The latest edition of our weekly feature, Scrummie Sunday!
Issy, known to her young family, and her Instagram followers as Mummy Scrummie is a Hampshire-based mum of two and brand rep for Catkin Toys. Every Sunday, Issy will be writing a guest blog feature, covering the parenting topics and issues that interest you! Have a topic you'd like to hear more about? Get in touch!
Becoming a Mother for the Second Time
You love life as a mum of one, and it’s just starting to feel like you might have found your feet with it; sleeping routines have settled down, and your small person is no longer completely dependent on you every second of every day; heck, you might’ve even had a night out or a Mummy Day to yourself, or even just a few hours of CBeebies-free peace and quiet. When, into that comfortable routine comes: Baby Number Two.
Whether it’s a planned decision or a lovely surprise, having a second baby can be a real cause of anxiety for many parents and, with my very own Baby Number Two having just celebrated his first birthday, I’m here to share my top tips on making the transition from being a one bubba woman to a happy mum of two!
Deciding if Two’s for You
If a second pregnancy isn’t coming as a surprise to you, you – like me – have consciously opted to have another baby. For me, the premature death of my mum, and the emotional rollercoaster my sibling and I went through as part of that, really cemented in my mind that I didn’t want my daughter to be an only child, I didn’t want her to be on her own dealing with everything adult life throws at you; I wanted her to have a little chum.
So, once I’d finally persuaded my husband that bringing another tiny person into our lives wasn’t a completely mental idea, we started trying for another Little Scrummie.
We tried for a few months before I fell pregnant (that’s a story for another time), I will say however that if you’re ‘aiming’ to fall pregnant at a particular time, you’ll need to allow yourself a flexible schedule because, unlike when you tried for your first baby, this time round you already have a small person waddling about, leaving you very small windows for romance!
Telling the Big Brother or Sister
Exactly when you announce your pregnancy is totally up to you, (I told my friends and family at about 13 weeks) but it is important that you think about how and when you are going to tell your first-born.
In our case, we told Little Miss Scrummie that she was going to be a big sister about a week before we told everyone else. Now, we were in the middle of a global lockdown at the time, so it’s not something we really had to consider, but do bear in mind that once you’ve told your child, they will want to tell everyone and their neighbour that “there’s a baby in my Mummy’s tummy!”, so if you’re still trying to keep your news under wraps, hold off on telling Little One.
As for how to break the news, again, this is totally up to you, and there are as many different approaches to this as there are to anything else!
We opted for a sort of build-up to the reveal, in the weeks beforehand we talked about how nice it would be to have a little brother or sister; and about other people she knew who had younger siblings. I suffered dreadfully (in both my pregnancies, but thankfully less so in the second) with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, so we did have to dodge a few “Why is Mummy so poorly?” type questions, but again; shielding during the Covid lockdown was on our side a little because it wasn’t just me that was stuck at home in their PJs feeling rubbish; everyone else was too!
When it came to telling Little Miss, we went with the classic “Mummy and Daddy have got some exciting news…” and we told her – and I think this is important – that there was a baby brother or sister for her, growing inside Mummy’s tummy; the point being here that we didn’t use the phrase “We’re having a baby” (or something similar) but instead related the situation to her: it was her baby brother or sister in there, she was involved and included from the start. And we carried this theme on as much as we could; for example, our pregnancy announcement was a photo of Little Miss, grinning from ear to ear, wearing a “Big Sister” T-shirt: she was a part of it, it was her news as much as anyone else’s.
I – along with thousands of other mums expecting during lockdown – had to go to all my antenatal appointments alone, including my 12 week ultrasound scan and the 20 week gender prediction.
So, 21 weeks pregnant, I waddled off to my ultrasound appointment, armed with a pen, paper and an envelope in the hope that, the sonographer would write down the sex of the baby, without first telling me, and that I could take it home and Mr Scrummie, Little Miss and I could find out exactly who we were expecting, together. But, apparently, as a matter of policy, they’re not allowed to do this (presumably in case of handwritten error?) and so I was told then and there that my son was bouncing around and playing with his willy and I, perched in the hospital car park, wrote “It’s a Boy” on the paper I’d brought with me, before tucking it into the envelope and levering myself into my husband’s car.
And so, once back home, and fortified with a cup of tea, my husband and Little Miss opened the envelope together and then we all knew that Littlest was “a brother, not a sister”; and we were all over the moon.
Preparing for Baby’s Arrival
Imagine preparing for a member of your family to come and stay with you, without knowing which member of your family it was: do you make up a room for Grandad, or for Auntie Daisy? The two have wildly different requirements! For this reason, I find that for little people and grown ups alike, it is so much easier to prepare for the arrival of a new baby when you know the gender of the little bundle: regardless of how gender neutrally you shop, I think it’s helpful in preparing everyone if you can start to visualise who is going to be a part of your family.
For us, this visualisation meant that, once again, Little Miss was able to feel involved: she’d announce over the dinner table “I thinked of another name for Baby Brother: maybe, Olaf??” (You can guess what her main source of ‘inspiration’ was…) and Mr Scrummie and I would go: “Ooh, that’s a good one, we’ll pop that one in the ‘maybe’ pile, shall we? What about ‘Max’?” and she’d give her opinion (“erm, no, Mummy”) and she’d be off again with another suggestion (“Flounder, Mummy?”).
We were able to let her choose some clothes for her brother; she wanted to make a “Welcome Home Baby Brother” sign, so we did; and we read (a lot of) books about new babies and being a big sister, and suddenly “Frozen” was sister research and totally justified viewing in our household.
Introducing the New Baby
Experts say that you should introduce your first born child to your new baby on ‘neutral turf’ i.e. not in the family home; the theory being that if you can organise the initial meeting somewhere ‘neutral’ that you are avoiding creating any ‘invasion of territory’ feelings in your older child.
For us, this wasn’t a possibility; again, courtesy of Covid, only my husband was allowed on to the ward and into NICU to visit me and Littlest for a few hours a day; our daughter, who enjoyed some (apparently hilarious) play-dates with family and friends, had to stay away.
So we had no choice, when Mr S came to pick Littlest and I up, but to head straight home and to bite the bullet; but – much like the way we used specific wording to announce our pregnancy to Little Miss, we had a simple plan for introducing the siblings to each other that worked well: don’t hold the baby.
When we came in through the front door, my husband was carrying Littlest in his car seat and I was waddling along behind. The first thing we both did was to give Little Miss a great big hug and to tell her that we’d brought her baby brother home to meet her. Then, Mr Scrummie brought Littlest, still in his seat, through in to our family room and put him on the floor in the middle of the room. We all took a moment to look at him, before I said “Here he is; here is your Baby Brother! Shall we go and say hello?” and we all went together to welcome Littlest home.
After we’d spent five or ten minutes doing this, it was time to feed Littlest and so I sat, with a child on either side of me, and fed the baby, with my daughter peering over my arm, unable to take her eyes of her new baby.
It might sound daft, but I really think this simple step helped Little Miss to feel included, involved and in control. I think the visual, of meeting her newborn brother alongside her parents, as opposed to being taken to meet the new baby already cradled in her mother or father’s arms, was helpful for her.
In the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I put together a “Big Sister Kit” for Little Miss. I ordered a bright pink tote bag from an Etsy shop that had “Big Sister” printed on the side, I had a personalised badge made, I bought a “Best Sister in the World” top and printed out Big Sister colouring sheets. I also had a book printed by Photobox in which I listed all the Big Sisters in her cultural sphere of knowledge: “Elsa is a big sister to Anna; Peppa is a big sister to George, Mummy is a big sister” and so on. I then put in to the bag a muslin, First Size nappies, baby wipes, and tiny tub of Sudocrem.
The evening we brought Littlest home, we gave the bag to Little Miss, and she put on the T-shirt, and the badge and we read the book whilst the baby napped and then, when he needed changing, my daughter ran to get her Big Sister Kit and excitedly whipped out a nappy, and the wipes and the Sudocrem: she was helping; it was like having a real-life dolly, and being a Big Sister was an important job, but fun too!
Those First Few Weeks
I don’t need to tell you that those first few weeks of life with a newborn is no bed of roses, and that alongside the lovely snuggly cuddles basking in the glory of ‘that new baby smell’, there are moments when you will find yourself, wearing trousers smeared with someone else’s poo, drinking cold tea and wondering when it was you last had a shower, BUT if everyone pulls together it doesn’t have to be any harder than it was first time round.
Working in your favour is the fact that you have done this all before; you know the drill and you’re no longer learning as you go along.
My advice for managing an older child and a newborn: if possible, tag team. Take parenting each child in turns: I made sure that there were times when my husband took the baby off for a walk in the pram and Little Miss and I sat and painted our nails. Whereas first time round I was able to nap when Baby did, this time when Littlest slept, I baked with my daughter, or we curled up and watched The Muppets. It felt important to me that Little Miss didn’t feel that her brother had usurped her in my, or my husband’s, affections. I wanted to make sure she had time with us independently of Littlest, as well as with him.
The New Dynamic
There will be a new dynamic to your family. And this is probably more evident to, and more strongly felt by, your eldest child than to/by anyone else. But, don’t panic, new, and different, doesn’t mean ‘bad’. You’re now a evenly numbered group of four, you can pair off, you can (eventually) play Doubles! Your eldest will probably be delighted by the small things that they can now do with a baby in tow that they couldn’t do before: they can share a bath with them, they can ride the double seated trolley at the supermarket, they can boss someone else around!
The new dynamic takes some getting used to but it isn’t new forever, and soon you’ll find yourself unable to imagine a world in which there weren’t two of your little people in it, creating havoc, crayoning everything in sight and between them producing enough pee to quench the thirst of twenty Bear Gryllses.
Are you planning a second baby? How did you make that decision?
Are you already a mum of two, or more? What are your top tips to families planning to add to their brood?
Let me know, I love hearing from you!