Our older boys both adjusted well when their younger siblings were born. Our oldest was, by far, the most flexible. He was a little over three, as self-sufficient as a 3-year-old could be, and change didn’t bother him. His little brother was induced, so we knew when it would happen and everyone was adequately prepped and taken care of. Honestly, at that time my largest concern was whether or not my in-laws would remember how much and when to feed the dog.
Our second born was also an easily adapting little boy. He was scheduled, but made his own schedule. If he was tired, he didn’t let little things get in the way of his sleep schedule. If he was hungry, he’d tell you. He preferred his home sleep environment, but other than that he was quite easily adjusted. I had early labor at home with our third for almost 36 hours – and a doctors appointment the morning of his actual delivery – so we knew he was coming. Had their things prepared, were able to brief the grandparents on their needs/wants and I felt confident in our plan.
Both of the older two had no significant reaction after their younger sibling was born. They enjoyed the new addition, adapted well to new schedules and habits.. And neither had any jealousy or resentment. It was a smooth transition.
Now here we are, attempting to prepare for the delivery of baby number four – and realizing things are much more complicated. Two of our kids in school during the week. There are now three of them.. But most of all, the complexities of our youngest make this process very hard to plan.
As I’ve mentioned, our toddler has some pretty significant physical, but mostly developmental, delays and disabilities. Some have specific labels attached to them (Sensory Processing Disorder, Speech Delay, Hypotonia) and others are yet to be labeled as their underlying cause is unknown. This had brought new priorities to the way we prepare for this arrival.
He doesn’t communicate well. The average person only understands about 30% of what he says. He doesn’t deal with change well.. At all. He requires structure. He has severe anxiety, especially around people and situations that are new to him – he also has sensitivities to noise and touch. When his anxiety kicks in, he simply shuts down. He’ll stand there and stare off into nowhere while his little body trembles and shakes. Then he covers his eyes and ears and eventually begins to scream in a panic. He also gets physically exhausted quickly resulting in muscle weakness – he will require constant supervision to prevent falls and injury in these situations.. and may need held or carried.
His routine must be followed completely or it will fail. Bedtime must be completed the same way every time. He even has a routine for the way his diapers get changed. He doesn’t do loud noise or busy environments well.. This means taking him out shopping or to a restaurant isn’t an option without one of us present to know how to counter-react to his stresses. And, food. His Sensory Processing Disorder has had the biggest impact on the food front. He is VERY particular about what he will eat, and fighting him or trying to force him to eat something will not go over well.
Finding someone capable of caring for him – someone he is comfortable with and someone who understands him – is proving very difficult. Until a month ago, he only ever let two people besides my husband and myself hold him.. They are close friends and don’t push his boundaries. He’s recently added one grandparent to that equation.. But it took a lot of work.
Our work with him doesn’t stop at just finding a solution for when our newest baby is actually born, but we need to also consider the process of adjusting after baby is born. When the routine changes. The schedules don’t align. Mommy and daddy must be shared with a new attention stealer. The loud noise of baby cries. Another car seat in the car. It will impact every single one of his very rigid specifications. Well, except for the food aspect.. At least we’ve got that on our side! (As long as I make sure my pantry and fridge are well stocked..)
To say I’m getting nervous about adapting a special needs child to the changes of a new sibling and the process of that new sibling arriving is an understatement. An entirely different process than I’m used to. We got ourselves so accustomed to the way things are for him now.. I’m scared I won’t be able to accommodate things properly. That somehow this will cause a regression for him.
We’ve bought him a baby, we’re talking through everything with him, he knows which items in the house are for new baby and which items are for him to play with.. We read him books about becoming a big brother and having new babies in the house.. But I’m well aware of the impact the new and unknown has on him – and perhaps I am preparing (… Or trying to prepare..) for the worst.