A swift karate kick to my stomach was how Little Miss C responded when we first told her that there was a baby in there. I was three months pregnant and she was 21 months old at the time. It wasn't quite the reaction we expected, but then again you just can't always guess how children are going to respond to things.
She's always been very inquisitive and picks up on lots that is going on around her so we decided to tell her as soon as we'd had the 12 week scan. A simple sentence of "there's a baby in mummy's tummy" seemed to be enough for her to realise what was going on. She kept coming back to it over the next few days and we also had to remind her when she was getting a bit violent with her legs during nappy changes and tantrums. Sometimes it made things worse, but on other occasions she did stop when we said it.
Now that we're a three months on her general understanding and language has come on huge amounts and the physical change in my tummy also means that it's much more obvious what is going on. She still needs reminding when she gets a bit too physical when playing, but she is also starting to get annoyed when I'm finding it hard to do things with her like get on the floor and play with her trains, or push her round the garden in her car.
There are a few things around the house that I've set aside and told her are for the baby. In particular a little comforter teddy bear and hand-knitted cardigan that a friend gave me and she seems to understand that concept quite well. She's even brought the cardigan to me one day, lifted my top and put it on my tummy saying "I put cardigan on baby now". I'm trying to involve her in conversations about what we'll do when the baby comes and tell her about things that she can help me with - like changing nappies, bath time and getting the baby dressed.
I spent a while looking for books that might help her understand what is happening, but actually drew a blank until LMC randomly picked something up in the library a few weeks back. There's a House Inside My Mummy struck me as being a strange way of writing about pregnancy, but actually it seems to have really clicked with LMC. The rhyming story gives it a lovely rhythm and the illustrations seem to make it clear to little ones as to what is happening. The bit about how the dad has seen inside the baby's house on the hospital's TV makes sense to LMC as she came to the hospital with me for my 20 week scan and I explained that to her at the time as seeing the baby on the hospital's special television. She does seem to have it in her head that she should be able to see the baby through my belly button now and is a tad disappointed when she can't, but then some days she claims she can!
The baby's arrival is going to mean some big changes at home. Not just in there being another person in the household, but we're building another bedroom in the attic, meaning that there will be some bedroom shuffling coming up. We'll move into a new master bedroom, whilst I explained to LMC that she will get our big bedroom so that there was room for all her toys, and then the baby can have her little room. At first she wasn't sure and after walking into our room, looking around she declared that it was too small. Yet two days later she walked in whilst Mr C was getting dressed and announced that it was "my room now"!
I've already had requests to "get the baby out now" from her so I think frustration levels may rise as the final three months pass, but at the same time I'm also intrigued to see if she gets more excited or concerned as we get closer to my due date. I'm hoping to involve her in getting the baby's room ready and getting clothes and equipment ready for them.
The other morning we sat in bed together reading books whilst Mr C got himself ready for work. Suddenly she jumped up and said "Daddy, Daddy, there's a baby in Mummy's tummy" thinking that he obviously needed to know this. She probably wasn't expecting the response of "I know, I put it there" but she certainly went away looking puzzled. Her next round of questions could be interesting...
How did you prepare your toddler for a new baby's arrival? Any tips or pitfalls that you want to share please?