The moment my eldest daughter (now four) became a sister, or rather, the moment she met her little sister for the first time, was not a particularly warm and gooey one.
Ava was not quite 13 months old when Ruby was born
. I'd gone into hospital for an elective caesarean (because of a delightful dose of obstetric cholestasis
) and had, in Ava's understanding, disappeared off the face of the earth for 24 hours.
So she was SO delighted to see me, when Dan brought her in, that she could hardly contain herself. She gurgled and whooped and kicked her legs and grabbed me by the head to give me one of those soft and slobbery suck-your-cheek baby kisses.
Then she saw it.
The cot next to my bed.
It had something in it.
AND THE THING WAS MOVING.
To say Ava punched Ruby on first sight would be unfair. It was more of a prodding push.
That the prodding push was met with both her parents fussing and saying things like "No darling! Don't do that! She's your new sister! And she's only little!" probably didn't help.
I mean, who wants a little sister when they're barely 13 months old? Ava was still crawling and must have still thought she was as small, and as important, as anyone could possibly be up until that point.
The next couple of months were a bit tricky. A caesarean when you have your first baby is one thing. A caesarean when you have to constantly be removing your 13/14/15-month-old first baby from your tiny second baby is quite another.
Ava used all the usual tricks. She'd give Ruby 'hugs' while actually seeing how hard she could squeeze her. She'd come and sit with me while I breastfed, and stare lovingly into my eyes while simultaneously seeing if she could put her thumb into one of Ruby's. She'd lob a plastic ball at Ru's head while shouting "CAT-SCH!"
Ava never really meant Ruby any harm – she was testing her, and me, the cause and effect thing. And of course, she was still so young herself.
I remember it made me worry though. They were very close in age, yet the gap between them seemed so wide back then: tiny baby / talking toddler. I worried that Ava would not forgive me for making her share absolutely everything in her world and it seemed so far off, a time when they would be friends.
As it was, it didn't take that long at all. As all newborns do, Ruby began to get more interesting at about three months and, in return for being more interesting, Ava would sometimes kiss her on the nose before leaving the room.
At the age of about six months, Ruby began sitting up – and in return for this gargantuan effort to interact, Ava would knock her over, lie on the floor next to her and squeeze her head. It was actually more tender than it sounds.
By the time Ru was seven months old, she had begun eating proper food at the table, in a high chair, next to her sibling. And in return for that, Ava would try to spoon feed Ruby everything she didn't like from her own plate (okay, that's kinda 50/50 in the bonding/bullying stakes I guess, and I did have to watch out for whole jacket potatoes being pushed towards Ruby's face).
It was a moment in a park, when Ruby was eight-and-a-half months old, that sealed the deal though. This was the moment (as embarrassing as it was) that made my heart sing, because I knew that Ava had come to LOVE her little sister.
A well-prepared mother had sat down with her daughter (a gorgeous child, a bit older than Ava) to picnic on some juice and snacks. Ava sidled up to them (I was keeping an eye on her while also very gently pushing Ruby in a swing) and glared longingly at their bag of rice cakes.
I was asked if it was okay for Ava to have one, and when offered the bag, she gently removed a single rice cake and nibbled it happily, and quickly.
"Would you like another one?" the well-prepared, picnicking mother asked my daughter.
"S'pease," Ava said sweetly.
Then she splayed her hand as widely as she could, shoved it in the bag of rice cakes and with lightning speed extracted about six of 'em and pelted over to the swing to share the loot with Ruby.
Exactly half and half.
I think I mouthed a slightly ashamed 'sorry' to the well-prepared mother. And then I watched as Ava patted Ruby's head, and Ruby sucked on her purloined snacks, and I knew they had bonded over someone else's blueberry rice cakes.
Pip Jones previously wrote the Terrible Twos column for Parentdish.
How did your toddler respond to the new baby? Did you experience a tense first few months? When did they bond? Tell us your experiences...
<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Baby-Usborne-First-Experiences/dp/0746066651/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351516699&sr=1-1&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">The New Baby</a> by Anna Civardi and Stephen Cartwright (Usborne).</p>
This book features the rather traditional Bunn family, which consists of Mr and Mrs Bunn, five- year-old Lucy and three-year-old Tom. Mrs Bunn is expecting a new baby and this book helps introduce children to what might happen when she goes into labour, is at the hospital and when she comes home. It would be ideal for families expecting number three.</p>
<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Theres-House-Inside-My-Mummy/dp/1408315882/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351516407&sr=1-1&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">There’s a house inside my mummy</a> by Giles Andreae and Vanessa Cabban (Orchard).</p>
When I asked friends with more than one child which book they’d recommend on this subject, the one that came up time and again was this one. I remain unconvinced by the description of the door to mummy being rather tight, but children, and other parents, like this rhyming story lots and it does well at getting across to toddlers the less nice bits of pregnancy, such as exhaustion and sickness.</p>
<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Miffy-New-Baby-Dick-Bruna/dp/1405219033/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351522920&sr=1-1&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">Miffy and the new baby</a> by Dick Bruna (Egmont)</p>
Like all of the Miffy books, the words (in the English translation at least) are faintly ridiculous, the rhymes dubious and the story rather odd. But the pictures, as ever, are endearing and toddlers seem to love it and Miffy takes the arrival of a baby bunny with good grace.</p>
<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/My-New-Baby-Rachel-Fuller/dp/1846432766/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351523092&sr=1-1&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">My New Baby</a> by Rachel Fuller (Child’s Play). </p>
Really a set of four, consisting of Waiting for Baby, My New Baby, You and Me and Look at Me, these books work together or separately to spark conversations about the new baby. With simple to understand pictures and questions to spark discussion, they are an ideal book for sharing and getting very young children used to the idea of a new baby. </p>
<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Our-Baby-Inside-Mick-Manning/dp/0749686715/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351523142&sr=1-1&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">Our Baby Inside!</a> By Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom (Franklin Watts). </p>
Aimed at children aged five to nine, helps children get to grips with what is actually happening inside their mum as the new baby grows, with plenty of factual information and accessible illustrations, it’s an ideal introduction to the science behind how babies are made and what happens in the womb, with flaps to lift and plenty of facts to keep children interested.</p>
<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sophie-Baby-Anholt-Family-Favourites/dp/1408302136/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351516338&sr=1-1&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">Sophie and the new baby</a> by Catherine Anholt and Laurence Anholt (Orchard).</p>
The Anholts’ books are my absolute favourites when it comes to illustrations, and this book for slightly older children (it’s ideal for three to five-year-olds) looks at what happens when a new baby arrives one winter. Sophie experiences jealousy, but by spring she’s grown to love her new brother so much she offers him her most prized possession.</p>
<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spike-Enson-Malaika-Rose-Stanley/dp/1848530234/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351516730&sr=1-1&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">Spike and Ali Enson</a> by Malaika Rose Stanley and Sarah Horne (Tamarin). </p>
This lovely story with a twist at the end is ideal for children aged up to about nine. It tells the story of Spike and his new brother Ali, who may or may not be an alien – after all, his poos are bright green and he seems to have enchanted even the school bullies...</p>
<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Whats-Egg-Little-Karma-Wilson/dp/1847388221/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351516588&sr=1-1&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">What’s in the Egg, Little Pip?</a> By Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman (Simon & Schuster).</p>
If human beings make the idea of a new baby a bit too odd, children might like to first explore the idea through the world of penguins. Pip, the Penguin’s parents, look after their egg all winter, even though that means there’s less room for Pip to snuggle under her mummy’s warm tummy. Pip can’t see what the fuss is about when it comes to the egg, until it finally cracks and Pip’s brother arrives to make their family ‘just right’. Lovely for reading together from a young age but there’s enough of a story for children beginning to read alone too.</p>
<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Whats-Your-Tummy-Mummy-Lloyd/dp/1843650916/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351516188&sr=8-1" target="_blank">What’s in your tummy mummy?</a> by Sam Lloyd (Pavilion).</p>
This beautifully illustrated lift-the-flap book looks at what might be growing in mummy’s ever increasing tummy. Is it a flea? Could it be a chimpanzee? What about an octopus? It’s a baby of course, as we find out at the end. This is an ideal book for young toddlers who’ll find the idea of animals in mummy’s tummy even funnier than the truth.</p>
<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Babys-Catalogue-Allan-Ahlberg/dp/0141343362/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351522793&sr=8-1&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">The baby’s catalogue</a> by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg (Puffin). </p>
Although not strictly about the arrival of a new baby, this book, which shows several different scenes under lots of headings such as mums, dads, accidents, gardens and breakfast, shows all the parts of a baby’s day, with lots to talk about for each one. It’s great as a first book for children who identify with the babies and as they grow it helps makes sense of what a new baby might do too. </p>