Tuesday, February 24, 2015

(Difficult) Transition to Big Brother

When I was pregnant, people often asked about W and if he was ready to be a big brother.  I was never sure how to answer.  W knew baby was in my tummy.  He knew baby's name, baby's room, baby's toys.  But was he ready?  I always told those who asked that I was really nervous about his transition to big brother.  I'd explain that W was very close to me and that I expected him to have a tough time adjusting.  He just wasn't used to sharing me.  And although he knew "baby", he didn't understand that baby would be a permanent member of our family.

Nearly every time I explained my worries, I'd hear, "He'll be just fine."  "Make sure he helps with baby; keep him involved."  "Be sure to set aside time for just the two of you."  It sounded so easy.  The only time I didn't hear, "everything will be just fine" was from my mom and a good friend.  According to my mom, I had a very hard time adjusting to the arrival of my brother (apple didn't fall far from the tree there) and a dear friend told me to be prepared for W to act out and test boundaries.

Maybe people were just hoping for the best.  Maybe they hadn't experienced a sibling having trouble adjusting.  Maybe they were just being nice.  I'm not sure.  But their responses implied that W would easily transition to his big brother role and life would continue as it always had - there'd just be a baby added to the mix.

So when W had an epic 20+ minute screaming fit on the very day we arrived home from the hospital, it caught me off guard.  I felt alone.  And I had no idea what to do or how to make W feel better.

I knew in my heart that W would have a tough time.  I just wasn't sure what that would look like.  I expected some resentment towards little brother, but all the resentment he harbored was towards A and me.  This is actually a good thing... I think.  But also incredibly hard.  That first day we were home, W wanted me to pick him up.  I couldn't.  Carrying a 30 pound toddler 3 days after a c section is highly discouraged.  I told W he could sit by me.  A offered to pick him up.  Neither of those options were acceptable and W proceeded to have a screaming meltdown that I've never experienced before.  He cried and screamed, "mommmmyyyy uppppp!"  It broke my heart.  He had rarely had tantrums prior to this and this was not a typical tantrum.  He was hurt.  And emotional.  I'd never heard him scream like that.  And there just isn't any way to explain to a 2 year old why you can pick up the new baby, but not him.

W's had quite a few tantrums since then.  And they always have to do with me.  I won't pick him up, I'm feeding S and W doesn't want to wait for me, etc.  He's been extremely clingy.  Only mom can change his diapers, hold him, pick him up (I ended up picking him up way sooner than I was supposed to - like 4 days after c section.  Stupid.  But I was desperate to make him feel better.).  He wants to sit on my lap during dinner and not in his high chair.  He wakes in the night and cries for me.  He follows me throughout the house and always has to be near me.  If A tries to help, W has a meltdown and tells A to go away.  It's exhausting.  And mentally draining.  And then I question if I'm spending enough time with S since W has been so needy.

And for the record, W helps with S all the time and I spend tons of one on one time with him.  The advice I received from everyone hasn't seemed to have much of an impact on W.

I never expected it to be this hard.  I've never questioned my parenting abilities as much as I have in the past 2 weeks.  I cried for 5 days straight after arriving home.  I've never doubted myself more.

I try to remain calm and not get frustrated, but I'm human.  And after W has had a tantrum, thrown the remote, a toy train, and a book, I'm ready to lock myself in the bathroom... except, W has actually figured out how to open a locked door.

Since that first day, things have gotten better.  We seem to take two steps forward and one step backwards, BUT at least we're making progress.  We even had 3 really good days in a row (followed by a really horrible day - BUT progress nonetheless).

I'm no expert, obviously.  In response to W's behavior, we've been ignoring the negative behavior for the most part.  When W tantrums, he often throws himself on the floor and bangs his head on purpose.  And he bangs his head hard - on the wood floor, on the wood table, against the wall.  It's disturbing.  The pediatrician told us he'd stop because it hurt.  Umm, no.  It hasn't stopped.  W is very stubborn.  I'll try to move him to a carpeted area and let him cry/scream until he eventually calms down.  One thing I can't ignore is throwing.  To me, that's a safety issue and I don't want him to throw something and hurt someone.  So when that happens, he gets a time out.  Consequently, he's gotten more time outs in the past two weeks than he has in 2 years.

I have to be very careful how I respond to W.  A reminds me often that he's very sensitive (again, apple didn't fall far from the tree).  On one occasion, he tripped over a curling iron cord after holding onto my legs and demanding upppp.  I gasped.  I wasn't mad at him, but concerned that the curling iron would fall and burn him.  I think W thought he was in trouble and had a meltdown.  I've learned to be more careful about how I respond to situations that involve him.

We give tons and tons of praise when W helps with S or exhibits any type of positive behavior.  I also tell S that he has to wait because I'm helping W - hoping this shows W that he's not always the one who has to wait for mom.  I point out all the things W gets to do as a big boy that S cannot do.

Every day seems to bring a new challenge.  Things are slowly getting better.  I'm hopeful that things will return to normal sooner rather than later.

On the bright side, W is really good with S.  He'll bring the pacifier to him and offer toys.  He throws away S's diapers, picks out S's pajamas, outs a blanket on him, and helps with baths.  I've seen him walk by S and say "Hi, S."  I'm really thankful for that.

I'm not writing this to be whiny or complainy.  I realize these boys are gifts.  Incredible gifts that I'm so grateful for.  I really never expected the third round of IVF to work and I still can't believe I'm lucky enough to parent these boys.  But I do want other moms to know that the transition to older sibling isn't always easy.  I really feel like people completely downplayed the transition and scoffed at me when I mentioned my concerns.  I wasn't prepared for W's tantrums and constant need for my attention.  This has been a learning experience for all of us.

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