Adding a Member to the Family

When a baby is born he or she creates parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters. Each and every person in the family now has, sometimes for the first time, a new role.  Wanting to write about this came back to me recently and is encouraging me now as I contemplate that my eldest grandchild is15 as of Jan 21. With none of his earlier birthdays did I pause to think about or celebrate that his birthday is also the anniversary of me becoming a grandmother and the significant new role that has played in my life. As I reflect how my life has changed and my personal journey, I am reminded of my desire and plan to look at how huge it is for each and every person in a family when a new member is added.

While I’ve considered the subject for some time it has clearly been a difficult one for me to write as well to post – my guess is that it’s a sensitive area. My personal perspective seems to have gotten in the way of clearly approaching the professional one.  Life changes, of course, most dramatically for the parents especially if it’s the first time and they become mom and dad – roles they haven’t had before. We spend a fair amount of time focusing on preparing for these roles. However, most of the preparation is almost incomprehensible during pregnancy and only bits and pieces are really absorbed.  Most of us can’t imagine what life will be like and the majority of learning is experiential so it doesn’t really begin until the newborn actually arrives.

Parents of another child generally consider how a new baby will be accepted.  One of the first notes I made when thinking about this topic was after a pregnant mom called me.  Her first question was, “Do your services include teaching siblings how to hold the new baby?” There has been quite a bit written about and for older siblings of a new baby – there still isn’t enough attention, however, to not only the impact but to including them in the planning of the event of birth, as well as to the adjustment – both for the family as well as for others. I witnessed just the other day a woman rushing over to a mom, her toddler, and her newborn. The woman cooed and fussed over the baby totally ignoring the toddler and I saw real sadness in the young boy’s eyes.

We also have some literature for grandparents, however, do we really acknowledge how challenging and perhaps even difficult at times the adjustment may be? The reality I’ve experienced and observed is that it is almost as difficult an emotional adjustment to each of the new roles. And, I certainly give homage to the transition as it effects new moms and dads, otherwise I wouldn’t be as passionate about my profession as I am. As a new “Nana” I had to learn to respect my kids as parents which often has meant keeping my thoughts to myself. It hasn’t always been easy to realize I have absolutely no direct control as regards to matters effecting my grandchildren. We each have to navigate this new terrain and learn as best as possible what the new family dynamics are.

I would really like to think that those of us in the childbirth community could assist in providing a safe and educational place for everyone effected by the newest family member(s) to explore, learn, and gain support for the wide range of emotions that occur. There is no question that for most adults – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc – it is a thrilling, exciting, and blessed event. It is less obvious that there are also challenges in adjusting to each of those roles as well. I expect to continue to learn about the full scope of this subject, to gain new/additional insights, and to bring more to the discussion going forward.

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