When I was expecting my second baby I heard a lot about how my older son would be jealous of this new baby, the classic story of the child asking, "when is he leaving?" I laughed it off and thought it was adorable. Then my baby came. I got a new toy for my older son and told him it was from his little brother, let him hold his brother and kiss his brother, everything was going to be perfect.
But early on I realized that it's actually quite terrifying to have a rambunctious 3 year old and a newborn (especially in a tiny SF apartment). My older son, for the most part, always acted in a loving way but it's hard for a 3 year old to know his own strength and understand a baby's delicacy. I was quite on edge; I knew yelling at him or punishing him for touching the baby too roughly would not foster the relationship I dreamed about for my sons or help my older son to accept this usurper, though this is what I often found myself doing. I also quickly realized that when I did lose my cool, my older son got a reaction and attention from me, and I think he liked that and it drove him to see how he could get that reaction from me again. I was very unsure of how to manage all of our feelings and physical space. I felt bad for the baby because he was so helpless and his brother would insist on poking him, pinching him and a couple times hitting him (luckily nothing ever got to a point where the baby was hurt, which is why I knew this was more of a way for my older son to tell me, "I want your attention and I'm sick of this baby getting all your attention!"). I felt bad for my older son because he was driving me crazy and all I wanted to do was cuddle with my snuggly newborn. And I felt guilty for not wanting to spend time with my older son and would then wonder if we had made a huge mistake in having a second child. It was exhausting (on top of being exhausted because I just had a baby)! There was also lots of love and cuddles, it wasn't all bad all the time, but I was obsessed with shutting down this behavior and didn't enjoy the special times as much.
This is the dilemma I brought to Caroline. How do I protect the baby and make sure the baby feels respected, while also honoring my older son's feelings of displacement and frustration? Or was I completely overreacting? The greatest gift that Caroline gave to me was her ability to listen, question and listen some more while I processed all my feelings on managing this. She reassured me that my feelings were valid and even if I was "overreacting" I couldn't just make those feelings go away. One of my biggest takeaways was the need to be proactive and not reactive. Caroline suggested doing "special time" with my older son, where he gets my undivided attention (no baby, no cell phone, no dishes, no laundry) just 15 minutes of him directing me and loving it. The ability for him to see he is still the center of my universe for those 15 minutes went a long way. He was reassured that there will always be space and love for him, it's not all about the baby.
But there were still those "in the moment" times, where he would poke the baby and I would want to scream. Caroline helped me find strategies that I could use instead of giving him the big reaction I wanted to release. Instead of staying, "Stop poking the baby in the face!" I say, "Touch his feet." I also use "sportscasting" to help him be aware of his body, "You're jumping close to the baby." This often is enough for him to move away. I truly believe he gets caught up in the moment and isn't fully in control of his body and movements, it sometimes just takes that outside voice. Lastly, and most importantly, Caroline reassured me that even when I mess up and lose my cool, I can repair the situation and apologize. It's impossible to be the perfect mom all the time but I am able to acknowledge that I had messed up and apologize to my son and not be so hard on myself.
My work with Caroline allowed me to get out of my head and enjoy this special time. I felt like I was constantly on edge when I had both boys together. Through talking with Caroline and implementing the strategies I was able to relax and let their relationship develop in a safe and loving way. I'm still not perfect, the baby still gets poked once in a while, my older son has meltdowns but I'm better equipped to deal with things and feel more confident. It's incredibly empowering to be heard and not judged, especially as a mother; I was too in my head and feeling guilty about my feelings. Caroline gave me the space to work through those feelings and helped to develop a practical plan. Having baby number 2 was the best decision we ever made!
Caroline's genuine warmth is immediately apparent and infuses every interaction with her; she gracefully provides safe ground in the tender and dizzy spaces of mother/parenthood. My daughter and I had the fortune of her warmth and support through an 8-week mom's group and an in-house coaching session, and in each venue her compassion and clarity helped me feel connected with and at ease. Her gentle guidance has helped me explore and refine my inner strength and resources as a new mother. I am deeply grateful for her presence in our lives and for that wise twinkle in her eyes.