labor nurse has been reborn and shares her experiences as a new nurse-midwife, woman, and blogger

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Second Baby

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
Now I know that introducing a new baby into a family can be stressful. Hell, I even remember when my brother was brought home back when I was three. I had the vague concept of a baby lurking around in the hospital, but felt a bit displaced once the realization of that baby in the house was staying. But I also don't think much fuss was made about it by either my parents or myself. Perhaps my mother would say differently, I don't know.

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.


Melody said...

wow. I can't even imagine that. I was a little nervous as to how our son would react when we brought te twins home but that is outrageous. He did great. I can't imagine catering to a child that way. (then again I am #4 of 6 and our oldest son is grandchild #11 on one side and #3 on the other.) So he's always been surrounded by kids.

Jenny said...

I feel so sorry for the new baby. :(

Joanne said...

I've never understood why some women worry if they will love the second child as much as the first one. There is no limit on how much, or how many people, you can love! Why do people think there is?

Anonymous said...

i'm not above telling my kiddos "tough titty said the kitty...."

cause seriously...

i'd like to say that for our family, having roan there for the birth made all the difference. any other child that i held roan would be unsure of.

willem was born, and immediately in my arms. just a few minutes later i asked for roan to be sat on my lap and he patted the baby, and hugged the baby and all seemed fine. since then, all has gone well.

who knows. of course we always encouraged Roan to be gentle, loving, hugging, kissing and so on. and if he ever clunked the baby or threw a fit it was to time out for him. but whatever.

i gave up knowing all the answers after i had my first.

Mom said...

What a spoiled brat Bobby sounds like!!

Iris said...

I've heard of getting gifts for the 1st born and telling him/her about his/her new sibling in advance. But this....? How is Bobby going to cope when his baby brother comes home? The family cannot neglect the new baby forever. I sure hope things work out with this family.

Amy said...

Ok, you're right, this family sounds over-the-top. But having had the first niece and grandchild in a doting family, I can tell you that I experienced more than a little anxiety about bringing a second child into her little kingdom, myself. And I'm relatively sane...

People were very kind, and when they brought gifts for the baby, they brought gifts for my oldest, too. It wasn't by any special request, though. Mainly they were adults who had been oldest children, themselves! Empathy.

In the early days, when the baby slept all the time, I was worried about paying all my attention to my first child, and the second child being an afterthought for the rest of her life. After all, at 19 months, the older one just required more work! But now that the younger one is 19 months and at that "handful" stage, and big sis is 3, things are quite even. Her first word was "mine." :)

Give the new little boy a chance. He'll find a way to navigate through that family, and it sounds like his birth is the best thing that could happen to Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Amy @

razorbackmama said...

Good HEAVENS. THIS RIGHT HERE is what is wrong with America today.

I can safely say that the 2nd baby is definitely NOT the problem with Bobby....

Anonymous said...

Poor baby, yeah, but poor older child too! This Bobby already has such a horribly skewed perspective of the world, that will be impossible to sustain, unless he's married into the Hilton family or something. Being sensitive to the feelings of others is one thing, but *this* is over the top! The mom is doing her "beloved" son no favors at all, and is making the world worse for him every day she keeps it up. The sooner he enters some semblance of reality, the better -- and maybe this baby will be just the one to do it.

I can dream, can't I? :-)


Kitty said...

OMG this sounds like the family made the situation worse.Like the child can't tell that he is receiving all this extra attention because of this new baby-they are just teaching him to act upset about the new baby so he receives more attention.A vicious cycle.And the poor new baby.

THAT GIRL said...

That is FUNNY. Oh. My. I can't even imagine... well, maybe I could. What's really bad is when I have a patient who is the spoiled baby, and then has a baby and she realizes it's not all about HER anymore... those temper fits are the worst. Nothing like a baby who's momma resents him because he stole her thunder.

Marie-Baguette said...

incredible story. In another note, it pisses me off when there is let's say a birthday party and you are supposed to bring presents to the sibling as well because otherwise he/she gets jealous. WTF?

Renee said...

This reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode where the little boy can control things. Everyone has to be totally agreeable to him and he eventually turns someone into a jack-in-the-box. How awful! Razorbackmomma, I totally agree!

Anonymous said...

Oh good grief! My first two daughters were always THRILLED to meet the next new baby. We did give a little token gift (a single serve bag of cookies) to our first born when the second arrived...but were too busy to bother when #3 arrived.

#3 was the first one to have "sibling jealousy." He studiously ignored his younger brother for about 2 weeks--as if the baby would disappear if he ignored him long enough. He was just shy of 2 when #4 came along. He did eventually come around, and now they usually sleep together in the same bed.

I'm now expecting #5, and all the older kids are excited (my daughters, now 8 & 10, are actually sleeping with baby dolls again because we co-sleep and they seem to think they need to practice so that they can co-sleep with the baby...umm, sorry, baby will want to stay with mommy since mommy has the milk supply), talking to my belly, suggesting completely unreasonable names...all the appropriate stuff.

TJWriter said...

That is insane!

I'm not so much worried that number #1 will be a problem so much as I am worried that she will smother her sister trying to love on her so much.

Now, #1 will be getting a gift for the new baby, and Baby Sister will be getting a present for #1, but I'm looking along the lines of a special big sister t-shirt and special big sister photo frame for their first picture together. That should be plenty.

Basiorana said...

Yikes. I don't remember when my brother was born but according to my parents, they just explained that it was his "birthday" and lots of people would come and give him presents. I'd been to birthday parties before so I knew what to expect. Not that hard.

THAT GIRL said...

i can't even top that.
very. scary.

Nicole D said...

oh. my. gosh. Are you kidding me?!?!

We have 5. For the first 3 years, our firstborn was the one and only. She was doted on, spoiled, whatever you want to call it.

BUT, when we got pregnant, we told her another baby WAS coming to live with us. Mommy and daddy loved her TONS and would love this new baby TOO. When she threw tantrums, we did a similar 'tough titty' routine. It was NOT condoned or allowed.

We also allowed her to be as much a part of the pregnancy/birth as she wanted - but when it came down to it, we said that, if she wanted me/daddy to hold her, she would have to come and sit on our lap while we held the new baby.

JD said...


There are just no words.......

Ciarin said...

Wow - funny. That child would have never survived around here. My kids, ok with the exception of the youngest (who's maybe a touch more spoiled than the older two), have been taught to be independent. After all, I had them to serve me, not the other way around. You know, go get me a glass of water, bring me a book, etc. *giggles*