When Aleks and I learned that we were pregnant for the second time, Adi was one of our top concerns. We tried to imagine how it would be for him. From having his parents’ attention and affections all to himself to suddenly having to share those with somebody else. We knew it would not be easy. And it wasn’t. Still isn’t at times.
We started praying about this as early as the beginning of our second pregnancy. We also read up and asked about other parents’ experiences of preparing a firstborn to welcome a sibling. Some of what we did included explaining to Adi that Mommy had a baby in her tummy and that the tummy would grow bigger and bigger. We also brought him with us during prenatal check-ups. (Mainly because we didn’t have anybody to babysit him most of the time. This turned out to be a heart prep step too.) He would hear the OB’s explanation of the pregnancy progress, and also listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Adi was also with us on all the ultrasound sessions, including the one where we found out we were having a girl! He saw the images of Lara growing in utero, and we tried to tell him that that was his sister on the monitor.
Someone advised us to get a gift for Adi to be given when he meets his new sibling for the first time. The gift would symbolize his brand new status as a Kuya. We liked that idea. Upon a friend’s advise, we requested family and friends who were visiting us at the hospital or at home to greet and give attention to Adi first before they dote on newborn Lara. The principle behind this is that the newborn has yet to appreciate the visitors’ attention, while the firstborn already has understanding and experience of being given attention. It would not help if the firstborn would be ignored (even for just a few minutes) because everybody was busy looking at the newborn. We deeply appreciate our family and friends who complied with this notice.
So yes, we did all these and some more. And yet Aleks and I know that it was still very challenging for Adi when Lara finally came.
The first time Adi saw Lara, she was in the bassinet in our hospital room. Adi was both curious and tentative. He kept on looking at her general direction even while playing around the room. When we brought Lara home, Adi was all smiles but we noticed his unease at times. Aleks asked him if he wanted to give Lara a welcome home gift. He responded by putting one of his newer cars in a box and gave it to Lara as soon as we got home. We saw genuine joy in Adi when Lara was brought home.
However, a couple of hours after coming home, Adi had a major meltdown. He was inconsolable for several minutes. He couldn’t really say why he was crying when we asked him. We just let him cry. Aleks and I knew that the dam that held all of Adi’s mixed emotions the past days had burst. While Aleks band I were in the hospital for labor and delivery, Adi had to be left to our family’s care. He made do with FaceTime with Daddy and Mommy on the mornings that he was with Tita B and Tita Nest, and Lolo Jun and Lola Gina. He tried to understand why Aleks and I didn’t come home with him the day he left the hospital after a visit. He tried to grasp the fact that his sister was already out. He managed his emotions with all the might a 2-year old toddler could muster. And so when his dam of emotions broke, we let him cry. I also cried (sobbed, even) with him.
Of course the adjustments transitioning to being a family of four continue. While Aleks and I try to manage a household with a newborn and a toddler, Adi is trying his best to enfold Lara into his world. And there have been a lot of instances that he surprises Aleks and me in amazing ways.
One of those times was when he altogether stopped comfort-latching after I talked to him about it. You see, when I went into labor, Adi wasn’t completely weaned yet. I tried several ways to wean him over the course of several months. Nothing made him wean completely. So I was sort of bracing myself for tandem-feeding once Lara arrived. In the hospital after delivery, the lactation consultant advised that I let Lara get exclusive access to my breastmilk for 2 whole weeks. This would allow her to get all the colostrum and important primary nutrients she needed as a newborn. After that, should Adi still want to latch, I could do tandem-feeding. And so when we got home and Adi hinted about latching, I talked to him about the two-week exclusive feeding that Lara needed. He was silent for a while and then said, “Okay.” After that, he never latched again. I would sense some envy when he would see Lara nursing, but Adi would distract himself by playing or going to his Daddy. Now, when Lara cries and I’m out of the room, he would go to me and say that Lara might need to feed because she’s crying. He gave way to Lara in terms of breastfeeding, and he did so completely.
Then there are times when I would remind him to keep the noise to a minimum when he’s playing and I’m putting Lara to sleep or Lara is already sleeping. One time, he was trying to play with his toy cars quietly while Lara was asleep. Once Lara started waking up, he went to her to check. When he was sure that she was finally awake, he ran to his toys and said, “Yehey! Pwede nang noisy!” I was laughing out loud. I imagined the self-control he employed while his sister was sleeping. And to finally be allowed to play without minding the sounds of his cars, what joy!
When Adi was just beginning to learn how to talk, Aleks and I started seeing that he is growing to be a sweet, thoughtful boy. That only became more and more evident with the coming of Lara. It’s a normal scenario in our house to see Adi pausing in the middle of playing or watching video to plant a kiss or two on Lara’s cheeks. He also likes saying, “Ang cute mo, Lara!” and “I want to check Lara.” He also has all sorts of plans for when Lara is already big. He’d say, “Kapag big na si Lara, punta kami sa airport tapos sakay kami sa airplane!” If asked where the two of them will go, he’d say, “Sa MRT!” Go figure 😅
Also worth mentioning is the many times that Adi would just sigh deeply and work on going back to sleep while Lara shatters the silence with her screaming cries, in the middle of the night or during nap times. I could sense the way Adi is managing his own mood. Although it’s exhausting to manage, I try my best to understand him and be patient with him when his own patience runs out and he gives in to tantrums. Syempre nauubusan din sya ng pasensya. In times of meltdowns and he’s becoming unreasonable, I remind myself that Adi is only 2 years old. While necessary corrections and discipline are done, I pray for wisdom to also grant him the space to be his toddler self. It’s unfair to ask too much from him when he’s already giving so much consideration to his sister, and also to us, his parents.
They say that one of the best gifts parents can give a child is a sibling. In our daily grind at home, I am beginning to understand the truth in this. Adi is being molded into a loving, patient, kind, caring, thoughtful person by having Lara around.
And when Aleks and I suspected earlier on that Adi would make a great Kuya, God has proven our suspicion right. The Lord, in His goodness, has gifted Lara with a loving and caring Kuya Adi. What grace! Thank You, Abba!
Photo taken by Aleks