Our new baby sister is due to arrive this month, and we can all hardly wait to meet her. We've been busy the past 9 months getting ready for our third child, being as intentional as possible to try to make the transition from two kids to three goes as smoothly as possible. We care a lot (A LOT) about our kids being siblings who are friends and who feel accountable to one another - and we know that those bonds are created from the very start.
So here's what we've been doing to intentionally prepare for our third baby!
Bedtime stories: we've been rotating in our favorite sibling books into our bedtime reading over the last few months as reminders of how much fun, how confusing, and how great having brothers and sisters can be. Our favorites are: Chloe, Instead by Micah Player, Peter's Chair by Ezra Jack Keats, The New Baby by Mercer Mayer, Maggie's Monkeys by Linda Sellers-Wells and Abby Carter, and If Big Can, I Can by Beth Shoshan.
House arrangements: We have a three bedroom house, which means it is time to make room for a newborn! We announced to the kids that they would be sharing a room and getting bunk beds in June (a full four months before their sister is set to arrive). We wanted to make sure that our two biggest kids felt like the move was all about them - not that they were being kicked together for the new girl. The bunks have been a H.U.G.E. hit (they're obsessed) and we have settled into a new comfortable bedtime routine with them in the same room together.
This also gave us a chance to tackle some toy clutter to make sure all their 'big kid' toys could fit in their room. Most of the toys are all together mixed (we try not to distinguish things as specifically 'girl' or 'boy' toys) and we left most of the floor space wide open in the middle for playing, dancing, and ninja fighting moves.
As in years past, we also pull out the baby equipment weeks in advance to get everyone comfortable with the new items that will take up space in our house. The baby swing has had a home in our living room for the last month and half and the bassinet is up in our bedroom as well. The kids were enlisted in helping to bring down (from the attic) all of the baby's stuff so they could ask questions about it, help set it up, and even help dust/clean them off!
The kids helped unpack our baby hand-me-down clothes we talked about how small everything is and how they used to fit in the clothes when they were tiny. Greyson helped me pick out our new diaper bag online (he chose a red&blue one) and the kids helped organize the baby's bookcase of board books and soft toys. They both helped Daddy vacuum and clean the truck and we installed her car seat last week so that Grey and Gemma have the next few weeks to get used to the new backseat arrangement (Grey's booster carseat in the middle between the two girls since he knows how to buckle himself).
With all the normal preparations that need done to get ready for a new baby - we are trying to include them as much as possible (even though it takes twice as long) so that they feel like we are ALL getting ready for her.
The nursery is all set and ready to go as well. We left the guest bed in the room as a way to, hopefully, include the kids in upcoming bedtimes or nursing. I'm hoping the kids and I can all be together (especially during the upcoming basketball season) in the baby's room reading books while she nurses before bed and then the two big ones and I will move over to their room for bedtime afterward. (Update on the success -or not- of this to come post-baby arrival!)
Grey was happy to make a family portrait for his new sister too so that she'd know who was in her family and who would love her forever. It was the perfect addition to her room. He was pretty proud of it.
Baby Care Practice: We have been periodically showing the kids how we will need to take care of our new baby when she comes home with us with the kids. They have practiced diapering, swaddling, and even wearing the baby bjorn and pretend vacuuming (hahha!) The kids know that their baby sister will mostly eat and sleep at first and she won't be able to do a lot of things; that we'll need to teach her as a family how to do everything! The Baby Care Practice with the kids was even the inspiration for our Baby Raising Competition to celebrate our new sister!
Both Grey and Gem have been practicing books that they can 'read' to our new baby sis as well. We've talked about how she can hear us in my belly, so they often will come up to my belly and whisper hilarious little things to her like "Hey Baby Sis, what are you doing in there?" (Greyson) and "Hi Baby, Come Out Now!" (Gemma). They like kissing my belly and telling her they love her. This is one of the kids favorite things for me to tell them right now (usually on car rides):
Me: "After our baby sister gets born, you will come to the hospital to visit her and she will be so happy to hear you! She'll think, 'Hey! I know that voice, that must be my big brother! He was reading to me when I was in my Mom's belly!' and she'll say, 'Hey! I know that voice too, that must be my big sister! She sang to me and gave me so many kisses!"
Grey: "What will she say when she hears you and Dad?"
Me: "She'll probably think, 'Oh, I know those voices. That's my Mumma and Daddy and they are here to take care of me. I love my family!"
Grey: "What about when she hears Bully and Trixie bark?"
Me: "Yep! She'll say, 'Hey, those sound like my crazy pups! I can't wait to get kisses from them!' But we'll need to teach her how to touch the dogs nicely, because she won't know that you have pet them gently. Will you guys show her how to do that too?"
Big Brother/Big Sister Class: the kids got to attend an awesome class hosted by the hospital that our new sis will be delivered. They got name tags and a tour of where they'll come to meet their sis. We even got to see a real newborn in the nursery and check out the belly button and all her bracelets and what they are for.
The nurses had us try formula (Grey drank it down like a champ!) and we diapered and swaddled baby dolls. It was a lot of fun for them to meet other soon-to-be big bros/sisters too. The nurses took their pictures too and they will be hung in the nursery when our little sis comes to place inside of her bassinet so that "your new baby will be able to see your picture even when you have to go home after visiting!" (commence me openly tearing up in the class - hhahaha!)
Birthday talk: With a four and a 2 year old, is there a greater celebration than a birthday? No. So we talk a lot about how when our new sister gets born it will be her birthday. We have been counting down the weeks in our make-shift countdown charts to color the fruit/veggie size of our baby sister for that week. Grey likes counting how many more weeks though until 40 when it will officially be our sister's birthday!
Aunt Uch has been enlisted to take care of the kids while we are at the hospital and she is in charge of bringing the two big ones and a little cake in to meet her. We are planning on singing Happy Birthday and having our own little family celebration together for her very first birthday. We regularly talk about who has a birthday next and now they know that the answer is Our Baby Sister!
Remembering when our first two were babies: We have also tried to focus on when our first two were babies. They love looking at pictures in our yearbooks and in their Text Message books from Aunt Kitty when they were babies. They love hearing stories about what their Dad and I said when we first saw them and what they looked like when they were first born. Grey likes to ask, "Why did you love me so much when I was a baby?" To which I answer, "I love you so much even now when you're big and when you get as big as Daddy too because you'll always be a baby to me." He actually recently told a friend at church that "My Mom will call me her baby even when I get as big as you!"
Celebrating the things they can do as big kids: We try to notice and celebrate the kids in the things that they can do now that they are bigger. We have always encouraged our kids to be independent as they are ready (dressing themselves, taking on chores like feeding the dogs and folding washcloths, etc) and we like to announce when we see our kids doing things that they have learned to do better as they get big. We talk a lot about choosing to be helpful and how it's exciting and fun when we learn to do things like a big kid. Grey has some frustration watching his sister do things that he can do too (he prefers being able to do things that she can't yet), so we have to make sure to point out the things that they are each learning how to do separately by age and by preference.
We have tried to still keep doing things that our kids can do now that may be a little more difficult to do when the new baby arrives. We have made recent trips to the zoo, local parks & playgrounds, and trying to spend lots of time together as just the four (and a half!) of us. We know in the first few weeks of the baby, we will be surrounded by friends and family, many times with the kids going out on adventures with their grandparents while Mum and the new baby get rest (we are so blessed for this) and there will be an adjustment period of a lot of coming & going. So right now, we are trying to focus on all the things we can do in the last weeks of just two.
Discussions about family and taking care of each other: We are always pulling out Preschool Cartoon talk when discussing our family - saying things like, "Because we are a family and we take care of one another." and "You are being a great big brother/little sister by sharing/helping/giving space/speaking nicely...etc" We have been including our baby sister in this talk for the last few months as well, saying things like, "Our baby sister is so lucky to have a big brother and sister who will help teach her new things! What do you want to teach her?"
We have also been intentional about talking about ways our lives will be different (and how they are already different) with a new family member. The kids know that I have less energy and lap room(!) with our baby sister growing in our belly and that they need to be careful with me during wrestling matches. They are both fairly helpful with cleaning up (when asked) and helping with chores - Grey likes to say during this "Mum, Look at what great kids you have!" When we talk about chores and helping each other, our standard response is, "Because we are a family and we all have to work together."
We talk a lot about Hard Days and how we all get them (even Mum and Dad) and how when someone is having a hard day we sometimes have to give them space and try our best not to tease them. That there are ways to talk to each other kindly that is much easier than screaming and whining. I just read about a Calm Down Codeword which I hope to incorporate in our family immediately to help us prepare for Hard Days with our new baby sister too.
We have wanted very much to try to make the arrival of our new baby sister as intentional as possible for our young kids. We wanted to feel like we are awaiting the arrival of something inevitable; another person in our family; to make it feel like a person who has been missing yet is coming home to us. Like finally we are getting this person that we've all been waiting for!
Until then though, we will keep talking about her and being grateful that she is part of our family already - and soon she'll actually be out here in the world with us! As we tell our kids, "How lucky we are to have our family!"