I went through all of her toys and pulled out all the baby toys and put them in a special basket for brother. She has already picked out several toys that she insists on bringing to the hospital to give to him when he is born. Every now and then I will walk into the toy room and she has pulled down that basket and is playing with those toys, but I always hear her when she is cleaning up, talking about how they are going to be brother's toys soon. So sweet.
I have been savoring every cuddle and every hug. Aniston has never been cuddly, even as an infant she was very independent. But lately, she has been cuddling all the time. I LOVE IT! She forgets sometimes that there's a baby in the tummy and I get all kinds of kicks or elbows thrown into my belly by her trying to get comfortable, but in true sibling form, brother always kicks back. When Aniston asks if I can play with her, I have put down whatever I was doing regardless of how important it is and played with her. I know that time with her is going to decrease when the baby comes, and I want her to have memories and positive feelings about the time we spent together before brother.
When the baby comes, the plan is for Aniston to stay with my parents. I have been preparing a special Big Sister box for her to open when she is there and before she comes and sees baby brother. So far I have a "I'm a Big Sister" shirt for her, and a super cute book all about becoming a big sister. We plan on including a toy as well as some special snacks to have at Nana's house when we are at the hospital. Any other suggestions as to what to include? I wrote Aniston a letter on the day she was born and put it in a safe place for later. I want to continue this tradition and write her letters on important days throughout her life. I plan on doing another letter right before brother comes and adding it to her letter box. Maybe when she turns 18 or gets married I will give it to her. I don't know.
Spencer and I are also trying to brace ourselves for having two children. On October 11th, we are going to a production of Les Miserables (MY FAVORITE) as kind of a last getaway before baby. I am seriously going have to go to the bathroom like 40 times before it starts to avoid getting up and leaving in the middle! I am so excited!!!!
There is so much to think about when you're adding a member to your family! If anyone has any other suggestions or ideas I would greatly appreciate it! I want to make this such a special experience for our little family and I want to make sure that Aniston is feeling accepting and not ignored at all during this time.