Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Being A Big Sister

This entry sat in my draft folder for a long time I almost turned it into a fossil. Somehow I didn't finish it because I didn't quite know how to end it... Now I've got the answer and here's the story of how Naomi adjusted to her new sibling.

When I was pregnant with Brennan, my husband and I had begun educating Naomi that she was going to be promoted to a big sister soon and there's a baby brother inside Mommy's belly. Every time my husband caressed my pregnant belly, she would do exactly the same. She knew that there's a baby inside Mommy's burgeoning tummy.

Some months later, Brennan arrived. My husband brought Naomi to the hospital to visit me and meet her baby brother for the first time about 5 hours after I gave birth. Naomi was very happy and jovial when she visited me and impatiently waited for her baby brother to be brought to my room. As she could not wait that long, my husband brought her to the baby nursery and she saw her baby brother for the first time there.

Naomi's first meeting with her brother.

Naomi was ecstatic to be a big sister and she instantly became over-protective to her baby brother after the nurse sent Baby Brennan to my room. For a moment, she didn't believe that the baby in front of her was the baby that stayed in Mommy's Hotel Uterus for many months. Naomi opened the blanket that covered my body to confirm that my tummy had gone flat.

When the nurse brought back Brennan to the nursery that night, because he needed to be put back to his warmer, Naomi got very mad and cried buckets. She thought the nurse snatched her baby brother. She screamed angrily and even followed the nurse back to the nursery with huge tears running down her face and loud cries. My husband had to bring her back home shortly after that because she could not stop crying and really looked pitiful.

At this point of time, my husband and I thought that we both were spared from dealing with the infamous sibling jealousy/rivalry issue. The introduction of a new sibling seemed to go smoothly and it looked like Naomi really loves her brother given the above scenario. Not to mention, their age gap is almost 4 years whereby we assumed that she's big enough to be a big sister and would not be jealous to her brother.

I love you, brother.

WEEK 1 - ALL IS GOOD

The first week after we brought Baby Brennan home went fairly okay. Life was hectic for both husband and me but everything was under control. My movements then were very limited because I was still recovering from childbirth and literally spent my days with Brennan in our room upstairs for a week.

Naomi seemed to love her baby brother and caressed him a lot. Every time she came home from school, the first thing she looked for was her brother.

WEEK 2 - JEALOUSY IN THE MAKING

On my second week at home, I was mainly busy tending Brennan, struggling with breastfeeding and trying to give myself more rest. My parents were here so my husband and my parents took turn in caring Naomi on daily basis.

This week, Naomi started showing a changed behavior at home. Initially, we thought Naomi was just throwing tantrums over the things that she didn't like or didn't manage to get from us. However, after few days of observation, we realized that the behaviors that Naomi exhibited to my husband and me were not normal. She launched a fluctuation of emotions and a wild side of her that we had never seen before. She didn't hurt her brother or anything like that but she was always temperamental whenever my husband and I were around.

Naomi's angry repertoire consisted of releasing ear-shattering screams, bawling, pounding the floor, asking us to do things that she herself could not identify properly (she said she wanted something but she didn't define and refused to further specify that 'something' she wanted), hitting us, breaking curfews, slamming the doors, throwing things in the room, etc. Her outbursts were not pretty sights and it's difficult to keep peace with Naomi at home. It was as if my little girl has turned into an aggressive little beast overnight and her new behavior shocked my parents, especially my Dad, greatly.

Don't cry, baby.

Without my husband's knowledge, I purchased 2 sets of Lego online as Naomi's big sister gifts. As per my Mom's advice, we didn't present both gifts to her at once. Rather, we gave her 'promotion' gifts one by one on the occasions when we ought to cheer her up.

WEEK 3 - BUT I'M YOUR BABY TOO...

Naomi suffered from very bad cough and flu. Doctor deemed that Naomi's cough virus was highly contagious so he advised us to separate Brennan and Naomi temporarily. He even urged us to make the baby sleep in different room until Naomi got better because Brennan was still so young. As such, whenever Naomi came near the baby or coughed near the baby, I brushed her off right away to prevent the virus spread. We told her not to kiss the baby nor cough on the baby's face until she felt better.

After three weeks at home, Brennan still received most of my attention day and night because I was breastfeeding him on demand and still grappling with direct latching him correctly. I think all the above factors caused Naomi to feel left out and pushed aside.

On top of throwing tantrums, Naomi had also started fighting for our parental attention vigorously and showed regression at home. For examples, when I breastfed the baby, Naomi demanded her milk to be prepared at the same time even though she just ate her meal or drank her milk not long ago. She also wanted us, especially her Dad, to carry her whenever she used the stairs. She asked us to hand her water bottle even though the bottle was just 10 cm away from her. She was acting like a baby and wanted to be treated like how we treated the baby.

WEEK 4  - TESTING FOR LOVE

It's already 3 weeks since we noticed Naomi's changed behaviors. Some days, her behaviors were considered manageable. Some days, she could be a pain to deal with and drove us up to the wall. She loved to be prioritized too at this point and got so worked up if we treated her as a second citizen. Naomi began testing us to be sure that we still cared for her.

On the day when we celebrated Brennan's full moon, we gave Naomi her second Lego box as she launched her yet another major tantrum and refused to enter the house after we came home from breakfast and picking up Brennan's full moon cakes.

All in all, the first month of Brennan's arrival in our house was the hardest transition period for Naomi. She was practically a cranky, sullen, likely confused and very jealous child.

Siblings' love.

THE SECOND MONTH AND ONWARD...

As days passed by, I guess I have finally found my equilibrium in giving equitable attention to both kids, although technically baby still enjoys most of Mommy's attention. Naomi's behaviors had improved tremendously after I was back to the routines in picking her up from daycare in the evening, spending more time to play with her, feeding her and cuddling her every day. She is occasionally jealous to her brother but the jealousy intensity is not as severe as the first few weeks after we brought the baby home.

When I can't leave the house much because baby is still too small to go out, my husband usually goes on dates with Naomi. He'd bring her to swim, play ball in the court, take a walk in the park or accompany her to have fun in the neighborhood's playground. Daddy has to up his game several notches in doting his daughter just so she still feels very much loved and not forsaken.

After bath: Combing baby's hair with love.

Nowadays, Naomi is already back to her old self. Sometimes she still fights for our attention when Brennan is awake. Nevertheless, she is doing a good job in adjusting her role to be an older sibling.

Few weekends ago, my husband offered me to go to Johor with him to pick up a truck load of stuff for his work. Since he was driving his pick-up vehicle to go to Johor, which was about 3 hours away from where we live, he asked me to choose one child to tag along to Johor for that road trip. I chose Naomi because I wanted to give her a special time to bond with us just like when she was our only child. Also, it's not so practical to bring baby to go out of town in a pick-up car. We left baby to MIL's hands for few hours.

Guess what happened right after we placed baby at his Grandma's house and I got in the car without the baby?

Naomi sulked, whined and nearly cried because her brother didn't join us for the trip. She kept saying "I want baby. I want baby." for about 20 minutes and told us repeatedly to go back to Grandma's house to get the baby. I was actually quite taken aback to learn her reaction to this. I thought she would do a happy dance when she finally got Mommy and Daddy for herself for few hours... I was wrong. Brennan is already a big part of her life and she wants him to be around.

Furthermore, Naomi usually whimpers and starts complaining when she sees somebody other than her parents and grandparents carries Brennan. That's how protective she is to her brother now.

3y11mo and 4mo1wk: Look who woke up first on Merdeka Day.

No doubt that the arrival of a new sibling can be unsettling to our first-born who is used to be the center of our world. However, the siblings will eventually bond just fine and parenting multiple kids does get a little easier over time. I find it very cute every time I see my two children enjoy each other's company and share kisses. 

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