One of my favorite things about being pregnant for the second time is sharing the experience with my young son. We’ve read books, gone shopping for baby clothes, looked at ultrasound pictures, and enjoyed countless conversations about the baby and about his new, extremely important role as a big brother. However, his dad and I are being extra careful, too. We don’t want to overwhelm him, or bring up specific details he’s not yet ready for. That’s why I’ve come up with a few simple rules for talking to my kid about my pregnancy.
Granted, my son is not yet 3 years old, so he doesn’t exactly have a lot of conversations with people we don’t trust to be able to handle this kind of thing. Still, even trusted adults can put one of their well-meaning feet in their mouths sometimes (and in case you’re wondering, yes, “even trusted adults can put one of their well-meaning feet in their mouths sometimes” is a potential title for my upcoming memoir so please don’t steal it).
Plus, these adults don’t always spend a ton of time around kids my son’s age, or my son in particular, so they may not have a clear sense of what he is and isn’t ready for, or if concepts like “placenta smoothies” are fair game. So, in case you’re looking for a little guidance, here are some suggestions:
Please Take Your Cues From His Parents
If only there were people you could check in with to determine how to best interact with that tiny person, right? If only there were people you could ask to see if it’s cool to talk about epidural needles and emergency c-sections, or if you should stick to swaddle blankets and bottles. Oh, wait. There totally is. It's us, his parents.
Please Don’t Try To Predict How Life Will Or Won’t Change For Him
I know, I know: it’s tempting to say innocent things like, “Mom and Dad are going to be busy when baby arrives." But, seriously, I’d rather you didn’t. We’re introducing these concepts slowly and surely and, yes, some of them would go over just fine, but some of them might not. Honestly, I’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to my kid.
Please Don’t Tell Him What He Will Or Won’t Have To Do When The Baby Arrives
No, we don’t have a specific potty-training goal for him to reach before his sibling arrives. We’re not going to force him turn over any of his beloved toys or books, or give up his room, or do anything else that thing else he might not be ready for simply because we think it’d be easier for us. Are we going to encourage him to share, and to help with baby-related chores, and to love his sibling? Of course. But it’s on us to figure out how to facilitate that.
Please Refrain From Anything That Could Be Confusing Or Scary For Him
There’s a fine line between keeping him informed and giving him TMI. I mean, he’s 2 years old. We’re not in the habit of lying to him or keeping him in the dark unnecessarily, but we’re also not exactly pulling out medical textbooks and showing him diagrams, either. It’s my job, and his dad’s job, to manage that kind of information and not anyone else’s, so please hold off on graphic details at this point.
Please Don’t Make Assumptions About Our Birth Plan…
To be fair, I felt this way during my first pregnancy, too. Birth plans are personal, as are the ideas we have about how we’ll expose our son to that process.
To be honest, it’s not even ready yet, anyway, and hearing you talk about it makes me feel stressed.
...Or How Much He Will Or Won’t Be Present For Any Part Of It
I know some parents want to include their older kids in the delivery room. Some parents don’t even want their kids in the same building. I have a feeling I know what my partner and I are going to pick, but since I can assure you my son is not thinking about it yet, I’d prefer it not be brought up until everyone is ready to discuss it.
Please Don’t Prompt Him To Interact With My Bump
It’s kind of hard to continue teaching him about personal boundaries and bodily autonomy if people were to encourage him to touch my stomach all the damn time. I know, yes, it’s adorable to see an almost-3 year old hug his mom’s pregnant belly, but it’s also not really up to anyone else to decide when it should happen.
Please Don’t Get Too Technical
OK, I know that the baby is technically in my uterus and not my “tummy,” but my son doesn’t really need that level of detail just yet. He often surprises me with how sharp he is and how much he picks up, but that doesn't mean he's ready for a seventh-grade health lesson on reproduction. Again, he's two.
Please Feel Free To Tell Say That He’s Going To Be An Awesome Big Brother
Um, because he is going to be an awesome big brother. That’s a truth universally known, so feel free to shout it from the rooftops. He loves climbing things these days, so he’ll probably be right up there with you.