The transition from one to two children is exciting, nerve-wracking, and requires a lot of preparation. Maybe not as much as you needed before you had your first (you probably have a lot of the necessary equipment at this point, for example) but there's still a lot to do, including the things you should do with your first kid before your second is born.
Yeah, the pre-existing kid is probably at the center of a lot of your new baby concerns, but let me let you in on a little secret: it's so not as big a deal as you necessarily think it's going to be. That's not to say welcoming another baby to the family isn't hard or can't be really challenging, but you'll be surprised just how much sort of falls into place because, well, that's just how life works.
I am a generally laid-back person, but I was a nervous wreck when I was pregnant with my second. It wasn't the pregnancy itself that worried me, but rather the idea that I was absolutely ruining my first child's life by having another baby. "He's used to things a certain way," I fretted. "And we have a good thing going. What if he's so upset and thrown off his game that I ruin our dynamic? How could I do this to him?" As such, so much of what I did with him during my pregnancy was motivated by guilt. I wish I could go back, hug myself, gently stroke my hair and then firmly smack my upside the head and say, "Pull yourself together, woman. Focus on these things instead."
Take Lots Of Pictures
I know it feels like you take a lot of pictures now, but keep that up. This is cliché, sure, but they grow up so fast and things change a lot when you put a second child into the mix. It's a good change (mostly) but it's so extensive that it's sometimes hard to remember the specific details of life with just one kid. Thankfully, pictures (and videos) can help you remember that. So don't worry about looking like an obsessed helicopter mom snapping away.
Go On That Special Outing
There's a good chance that outings have only recently become easy again for you. Maybe you're at a point where you finally don't have to carry a massive diaper bag. Maybe you finally don't need to lug the stroller around. Maybe your kids' nap time is finally more flexible (or non-existent) and they're able to handle a day at the zoo or whatever. Maybe you're finally feeling confident enough to be able to take a vacation with your little one.
Get ready to go back to square one.
You know how difficult day trips are with infants. You've been there, and you're about to be there again. So squeeze in some time to visit the aquarium, a local wildlife center, a children's museum, etc. with your firstborn, because it just might not be feasible (at least for everyone to go as a family) until your second is a little bit bigger.
Fill Out The Damn Baby Book
You probably won't but here's a last call for that task. If you really want to do it, do it now.
Go Clothes Shopping
Chances are you're in the thick of making sure you have enough clothes for the new baby, but take a careful assessment of how your oldest is growing. Because before I knew it my son was wearing a whole lot of capris and crop tops that I could have sworn fit normally the last time I checked. And so, infant and toddler in tow, I had to make extra Target runs to keep him appropriately clothed. And while I certainly never really mind an extra Target run, it's nevertheless difficult with two little ones (especially a very little one).
Have A Special Mommy/Kid Day
I know it sounds corny, but really make the time to enjoy yourself with your kid. Not out of a sense of guilt or obligation, but because you deserve it. One-on-one time will be rare moving forward, and it's worth it, but you'd do well to take advantage of the myriad (relatively speaking) opportunities available to you before number two makes their entrance.
Clear Out Some Old Toys
You're about to get so much more stuff. Make a game of clearing out some of it with your little one (because you know they don't play with, like, half of this stuff). Something I like to do is clear out the toys I know they don't play with, set them aside for about a month, and then if they aren't asked for I donate them. You can also assign a monetary value to each toy they give away that they can put towards one new toy.
Work On Some Big Transitions
If your oldest is still in a crib, diapers, attached to their pacifier, etc. and you're hoping to break them of those various habits sometime soon, do it before the baby comes. You will not have the same level of energy for those battles after they've arrived. That's not to say you have to do any or all those things, or that you can't do them after your second is born (my oldest wasn't potty trained when my second was born and we managed to accomplish it two months in) but between your mental fortitude (and availability) and the chances of your oldest not wanting to do grown up things once there's a baby in the house, it's better to get it out of the way sooner rather than later.
Help Get Your Child Used To Other Caregivers
You're going to need someone else around while you're off having a baby and recovering (even if you give birth at home), and it's best not to spring a brand new face (or even a face they know but are unaccustomed to being babysat by) in the heat of the moment. Prep them ahead of time by having a few "test runs," if you can swing it.
Talk About "The Baby"
Chances are you'll do this already, but talk about your child in the context of the new baby, not just how awesome the baby will be. Let them get excited about the things they'll get to do and how special it is to be a big sibling. Basically, kids are egotistical AF (by design) so make this about them as much as you can. Give them space to voice their anxieties, too, and don't take them personally.
Indulge In Their Mood Swings A Little Bit
Lots of kids will get moody on either end of getting a new brother or sister. Don't take this personally, but give them space to talk about their feelings and, while you don't have to tolerate shenanigans, understand that they're very normal and not indicative that your kid is maladjusted or destined to hate their sibling.
Realize They Will Be Fine
Seriously, so, so fine. Let go of all the Mommy Guilt, because it has never served anyone but the powers that be that want to keep us down! Your child will adjust, you will adjust, and your newborn will be awesome.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.