"The big news is that M. is going to be a big sister," wrote an online friend whose child, like Max, had a stroke. "I'm due in spring and they're monitoring the baby closely. We're excited, but anxious, which leads me to my question: What are some good methods to make sure neither kid is being neglected? During the newborn phase, I don't want M. to feel left out. And as the new baby gets older and realizes how much extra help M. needs/gets, I'm scared of that child feeling shoved to the side. Any advice would be welcomed."
I get worrying about what the future holds (boy, do I get it). But as I told my friend, "You will figure it out as you go along, same as you've figured out parenting a kid with special needs." Besides, it's impossible to know what a kid's reactions will be to a new sibling—or how that sibling will ultimately feel about having a brother or sister with special needs.
When Sabrina was born, Max was 25 months old. He was never jealous of her, possibly because at first he thought she was a toy doll. He liked sitting beside me when I nursed her. He got his own special cuddle time, and I did my best to stick with his usual bedtime TLC. Keeping routines in place really helped Max through the newborn cry-eat-poop-nap-cry chaos, I think. Besides, given that Max still needed plenty of his own care at that age, one of us was always dressing him, playing with him, feeding, bathing him, changing him, you name it. He was the opposite of neglected! He also got lots of love from my mom and sister, who regularly visited.
Eventually, Dave and I each started doing activities alone with Sabrina to give her extra attention. Last weekend, she and Dave went skiing for the day. In a couple of months, I'm taking her to an Alvin Ailey dance performance. And when Max has a weekend program, the three of us have brunch. We discuss Sabrina's feelings about Max; we want her to speak up if she's ever feeling resentful. (She's currently reading Out of My Mind, a book about a girl with cerebral palsy, and it's sparked a lot of good conversation.) Plus we've enrolled her in workshops for siblings of kids with special needs, including ones run by SibShops.
Honestly, juggling both kids' needs over the years has been relatively easy compared to what I went through after Max was born. I've often felt nothing will ever be as challenging as that time in my life. So, my friend, I'll say it again: You've got this.
Do you have suggestions to help allay this mom's concerns?