Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Big Brother Training


Two weeks until Peanut is due!  At my last exam, I was 2 centimeters dilated, 75% effaced, and the baby's head was in 0 station.  All this means that Peanut could come at any time!  Truth is, I was dilated to 2 centimeters for a month with Jr., so I'm not holding my breath that Peanut will be born any second.

I'm still working hard to make sure Jr. is ready for the major life transition of adding a sibling to the family.  A couple weeks ago I shared the books I have been reading with Jr.   We've also been taking every opportunity to talk about the baby's arrival.  And, I've been getting as much advice as possible from experienced moms.  We've taken Jr. shopping to buy Peanut a gift and I've had him help get the baby's room ready.  He has enjoyed stacking diapers, putting away blankets, and sorting through toys.  In fact, he probably knows where the baby's essential items are better than Daddy at this point!  We've had "big brother lessons" where Jr. eagerly learned how to change a diaper and swaddle the baby.  Not that I expect him to really be involved in those activities, but I want him to feel like he's got an important role in helping with Peanut.  We took him to my last doctor's visit so he could hear the baby's heartbeat, see the hospital, and start understanding that mommy will have to go to the hospital for a few days to have the baby.

I always wonder, though, how much a two year-old can possibly prepare for a sibling's arrival.  Cognitively, you just wouldn't expect a child of such a young age to understand the complex idea of child birth.  Jr. can point to my belly and indicate that's where the baby is growing.  But does he really understand that a living, breathing baby is in mommy's tummy?  Jr. can parrot that "baby's comin'" and "I big brother!"  But, does he really understand the permanency of a new baby?  He even says that he "wants to see baby," but when he actually does, will he be accepting of the new needy bundle of joy?

Who knows? All we can do is help prepare him as much as possible and hope he is ready.  And, there are many indications that he's excited and developing affection for his sister.  Momsie's most happy moment in big brother training was when he took one of his favorite trains and spontaneously carried it to the baby's room and said, "Baby's present!"  And, in her toy basket it remains. I was so proud.

So, baby prep is going well.  But, a summer complication I didn't expect has reared it's ugly head.  I hadn't planned one iota for Jr. to have separation problems from daycare!  He totally wants to "go bye-bye" or "go to school" every day. And, this grates on momsie's fragile nerves.  I really wanted our few last weeks together as mommy and son to be full of fun.  And, I'm trying to plan as many outings as possible, but this child really loves daycare.  Praise God, this week has been a bit better than last.  I guess it's always the complication that you aren't prepared for that is the most difficult!


Monday, June 10, 2013

My Summer Reading: The DSM-V


After Jr. was born, one of my lovely friends who doesn't have children, came to visit.  I was in the midst of new baby anxiety and chaos.  If you are a mother, you know the feeling.  You do nothing but change diapers, nurse/feed, and soothe baby all day long, and somehow feel like you haven't had a second of rest.  My not-so-enlightened friend asked, "So, how are you keeping busy?  Read any good books?"  And, she was serious.  I stammered and replied, "Baby 4-1-1-?" (Which really is an excellent resource for new momsies, by the way).  I really wouldn't recommend any new mother plan on catching up on her reading list.  It just won't happen.

Knowing this, I'm not taking my own advice. I have already made some important summer reading plans. During all my free time (like, zero minutes a day) I'm going to try to get through the tantalizing new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Sounds fascinating, doesn't it?  

Well, the new DSM is promising to be an important read.  The American Psychiatric Association, which puts out the DSM as a diagnostic guideline for clinicians and physicians, has made many changes in the new version of the DSM, many of which are quite controversial.  For clinicians like myself working with children, there are relevant changes in the diagnostic criteria for disorders occurring in childhood like Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Autism/Aspergers (now Autism Spectrum Disorder), Mental Retardation (now Intellectual Developmental Disorder), Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the addition of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.

Many have criticized the new diagnostic manual for lacking scientific validity and that it pathologizes too many "normal" human experiences (such as bereavement). Some suggest that the creators allowed disorders to be added to the DSM in order to bolster money-making for pharmaceutical companies, without other valid reasons for including them.  It does seem sometimes that we rush to diagnose and treat with medication symptoms that may just be normal human "life."



I'm going to hold off on my opinion until I've properly read the new DSM-V.  So, expect me to write about all my insights by the end of the summer . . . . . . . of 2014.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Baby's Comin'! Books for Siblings

Clockwise:  The Baby Sister by Tomie dePaola, What a Good Big Brother by Diane Wright Landolf, My New Baby by Rachel Fuller, Julius The Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes, I'm a Big Brother by Joanna Cole, The New Baby by Mercer Mayer.

In preparation for the arrival of little Peanut, I'm doing everything I can think of to help Jr. get ready for the big transition from only-child to sibling.  My mother (the best children's librarian in the world) helped me find some children's books that help toddlers, especially little boys, get ready for a new baby. There are really many good books available, but keep in mind that Jr. is two, so I was looking for books with few words and pages, so that his toddler attention-span wouldn't be exhausted before the end of the book. 

I've been a bit surprised at Jr.'s interest in these books!  Shoot, there aren't any big trucks or silly rhymes in them, so I was prepared for them to get tossed aside.  (I mean, quite literally.  Apparently, we now throw things we aren't interested in.)  In fact, one night, when Jr. 's toddler autonomy was coming on strong, he insisted that he would read his bedtime stories.  He picked up I'm a Big Brother and read, "Baby's Comin'! Baby's Comin'! Baby's Comin'!" as he turned the pages and pointed to the pictures.

The Baby Sister by Tomie dePaola and Julius The Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes were a little long for Jr., but touched on really good topics for a slightly older child, such as jealousy and anger (in Henkes' book) and preparing for the baby to come home from the hospital (dePaola's book).  The other four books we've read a bazillion times a piece.  Let me share what I like best about each of them.

 What a Good Big Brother by Diane Wright Landolf introduces an annoying reality of having a new baby in the house - constant crying.  Jr. actually gets a little annoyed when I even read the crying parts, "Waaaaaaaaaaa!"  (Of course, to make it more realistic, I read it very loud and in a screechy, high-pitched voice.)  It also talks about how a big brother can help soothe a crying baby by helping rub her tummy, tickle her toes, hand daddy the wipes, and (best of all) bring mommy the nursing pillow.  I like the message that big brother can be a helper and a partner with mommy and daddy.

My New Baby by Rachel Fuller is a simple little book, sharing some of the questions that might come to a toddler's mind when a new baby arrives.  Like, "Why does the baby always drink milk?" and "Why is the baby crying? Can we make it stop?"  The author apparently has three other books on welcoming a new sibling that are probably just as cute.  I like that the book is called "MY New Baby" because I think it is so important that a toddler feels involved and connected to the baby, recognizing him or her as a part of the family.

I'm a Big Brother by Joanna Cole is one of my favorites, but maybe my husband's least favorite.  I like that the book stresses the difference between a "big" brother and a baby - babies can't eat pizza and ice cream and swim!  This message is a good attempt to help children overcome their jealousy of the attention a baby receives by helping them see that, really, being a big boy is more fun.  The book also stresses that mommy and daddy still love the older sibling and that he will always be special to his parents.  I think it's adorable.  My husband thinks the repetitive "I'm a big brother!" is a little annoying.  (Again, it might just be the way I'm enthusiastically reading it.)

If you can get just one book for your child about welcoming a new sibling, you should probably get The New Baby by Mercer Mayer.  Jr. loves this book.  Who doesn't love Mercer Mayer?  And, the message is cute.  Critter's new baby sister doesn't really play with him like he'd like, so what is a baby good for?  Well, baby can squeeze your nose, or play with a rattle, (Jr. likes that the baby bangs Critter in the nose with the rattle) or ride in a stroller and impress your friends.

I hope these books have helped Jr. become a little more prepared for Peanut to come.  I know his two year-old brain is not able to fully understand that a baby is inside mommy's tummy and will soon come out and turn his world upside down.  But, at least he knows that "Baby's Comin'!"


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