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Baby on Board

I had a funny experience in church a few weeks ago. I was volunteering in the children’s room, and we were teaching the little ones about how important families are to God’s plan. The leader asked who had brothers and sisters. One darling curly-haired girl, about 4 years old, raised her hand and said, “I have a brother that’s 2 and now my mommy is having another baby.” The leaders gave surprised gasps, and one teacher laughed out loud because this was news to everyone in the room. Out of the mouths of babes.

That got me thinking about how Alan and I had handled telling the kids when we were expecting again. It’s like the mom-to-be said later, “We knew once we told Caroline, the cat would be out of the bag for good.” A secret? What’s that when there is such exciting news to share with teachers, the soccer coach, the grocery store clerk, even a complete stranger in the elevator?

We tried to make it a special occasion each time we told our children about a new sibling. Adding a new brother or sister changes their universe forever. I read somewhere that individuals spend more time with their siblings on this earth than with any other family member. They will be living in the same house, building many of the same memories, and caring for and burying parents together.

In our family, we announced a pregnancy by gathering our children around us and telling them we planned to take them to a nice restaurant. Of course, they badgered us the whole way about what we might be celebrating, but we just smiled and said, “You’ll see.” When we were all seated and waiting for our meals to come, we would break the happy news.

The next obvious question would be when is the appropriate time to tell children? I prefer to wait, instead of making an announcement at the first sign of pregnancy. After experiencing two miscarriages myself, I suggest keeping the secret until after the highest risk of losing the baby is behind you, about 13 weeks into the pregnancy. I recognize how difficult it is to keep such a piece of news quiet, but to avoid dashing little ones’ hopes and expectations, it is well worth it. Alan and I learned the hard way.

Another memorable occasion in the pregnancy comes when you tell the children the gender of the new baby. I was asking a little girl I know if she thought her mommy was going to give her a brother or a sister. She said very nonchalantly, “Oh, I don’t know. I think it is going to be either a girl or a boy.” It took me back to when we discovered our baby, Lauryn, was going to answer our 6-year-old daughter’s fervent nightly prayers that she be sent a sister. With three brothers under foot, you can understand her urgency.

The day we saw the ultrasound, I filled the living room with dozens of pink balloons. When the kids came home from school that afternoon, I asked Camryn what she thought all the balloons were for. She looked around in wonder, and asked, “Is it for Dad’s birthday?” I had completely forgotten that Al’s birthday was the next day. But when the lines of communication were untangled, Camryn and all of the children were thrilled they were going to be blessed with a new baby sister. They couldn’t get enough of debating potential girl names or selecting some new pink confection for the baby to wear.

I recently taught a class on the signs and symptoms of pregnancy. On paper, they don’t sound very appealing. Morning sickness and migraines, weak bladders and stretch marks aren’t exactly things to look forward to, not to mention the joys of labor and delivery. Because I didn’t want to shock my students into staying child-free forever, I also emphasized the good things about having a baby: the quickening, the ultrasounds, choosing names and sharing the news—especially with our parents and children. Those parts of pregnancy will stay written on the pages of our lives forever.

Kelly Taylor, her husband, Alan, and their five children in 2008 moved from their Liverpool home of 10 years to Greenville, N.C. Kelly holds a master’s degree in family studies. To comment on this article, write to editorial@familytimes.biz.

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