Have you ever felt like you were prepared for something, only to find out that everything you thought to be true about a situation wasn’t? Maybe you studied the wrong material for a test. Maybe you walked into a new social situation that was different than you expected. How did you feel when you were in this spot? Like the rug was pulled out from under you? Like a failure? This is how I felt when I brought home my 2nd child from the hospital.
Let me explain. I had been a mom for 19 months to a very strong-willed (i.e. difficult) child so, obviously, I was an expert (insert eye roll). My 2nd son was a dream baby! He slept decently. He only cried when he was hungry. He was a piece of cake compared to my first. What I didn’t expect was my oldest’s reaction to his new baby brother.
I don’t really know where I got the idea that we would instantly be one happy family. Maybe it was the pictures I saw people posting on social media showing their older children snuggling up to the baby with captions like “everyone’s favorite.” Maybe it was being around families where the older child was proud of the baby sibling and even a little protective. I asked for tips from people who also had 2 under 2 and was told things like “spend time with your older one when the baby is napping” and “have fun activities for your toddler to do while you nurse.” All good advice, by the way. No one told me that my toddler might have strong negative feelings toward the baby. That very well may be because those moms didn’t have that experience, but I sure did. And, sweet mama, I want to tell you my story just in case you are in the midst of this storm and feeling confused and alone like I did.
My toddler wanted nothing to do with the baby. He also didn’t want me to have anything to do with the baby. He threw a tantrum when I nursed and would try and pull the baby off of me. I would spend one on one time with him during the baby’s naps, he would immediately start to cry sweet alligator tears and cling to me when he heard the baby wake up. I was torn in two and it was a trying time for our family. I went around and around in my head on where I went wrong and what I could have done to cause him to feel this way. After much prayer and some distance from the situation, I realized that my toddler was just too young at 19 months to understand what was going on. As much as I had tried to prepare him and as much as I tried to explain, he just didn’t get it.
His face in this picture just embodies what those first few months were like in his world. He was confused. Life as he knew it had been turned upside down and he didn’t know how to process this.
This time in my life was like so many others, just a valley in a series of peaks. It was trying and heartbreaking but it had a happy ending. As the boys got older, Harrison grew more accepting and loving towards his baby brother. One morning I went to watch Harrison hunt Easter eggs at his Kid’s Day Out program. I was so thankful the baby was sleeping in his carrier so that I could focus all of my attention on Harrison. I set the carrier against the wall, but as soon as Harrison spotted his sleeping brother he exclaimed “Bubba!” and ran over to see him. He then wanted all of his friends to see him. I sat in the car before leaving crying tears of joy. It was a small step in the right direction. Now, even with their daily brotherly fights, these boys love each other and are the best of friends.
Even if this isn’t your struggle, I think there’s a lesson to be learned from my story. Life is full of seasons, some joyful and some trying, but it is just a season. If you are in a trying season, hang in there. Reach out for help. Pray. Take the time for some self-care. Keep your chin up and keep moving forward because your season may just be about to shift.