I’m 25 weeks pregnant.
At the ob/gyn appointment last week, my husband was there as usual but we also brought also our 7-year-old and 22-month-old daughters.
We wanted them to see the baby on the ultrasound and hear the heartbeat. To make the experience more real to them.
Not that they need it to be more real. This ain’t the first rodeo for our eldest Abby. And our toddler Bailey has surprised us with how much she’s been into the idea of a baby growing in mommy’s belly.
A few times a day, she walks up to me, says “baby,” and points to my belly. Then she pulls up my shirt (this is fun in public), wraps her pudgy little hands around my belly, and gives the baby a big hug and kiss.
We didn’t teach her to do any of this.
But after we explained the idea of a baby sister or brother growing in there, she just started doing it.
During the appointment last week, Bailey acted like her normal toddler self – climbing on and off the chair while I held my breath, SURE she was going to bust her head on the hard tile floor. Flipping the switch for the stirrup light on the table, over and over and over. Escaping through the slightly cracked patient room door and running down the hall past staring doctors and midwives and nurses.
I could have predicted all that.
But then something else happened.
Before the ultrasound tech Karen got ready to measure the heartbeat, she whispered to me and Ty and nodded in Bailey’s direction: “Watch your little one right now. Don’t say anything, just watch.”
So we watched Bailey.
She was in the middle of her seven thousandth descent from the chair, and the exact second she heard that heartbeat pounding throughout the small room, her head whipped up in the direction of the screen.
She stopped mid-descent, one leg dangling off the chair but not yet planted on the floor.
Her mouth hung open, and she just listened to the baby’s heartbeat until Karen switched off the sound a minute later.
Then Bailey went back to what she was doing, like nothing ever happened.
Like she was playing a game of Red Light, Green Light without knowing it.
I turned to look at Karen, who was smiling at our reaction. “That’s the first sound they ever heard, so when they hear it again, it gets their attention pretty fast.”
A Story for You
We love our ultrasound tech. Karen’s been there for us in moments of unbridled joy, and crushing loss.
Shortly after we had the all-clear to try again, we ran into her at the grocery store. We’d been feeling nervous to start down that path again and open ourselves up to another loss.
She smiled and said: “When am I gonna see you two back in the office? It’s time.”
We laughed. And sure enough, a couple months later, there we were – back in her office.
Then last week, she told us a story I haven’t been able to shake from my mind.
As she was moving the wand across my belly, she looked over at Abby. “You know, if you talk to the baby in your mommy’s tummy, the baby will hear you. And babies remember the voices they hear when they were growing in their mommy’s tummy. They’ll remember your voice.”
Abby’s reply was a shy smile.
“That reminds me of a patient I had years ago,” Karen said.
I looked up at her, waiting for her to continue.
She took a deep breath. “It’s hard to talk about. But this woman was pregnant with her second baby. Her eldest boy was about 4 or 5, and he was very excited. He had a little song he would sing to his baby brother, every day.”
I smiled, thinking of Bailey’s greeting to my belly every day.
“Then the baby was born several weeks early. Severely premature.” She shook her head. “That poor baby had so many problems – high blood pressure, erratic heartbeat, low body temperature. The woman spent every possible minute with that baby in NICU. But his big brother wasn’t allowed to see him.”
I glanced at Abby and saw the corners of her mouth were turned down.
Karen continued. “After a couple weeks, the doctors told the woman that they needed to prepare for the fact that their baby wasn’t going to be coming home from the hospital.”
My throat felt tight.
“But the woman said to the doctors, my boy needs to see his baby brother. She fought for it and wouldn’t take no for an answer. They finally allowed it.”
Karen stopped and wiped a thumb under one eye. “They scrubbed that little boy in, got him all sanitized. When he saw his baby brother, hooked up to all those machines, he just got up real close and started singing that little song he always used to sing.”
Too much, I thought. I can’t handle thinking about this right now. But Karen kept on.
“And when that little boy started singing to his brother…” Her voice cracked. “That poor little baby’s head turned towards his big brother. His blood pressure started to drop. His heartbeat smoothed out. Eventually, his temperature rose. All on its own.”
“Wow,” Abby whispered.
“After a couple more weeks, they got to take that baby home.” Karen smiled at Abby. “So talk to your baby in there. Sing to your baby, okay?”
A Surprising Step When Preparing for Baby Two (or Three or Four…)
After babies are born, they can actually recognize music they’ve heard in the womb.
That’s why the baby turned to his brother when he started singing. The baby recognized the little boy’s song.
You probably won’t find this step on any preparing for baby checklists, but encourage your older child to sing to your unborn baby. This is just one way you can help your older child bond with and prepare for the new baby.
And it might just help your new baby adjust to the outside world, too.
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How have you helped your older child bond with a new baby? Share your tip in a comment below!
I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.