"You're gonna be such a good big sister!" friends would tell my toddler when they found out I was pregnant. Sadie would look at them and giggle, and I always laughed. Considering she didn't even know what a sister was at the time, nor did she have any interest in babies, I think I kind of always had a feeling that my toddler wouldn't take it so well when we brought her baby sister home. Turns out, I was totally right about that. My toddler is jealous of my newborn, her sister, and it's made for some really interesting experiences so far.
During my pregnancy, my toddler started to act out when I couldn't do everything she wanted me to do with her. I'm not sure if it was coincidentally timed — her terrible twos and my second pregnancy — but everything seemed to all happen at once. Even though she was always with me for the most part, she started getting super clingy. Since she still breastfed, her breastfeeding sessions started to pick up. She started throwing tantrums anytime we had to go anywhere, especially to school. If we had to walk somewhere, she'd absolutely refuse and insist that me and my growing belly carried her. It seemed the bigger my belly got, the closer she wanted to be to me.
After we brought her newborn baby sister home from the hospital, I could sense the shift in Sadie immediately. It hadn't helped that she'd been away from us for two nights for the first time in her three years of life, but as soon as we got home she wanted me and only me. Since she was still breastfeeding and I was now also breastfeeding a newborn, life became a thousand times more complicated almost overnight.
If we give the baby her toys, my toddler takes them away from her and puts them in her toy box, exclaiming, "my toy! Not baby's!"
When it came to "sharing boob," as we call it, Sadie absolutely didn't want to hear it. I would tandem breastfeed both my toddler and my newborn at the same time, and when her sister would move her feet even close to my eldest's proximity, Sadie would push her feet away. If the baby was done breastfeeding on one side, my toddler would want to breastfeed on that side then, too. She wanted all of the boobs. (And yes, I laughed even as I typed that.)
My toddler refused to eat whatever I cooked for her, and she'd literally never done that until we brought her sister home. But it's been three months since then and it's still a chore to get her to eat her meals.
It was also hard when it came to clothes, toys, and carseats. If we tried to dress the newborn, my toddler wanted her clothes, too. Even after we my husband and I explained they didn't fit anymore and held them up to her to show her, my toddler had to try and squeeze herself into them. If we give the baby her toys, my toddler takes them away from her and puts them in her toy box, exclaiming, "my toy! Not baby's!" And for awhile, my toddler would even try and curl up into the infant car seat, exclaiming, "My car seat!" It's both funny and completely irritating.
And let's talk gifts. Every time a friend or relative sent us gifts for the baby, they instantly became the toddler's gifts instead. We were always so grateful to those who sent both a gift for my toddler and my newborn so that Sadie would feel included. The behavioral issues continued even after we brought the baby home, naturally. My toddler refused to eat whatever I cooked for her, and she'd literally never done that until we brought her sister home. But it's been three months since then and it's still a chore to get her to eat her meals.
A few days ago, she woke up before me and the baby, and she crawled in my bed, kissed me on the cheek, and caressed her sister's head. I can't tell you how happy it made me to see her do that. I just remembering thinking, finally, she loves her.
Thankfully, since some time has passed, things have improved a lot. We've all fallen into a family routine we can live with. I stopped taking my toddler to school because that was where we were having the most trouble. I realized she felt like she was being pushed away, so, to make it easier on all of us, I pulled her out. And her tantrums have significantly improved since she's been home with me. Now she actually looks forward to leaving the house because she knows I'm not going to leave her anywhere.
She has even started calling her sister, "baby sister." She enjoys bath time with her, and if her sister isn't in the room with us, she asks where she is. A few days ago, she woke up before me and the baby, and she crawled in my bed, kissed me on the cheek, and caressed her sister's head. I can't tell you how happy it made me to see her do that. I just remembering thinking, finally, she loves her.
Being the first-born child is hard, and I can attest to this since I'm also a big sister. It's hard to share your parents' love. Now that I'm a mom, I can't help but feel some mom guilt about this. I always want my girls to know they're special and equally loved, and I totally get, when I was her age, I was probably mourning something the same way my toddler was. And just as rough as those first few weeks were on her, they were just as hard on me. Every time I had to turn her away when we first brought her sister home, I cried. I felt so guilty. It makes me wonder now if my mom felt the same way when she had my sister.
I know there will be years and years more jealousy between my toddler and my newborn, and eventually the roles will reverse. My newborn is going to grow up to be a little girl and she's going to want to be just like big sister. And when that happens, Sadie will want more autonomy and freedom than to be chased around by her little sister. But even knowing all of this, I still hope that, one day, they'll be best friends. Honestly, that's all I want for my daughters.