Fortunately I haven't seen this too often, but it is something that really annoys me. It's the whole second baby syndrome. Symptoms include:
- Over-compensating with an unusual amount of attention to the first born
- A significant amount of gifts for the first born
- Anxiety so thick you can slice the air with a knife when the first born comes to the hospital to meet second born
- First born flailing and crying and generally fussing when he realizes that he is not the only one getting attention in the room
And I've met some women who say that they know they'll love their second baby but can't imagine how they could love another child after several years of loving their first born, especially when that is where all their attention was going for several years. Fortunately, most don't do what I witnessed during my last shift at work (on the dreaded postpartum unit).
A woman I'll call Mary gave birth to her second child, a son. Her first born, named Bobby, was 5 years old. A good age, I think, for a child to be excited and have a fairly good understanding about a new baby. When I first went in to see Mary on my morning rounds, she immediately began nervously talking about Bobby coming later that day. Bobby, you see, was refusing to acknowledge that a new baby boy was joining their family. Mary said that Bobby has been the only child in their entire family...including the extended family, and he was very spoiled. He got attention like there was no tomorrow, got things as he pleased, and Mary had even decided to stop working so that she could spend one on one time with him everyday. Apparently he could not tolerate not being with his mother. Mary was very tearful when telling me that her husband reported that Bobby had a meltdown when she didn't come home the previous night, and when it was explained to him that it was because she was in the hospital with the new baby he went into a rage that could not be calmed with candy, ice cream, toys, or a trip to the store for new toys.
You see where this was going, I'm sure.
Mary said that she and her family had spent months preparing for the very moment Bobby would walk into the hospital room and meet the baby. They decided the best approach was to have every single family member be there. So early that afternoon family started to pile into the room. There were some coordinated phone calls between Mary and her husband to say who was there, where they were sitting, and what was Bobby and the husband's ETA.
The tension in that room while they were all waiting was making me uncomfortable. And then came the knock on the door. A few held their breath as Bobby arrived. At this point I was anticipating someone place a crown on his head and roll out a red carpet. Instead everyone just squealed with delight at his arrival and gave him hugs and kisses.
Oh, it would be important to know that it was decided among the family that when Bobby arrived that the new baby be left in the crib untouched and out of the way. No one was to hold the baby until Bobby seemed "okay" with everything.
At this point I left, but needed to go back shortly after. Bobby was standing in the middle of a present pile as high as his head and surrounded with shredded wrapping paper. Just then one of the grandmothers handed him a gift and said, "And this one is from the baby."
Again, the tension and the breath-holding was at an all time high. Mary was almost in tears while she waited to see what he would do.
"I don't want it!" he screamed. And this sent all the family in a scurry around the room, saying things like, "Where should we put it?" and "We need to get it out of sight!"
Are you kidding me? Really, are you kidding me? The new baby, meanwhile, laid quietly in his crib and never woke or made a peep. I sure hope that he gets used to being quiet and on the fringe of the family because clearly Bobby was calling all the shots.