Monday, December 10, 2012


In January Leander will become a big brother. I had a lot of ideas and images in my mind on what it will be like being pregnant and having a toddler. And again I had to learn quite a few lessons over the past 34 weeks.

When we discussed that we want to have a second child and when that should be we had a few thoughts in mind. My own brother was 5 years older than me. A tad too old if you ask me, certainly if you want the two to play along when they are little. All I can remember is being a stone tied to my brothers legs until we were both teenagers and started to get along really well. But I certainly didn't want the second child to be born too early after the first either. I enjoyed watching Leander grow and develop so much that I wanted this exclusive time not just for him but for myself too. I figured that I wouldn't be able to sit and observe him the way I am still doing it. Until the age of 3 so many developmental milestones are happening - I just would not want to miss any of it. Or only be half present.

And there were a few practical things I had in mind. I had the idea of Leander being out of diapers so I would only have to change one child. And I wanted him to be able to walk most of the ways we are going daily himself. So I'd only have to push the pram and have a toddler walking next to me.

I also had the idea of Leander being this toddler that's all excited about his mommy being pregnant. About that little boy asking awkward questions about how the baby got into my belly and how it will get out. What it will look like and when it will finally come. And most importantly I wanted him to be able to communicate with words. So once the baby is here he'd be able to say that he wants her to "go away" rather than hitting her or throwing a tantrum. Because no - I am not as naive thinking that he might be all happy and excited about this new arrival. In fact - I would find that really worrying.

So yeah. Many thoughts and ideas that crossed my mind before I got pregnant for the second time.
And now - 34 weeks into this pregnancy I have learned a few lessons.

I do know that development just won't stop. But I am very glad to still be able to carefully watch and enjoy everything that is going on right now. Most of it is related to speech. Leander also started singing songs and counting randomly. I am laughing. A lot. With him. And about him, yes. I admit it. I try not to do so in front of him and when I can't stop I explain why I am laughing. It's just too funny the sentences he creates. The songs he sings back to front and upside down. Combining them withe the actions he learned in the creche. I am simply enjoying every minute I am spending with him.

Regarding the practical thoughts I had... well with a bit of clarity and the fact that I simply CAN'T pick Leander up anymore he is very cooperative with me. He does know that his dad is still able to carry him around and up and down the stairs so he gets this treatment on weekends. But when he is with me he walks. A lot. I am pushing the stroller home empty all the way from the creche. That means taking twice as long as we would if he'd be sitting in it but that's fine. If we would have the time in the mornings we could probably leave the whole thing behind us in general. But so far we are happily using it in the early, dark and cold winter mornings and will somehow figure out a way on how to do that once the baby is here.

The diaper is a story of its own. Over the past year I have read a lot into that topic and came to the simple conclusion that there is nothing I can do to speed up this process. Well - nothing I want to do. So much of it is related to his development physically and psychologically that we decided to completely follow his lead there. Right now this means that most of the days he walks around in underwear. Only sometimes he insists on wearing diapers in the mornings but will change into underpants at some point during the day. There are hardly any accidents. He knows where the potty is, what it is for and he uses it. Still he likes to wear diapers every now and then and if that gives him the feeling of security - fine by me. Because somehow I have the feeling that this is what he is asking for A LOT at the moment. Security. He needs constant reassurance of what is happening and when. That I will fully be with him once I've finished what I am doing. That we are there when he asks for us at night. What Dad is doing. Who is picking him up from the creche in the afternoon. And so on.
It's like this big ship out on the ocean, the coast line behind slowly vanishing but the one on the other side not visible yet. So he keeps holding tight to the coordinates he has for sure. Everything he can rely on he holds tight. May that be a diaper or the assurance that we won't leave him alone.

I believe that he is sensing the upcoming change now. How couldn't he? Baby clothes are moving in. Furniture get rearranged in the bedroom. I guess it's just something I hadn't thought about before. The stuff that is going on in his mind. The invisibility cloak his thoughts are wearing sometimes. The silence that covers what he is feeling and if we are not careful - wipes it out without being noticed. He will be a big brother. But still small and fragile.

The part with the excitement and joy, the awkward questions and everything? That never happened. This is something I had to swallow down and it tasted bitter. It was just this romantic picture I had in mind. But Leander is different. He is dealing with all that all by himself. Quietly. And what can I do? I won't sit down with him every day telling him about what's happening. How could I? Because to be honest - I don't know what to tell him. I don't know what it will be like with another baby around. I can't promise him anything else but to love him as much as I do now. I can't do more but be there and try and see what is going on inside him. Even saying things like "Yes, I am YOUR mommy" feels weird because it used to be followed by a "Your one and only mommy" which I don't say anymore.
And what would it change if he would be all excited and asking questions? Would that tell me anything about his reaction once the baby is here for real? No. Because this is difficult for us to grasp so how can he have the slightest idea of what it means "becoming a big brother"?

So that's the end of that. I am just mentioning the obvious and reading the Baby book with him when he asks for it. I will start preparing him for the big event once it is closer to the due date and we have figured out all emergency exits for him. Until then it's just us.

It feels a bit like the first Christmas with him. You know when you are all excited about the first Holiday season you are spending with your own child? When you imagine the shine and sparkle and their excited eyes over the presents? And the disappointment when you realize that they are simply too young and not getting what exactly is going on right now but instead get fuzzy because it's all a bit much? Yeah. This is a small percentage of how I felt when I figured that my thoughts and ideas were not quite what reality had to offer. With the slight difference that Christmas is over within a few days. Pregnancy and birth of a baby is just the beginning of this - obviously - unknown and mysterious journey we are facing right now. Scary. But at the same time highly exciting. Leander simply surprises us in many ways. Not just the fun ones. And we are growing on it. Somehow.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


When Leander was 10 months old we had the idea of moving him from the crib in a bigger and open bed. He kept banging legs, arms and head against the sides of the crib and we felt it's time for him to be able to climb in and out of his bed himself. 

So we went and bought a bunk bed. We put a mattress on the floor underneath and with curtains around this was a cosy "cave like" bed for him. We put part of the playpen on one end so he would not fall out too much during his sleep. He loved it from the very first minute.

But with a bed that children can climb in and out themselves there is the thought of what is going to happen - will they stay in when it's really bedtime or will they come out again?
By that time I still nursed Leander at bedtime. So I cuddled up with him in his bed, nursed him, then put him down and stayed with him until he was asleep. Shortly after I weaned him but kept staying with him until he was asleep. When my husband put him down for the night he did the same. And in no time we had created a habit of staying in bed with Leander until he was off in dreamland.

We somehow knew that we had taken a short cut for now but quite a detour in the long run. We raised the question of how to stop the habit once in a parent consultation group but never went ahead with the advice we got (being clear, leaving while he is awake, not quietly sneaking out). Instead we kept going and at some point enjoyed it. It was a time of day when we did nothing but lie in a dark room waiting for our son to fall asleep. No phone, no computer, no book. Nothing. Just us and our thoughts. It was nice. Sometimes.
But there were days when it took Leander forever to fall asleep. And we actually had plans on what to do that evening. Work. Read. Household. It happened more and more often that we fell asleep with (or even before) him, then woke up completely knackered without the energy to do anything. So we missed out on our "spare time".
There were days when we got really angry. Occasions where I cited the book title "Go the f*** to sleep" in my head over and over again. Or even told him to "go to sleep for heaven's sake now!" in not such a nice tone. He usually did go to sleep quite quick after an outburst like that but it felt terrible to end the day together like that.

Almost 2 years later it so happened that Leander started waking up during the night again. Frequently. I had no idea why. He wasn't ill and his teeth were all where they should be. When he did wake up one of us went into his room and simply curled up next to him in his bed and kept sleeping there for part or the rest of the night. Around the same time he needed us more and more in the evening. He wanted us to cuddle up next to him in his bed until he was asleep. He wanted our arms around him very tight. And asked for the same when he woke up in the middle of the night. And while I enjoyed the evening snuggles the nighttime wakings became more and more exhausting. My growing belly did not allow me to curl up just like that next to him anymore and my husband was tired of moving beds. And with the new baby arriving in Januray we figured that it was time for some major changes here. NOW.

My husband went to the parent consultation group we are currently visiting and raised the topic. When he got back we were ready to take on the challenge. And somehow much more convinced than ever before. Because what Daniela, who runs the group and who I am doing the Pikler foundation course with, mentioned the real problem behind everything that we just figured was becoming complicated. When staying with Leander in his bed until he sleeps, cuddling him and holding him - the focus is shifted. For him this is not about going to sleep, it's about some snuggle time with us. During which he just so happens to fall asleep. But in order for him to realize that this is his bed, that it is for sleeping and that sleeping in there all by himself is good and healthy it is important for him that we shift his focus back. So this is what we were gonna do.

The next day I was not at home but Jan went ahead with "the plan" anyway. During dinner he told Leander what was going to happen that night. What was gonna be different. He told him the whole routine and what would change. "Tonight after we read the books I will not come with you in your bed. I will stay a little while with you but I will sit in front of your bed. And then I will go to the living room. If you need me, I will be there for you."
Leander's response to that was a simple "No."

Jan went ahead anyway. After he read him several books he told him again what will be different now. And when Leander went into his bed and realized that in fact his Dad wasn't coming in he started to cry. Jan stayed with him and explained it again. Leander got quiet and Jan left the room. It didn't take long and Leander came back out. This time crying and asking for Mom. Surely if Dad was weird Mom would be all cuddly and normal. But Mom wasn't there so his Dad went back with him, sent him off to bed, stroke his head, waited a little and left. Again Leander started to cry. Jan went back in again and sat down with Leander again, explaining the whole thing all over until Leander eventually said: "Ok."
Jan left and Leander went to sleep.

the next morning Jan talked to Leander about the previous night. And what was new. And Leander listened and then said: "Important."
The next evening was similar to the first and then the next challenge arose. It was my turn to take him to bed. And to disappoint him - because suddenly I was as weird as Dad was behaving lately. So he cried again and I stayed and explained that this was important to all of us. I stayed until his crying stopped but left before he fell asleep. I can't say it was easy. I was sitting in front of his bed listening to him breathing and sucking his thumb. No more crying. All good to go but to find the moment to get up and LEAVE felt like leaving a whole lot more behind. But I knew how important it was, how much I wanted this to become honest and clear. So I got up and left. I had to go back in once when he started to cry again. I said down again and told him that we were not leaving him alone. That we were there whenever he needed us. That I understood that this was new to him and difficult to accept. But that I knew that he was capable of doing this. I stroke his head and kissed him. The crying had stopped. I left. And he fell asleep.

Day after day the crying period was shorter. But more than that - from the very first night we started this transition he slept through. And when he woke up in the morning he wasn't as tired and whiny as he used to be. He got up and started talking. He was happy and in a good mood. He was active and much more aware. All that convinced us that this was the right thing to do.

After only a week it was done. We left the room and that was that. This was when Jan told me that Daniela had said: "It might take a week for him to get used to it."

Two weeks later it might be fair to say that the transition is history. Yesterday during storytime Leander said: "Mama reading book. Then Mama come bed and cuddle. Then lights out and Mama living room. I sleep."
I told him that yes, this was how we were doing things now and that it was going much better this way because we all sleep much better now. He nodded.

Another thing that feels much better now is the leaving. It's not a case of quietly sneaking out hoping not to wake him. It feels honest and right.
His crying never felt desperate. It was crying because surely it wasn't something he would have decided just like that right now for himself. So we made sure he wasn't alone when he was crying. We allowed it all to come out. Allowed him to be frustrated or even angry. And at the same time we were clear and he felt that it was really important.

Still I'm not looking back thinking "We should have done this earlier..." or anything. I know we could have but somehow we weren't ready. We didn't see it important enough to really go after it and think about when and how. It was just important that when it wasn't bearable for either of us anymore we DID change the pattern. All together.