Top Ten Books To Welcome A New Baby

Top Ten Books To Welcome A New Baby

Your Were the First

By Christina Krost

As I sit at my computer typing, I hear Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood reboot on PBS, singing from the next room: “When a baby makes things different, find a way to make things fun.” It’s good advice even for me, an experienced mom of three who stopped having time to read parenting books before baby #3 came along.

My youngest daughter, Harper, is obsessed with all things Daniel Tiger and baby dolls, so this episode is pretty much on repeat all the live long day. She is my final baby, so she will never know what it’s like to transition from baby to big sister. But after preparing my two older daughters for this life change in the past I know that each girl reacted to the news differently: one with indifference, the other with absolute joy. As the wife of a mainline Christian pastor, I’ve observed many family configurations over the years and since all families are different, I’ve included books that span cultures and include adoption and fostering. So, once you’ve ordered the “I’m a Big Brother/Sister t-shirt,” add a few of these books that have helped my own children with this transition to your bookshelves. Start with some reading just for you and your partner and then move on to kids’ books.

The Connected Child by Karyn B. Purvis, Ph.D, David R. Cross, Ph.D, and Wendy Lyons Sunshine (2007)

If I were considering fostering or adopting a child, this would be the first book I picked up. It contains a balance of charts and graphs with narratives about what children may have experienced before coming to their new parent’s home. It’s full of practical solutions to common behavioral and social problems and offers clues about a child’s development that may have led to such behaviors. It’s well organized but might initially seem overwhelming. Note that a quick search through the table of contents might help give timely answers to pressing questions. I find the book to be a gentle, loving, and practical way to welcome your new child into your family.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham (2015)

If I were looking for a list of ways to help my children adapt to a new sibling through birth or adoption, this would be my absolute first choice. Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids has devoted the last third of her newest book to the time before welcoming the new baby and through the baby’s first year (previously reviewed at Brain, Child). She has a gentle approach to parenting that focuses on setting up a peaceful home environment and likens a child’s development to the rings of a tree: daily experiences and interactions are shaping your children into the people they will be for the rest of their lives. She focuses on peer modeling for how to cope with successes and failures so that our children can learn from us, and in turn model appropriate behavior for younger siblings. This is the book I wished I’d had before welcoming my second daughter in 2009.

I’m a Big Sister and I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole (1997)

I gave I’m a Big Sister to my oldest daughter when she came to meet her baby sister, Ava, in the hospital. It’s well-worn and loved and served us well when we welcomed daughter #3 almost 5 years later. It’s very light and easy for a toddler or preschooler to understand and attend to. Though it references bottles over breastfeeding, it also features a father in a nurturing role. There is a short note to parents on the last page with tips to ease the new baby transition and ends with, “A caring family has plenty of love to go around.”

My Mom’s Having a Baby! by Dori Hillestad Butler (2005)

This book is for older children and illustrates month-by-month how a baby grows and develops in utero. It is written from a child’s perspective. There is an age-appropriate discussion of how babies are made using correct anatomical names (penis, vagina, cervix, uterus, sperm, egg). The father is seen in a supportive role. This book would have been helpful for my then eight year-old when welcoming her baby sister, but probably would have been too much information for my four year-old.

You Were the First by Patricia MacLachlan (2013)

This beautifully illustrated hardcover from Patricia MacLachlan of Sarah, Plain and Tall fame is gentle and lovely and focuses on milestones in baby’s first year. Both mother and father are featured as loving and nurturing caregivers. The family pet is included on most pages as well, an important part of the transition in many families. The book is not written as if a new baby is imminent but as a reassurance that the first child will always have a special place in the family.

Welcoming Babies by Margy Burns Knight (1994)

This book is a wonderful treasury of global cultural practices around welcoming new babies. It includes activities like singing, kissing, touching, blessing, announcing, and promising. It is very inclusive and features Christian, Muslim, and Jewish traditions. There are pages devoted to premature babies that do not get to come home to their families right away and adopted babies who have two special days: their birth date and their adoption date. Families of many different colors and ages are featured. The text is straightforward and encourages the reader to find commonalities in their birth celebrations. The additional notes section at the back of the book further explains these commonalities.

We Belong Together by Todd Parr (2007)

This book is for those who are expanding their family through adoption, but the book’s message is great for all families: a family is a place to share love. This book is also quite inclusive and includes an author’s note at the beginning instructing families to change pronouns to suit their needs. The illustrations are very bright and colorful and are made to look as if a child had drawn them and the language is very accessible for kids of all ages. This book, like most of Todd Parr’s other books such as The Family Book and It’s Okay to Make Mistakes, are family favorites.

The New Small Person by Lauren Child (2014)

Lauren Child’s characters Charlie and Lola are family favorites, so when I kid-tested this book it was quickly approved. It also sparked an interesting conversation with my oldest about what it was like to become a big sister for the first time. This book describes the transition an older only child, Elmore, makes when his little brother comes on the scene. Elmore loves being the “funniest, cleverist, most adorable person someone has ever seen.” But that all changes when the new small person arrives. He doesn’t like his brother touching his carefully lined-up things or changing the TV channel, but by the end of the story Elmore realizes life is more fun with two.

Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats (1967)

This book by Ezra Jack Keats, author of the classic The Snowy Day (the first full-color picture book to feature an African-American main character), takes on how hard life can be for a preschooler when a new baby arrives. Peter is admonished by his mother for making too much noise knocking over his block tower, so he decides to take what few things haven’t been repurposed for the new baby and run away. He grabs his chair, a picture of himself as a baby, and his dog. He sets up shop outside and realizes he’s too big for his chair. So he returns to his family and happily helps to paint his beloved chair pink for his new little sister. Both mom and dad are featured in nurturing roles. This classic book is a quick read and will hold the attention of preschool children and younger.

101 Things to Do with Baby by Jan Ormerod (1994)

This graphic-novel style book is a perfect way to show young children how to integrate a new baby into their regular routines like mealtime, laundry, playtime, and other small family moments. It is gentle and loving and illustrates how families have enough love for everyone. Both father and mother characters are shown in nurturing roles. There are even pages devoted to what to do when older children feel frustrated or jealous about the attention the new baby receives. This story is driven by the pictures and has limited text, making it suitable for children(and parents!) of all ages.

Christina Krost is teacher, mother, and United Methodist pastor’s wife who works for an Earth care non-profit. She lives with her husband and three young daughters in rural central Illinois and blogs at

Notes on a Marriage

Notes on a Marriage

largeBy Addie Morfoot

It was 10:30 PM on New Year’s Eve when a shot was fired and a car slammed into our front door.

This was as close to a party as my husband and I were going to get.

In the eleven and a half months since giving birth to our first child, I still didn’t feel like myself. I felt more like a bear in hibernation. My cave was a one-bedroom garden apartment in Brooklyn Heights.

My marriage didn’t feel like my marriage either. Each day got off to a hazy start at 6:30 A.M. and came to an abrupt halt at 7 P.M. when my son went to bed. After a trip to Florida, I realized that our family was more suited for a retirement community than The City That Never Sleeps, especially on New Year’s Eve.

The topic of celebrating the end of that tumultuous year never came up between my husband and me. Instead, after we put our son to sleep on December 31, Ross opened a bottle of wine while I found “Friday Night Lights” on our DVR so we could binge watch season three.

Gone were the days when we rang in the New Year overseas or at our local haunt on Elizabeth Street.

We had just endured a year that consisted of far too little sleep and plenty of financial distress. While our freelance jobs had once afforded my filmmaker husband and me—a reporter—the opportunity to travel the world, the minute I got pregnant we seemed to be in a perpetual state of instability. We had become the cliché of the struggling freelance couple: constantly depressed, moody, scared and only on rare occasions, exhilarated.

For the first time in our relationship, we were on a budget. A coffee machine replaced our morning runs to Starbucks. Then, a few days before my son was born, Ross agreed to a film project that would take him to war torn, dangerous areas of the world. Not bringing in any significant income myself, I couldn’t tell him not to go, so he left for weeks at a time while I tried to figure out how to care for an infant.

“Do you really need Pellegrino?” I hissed one evening while preparing dinner.

“No. But it’s cheaper than your $5 bottles of Kombucha,” Ross snapped back.

By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, we were barely speaking. Our fatigue had morphed into anger. He’d been gone for three weeks that month working on a film and when he returned he had little time for anything but work. Whenever he had a moment to breathe and actually have a face-to-face conversation with me, I invariably got a writing assignment. The only thing we weren’t fighting about was “Friday Night Lights.”

“I gotta go to bed,” I said, two and a half episodes in.

“Come on,” Ross said. “It’s only ten-thirty.”

I was desperate to close my eyes, but before I could reply, a black sedan came flying toward our front picture window, landing with a boom on our stoop. The car, which sat inches from our landlord’s front door, was perched precariously on the stairway railing. Somehow the iron gate in front of our apartment had prevented the sedan from careening into our living room.

The loud crash didn’t wake the baby, so I followed Ross outside to help what we thought was a drunk driver. But all we saw was an empty car.

“Run!” somebody screamed. I couldn’t see a face, but the voice was coming from down the street.

We were too stunned to move.

We heard frantic feet hitting the pavement. As the sound of the footsteps disappeared, we heard a voice coming from the opposite direction.

“Help!” It was a man, holding his neck and walking slowly down the block towards us. “I’ve been shot,” he said, his voice barely audible.

His left hand fell away from his neck and out came a rush of blood.

As the wife of a documentary filmmaker, I’ve seen atrocities, but I never expected to see bloodshed in our pristine, tree-lined, Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. Our particular block resembled a movie set. Early 19th century Federal-style houses lined one side of the street, while the mansion where Truman Capote once lived stood opposite. Bankers who wore loafers without socks, bright Lacoste shirts and carried briefcases strode to the subway every morning, and celebrity sightings were the norm.

I ran inside to call 911 while Ross grabbed a bath towel (our nicest, most expensive one) and wrapped it around the man’s neck.

“There’s been a shooting,” I screamed into the receiver.

“Where are you ma’am?” asked the voice on the other end.

“Brooklyn Heights!”

There was a slight pause and then, “Where?”

Back outside, Ross was holding the towel to the man’s bloody neck with one hand and rubbing his back with the other. The man leaned against our busted wrought iron gate. The same gate I walked by everyday. The same gate I opened to bring my baby home from the hospital and the same gate I decorated in Christmas lights every year.

“It will be O.K.,” Ross whispered to the man.

Those were the same four words he always whispered in my ear when I fretted over an assignment. “I believe in you,” he would tell me.

While waiting for the ambulance, the man told us that he was a livery cab driver. He had picked up two passengers who then demanded the car. When he didn’t immediately comply, the carjackers shot him and pushed him out the door. They then proceeded to botch the robbery by crashing the car into the front of the brownstone and taking off into the night.

“Please call my wife,” the man had said breathlessly. “We have a baby. I need to tell my family I love them.”

I felt terrible for him, but now every ounce of sympathy I had was with his wife. The only thing I could imagine that was worse than being a new mother was being a new mother alone.

Sitting upright, his feet splayed in front of him, the livery driver would occasionally jerk his eyes open, like he was forcing himself to stay conscious. I, on the other hand, felt more awake than I had in nearly a year. The fog of parenthood lifted for a moment and I saw Ross clearly, imagining what it would be like if I lost him. The anxiety that once washed over me whenever he traveled had been redirected towards my son. Now what kept me up at night—instead of worrying about him—was making sure the baby was still breathing.

For six years it had been unbearable to be separated from one another. We were a solidified couple in what seemed to be an unbreakable relationship. Then we became parents and the bond that had once been so strong slowly began to unravel. “Can you do the laundry today?” replaced good-bye kisses in the morning. Sleep deprivation mixed with financial fright and role resentment made our pre-baby relationship unrecognizable and our home not so homey.

I kept Ross company as he continued to hold the towel to the livery man’sneck. While only minutes had passed, it felt like hours had gone by without an ambulance. I worried that the man would die before EMTs could save him. The smell of death at our front door meant that for the first time in eleven and a half months there was no reason to fight about money, formula or whose turn it was to empty the dishwasher.

“Where are they?” Ross said, looking up and down the street for the ambulance.

“They’ll be here. Just keep doing what you’re doing,” I reassured him.

It was the gentlest, most civil exchange we’d had in months. We turned our focus back to the man, who had one eye open, and told him with confidence, “You’re going to be alright.”

I didn’t know if that was true, and I imagine Ross didn’t either, but it felt good to at least agree on something again.

Author’s note: While Ross and I were told that the man survived, we never spoke to him after the ambulance took him away. Our son is now four years old and while we still struggle with some of the issues raised in this essay, we agree on a lot more than just “Friday Night Lights.”

Addie Morfoot is a freelance reporter who writes frequently for the entertainment media. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Marie Claire, Daily Variety and The Wall Street Journal. She’s currently completing her first novel.


Grieving the Days of Only

Grieving the Days of Only

By Jennifer Berney

Grieving the days of Only ArtThe Sunday after my second son was born, my first son, Harlan, asked if he could shoot his Nerf gun off the front porch. It was bright outside but cold and windy. Storm clouds gathered in all directions.  He had put his new boots on over his dinosaur pajamas. The boots had been a Christmas gift less that a month before. They were navy blue with orange soles, a shade of orange so bright it stung my eyes. He insisted he didn’t need a coat.

All morning we’d been stuck in our new routine: I nursed the baby on the couch while Harlan bounced on the cushions. When I asked him to stop, he’d press his body into me and yell into his sleeping brother’s ear: I love you so much.  I kept a hand on the baby’s head at all times, terrified that Harlan would land on him or bonk him with his own head—a head that suddenly seemed disproportionately large.  So far, having a newborn meant that I clenched my jaw all day long.

And so I said yes, shoot your Nerf gun, silently praying that he could go at least ten minutes without calling for me. But almost instantly Harlan wanted to switch to water guns—never mind the weather. So I wrapped our new baby in a blanket and, with one hand, dug out the water guns from a box in the garage.

But, of course, his favorite one was missing. It was missing because it leaked and my partner had thrown it away, a fact that I didn’t want to reveal, and so I pretended to look for it, poking through boxes and boxes of junk.

“I want you to find it,” he informed me, standing at a distance, watching, and when I told him we’d just have to play with the two we had, he collapsed on the ground and wailed.

This was typical, not of Harlan in general, but of Harlan since the arrival of his baby brother. There was no rolling with the punches, no making do. Every dropped cracker, every wet sleeve was a tragedy. And now, as he threw himself around on the floor, I was stuck: with a baby in my arms, I couldn’t soothe or move or wrestle him. I could only hold my breath and silently will him to quit.


Throughout my pregnancy, as we prepared to welcome our second son into the world, I knew that our family in general, and our son in particular, was headed for a time of transition. That’s all I knew. That word, transition, had been tossed about for some time, but no one had offered specifics. Instead, seasoned parents warned me to brace myself. It will be hard, they said, so hard.

I had waited four months to tell Harlan I was pregnant. In my first trimester, morning sickness crushed me. At the height of it, I spent evenings face down on the couch, moaning, too nauseated even to move myself to bed. Harlan tapped on my back, whispered “Mommy,” until my partner coaxed him away. I didn’t explain what made me sick; I didn’t want him to blame my pain on his unborn sibling.

Later, once the sickness had all but passed, I withheld out of superstition; Harlan himself had arrived after years of trying and false starts, and so I had learned to never treat a pregnancy as a sure thing. To name a baby as a certainty was to endanger it.

When I finally did tell Harlan, I told him this way: my body is trying to make a baby. And once that settled in, once my belly was round, once the baby was actual, he was certain that my belly held a sister. He started calling that sister Banana.

I took this to mean that he preferred a sister to a brother. So, at twenty weeks, when the technician spotted a penis on the ultrasound, I was cautious again about breaking this news.  It was the end of summer then, and when I picked him up at a friend’s house, he was sitting on their sunny front porch.

“You know Banana?” I whispered. He nodded.

“How would it be if Banana wasn’t a little girl?”

Harlan’s eyes went wide.  He gasped. “Oh, I would love it if he was a brother!”

I guess that Harlan too, was cautious, guarded about imagining the thing he most wanted.

As my belly grew, he talked to it constantly. “Hi Baby!” he shouted, stripping away the layers of shirt and nylon that covered my bump. I had to train him not to do this in public. Friends thought it was sweet. But I found myself wiping the spit from too many kisses off of my stretched-out belly, and swallowing a desire to push him away, wondering what he’d do once Banana-boy was born. Would he still talk to him, still love him, still want to be around him?


What Harlan did after the baby was born was rail against me.

I couldn’t feed him. Harlan refused to eat breakfast, and each morning I waited for the inevitable blood sugar crash, the screaming tantrum on the floor. I began to advocate for food at any cost, offering him ice cream on a toaster waffle or extra honey on his toast. But he would complain that I cut the toast the wrong way, or that he didn’t want butter, or he would shriek because the ice cream melted too fast.

I couldn’t touch him. If Harlan walked by and I tapped him on the shoulder, he would fall to the floor and clutch the place I had touched as if I had prodded him with a hot spear. If I were sitting on the couch with my leg extended, he would walk by, trip, and begin screaming, red-faced: “I am so mad at you Mommy.”

Harder still were the moments of grief that arrived in the middle of the night.  The first night we were home, I lay half awake with the light on and the baby on my chest. My partner slept on the couch to give us space. At 2:00 a.m. Harlan cried out for me, and I lay there, still, waiting to see if he’d go back to sleep. I’d done this countless times before the baby was born without any guilt, but now, this time, I held my breath and felt dread. He needed me and I wouldn’t come. I wouldn’t come because I had a new son now, a son whom I would hold tightly and nurse through the night.

The next night he cried again and this time didn’t stop. When my partner went in for him, I could hear his cries through two sets of closed doors. “Go Away!” he yelled at her, kicking beneath the covers. “I want Mommy Jenn!” He cried the way I remember crying as a child, the way I suppose I still cry when feeling particularly lost and desperate: choking on endless sobs.

I got up, leaving the baby alone in the middle of the bed. I held Harlan, my impossibly long four-year-old, and listened to the grief move through his body, his sobs slowing to a shaky but steady breath. I continued to lie there as he moved back into sleep, half of my mind still trained on the baby, picturing him tiny and lost in the sheets.

Harlan’s body, it seemed, had transformed overnight. His head was the size and weight of a bowling ball. When he cried, I could see inside his mouth and up his nose, his tonsils, his spit, his snot. Suddenly, there was something uncouth in his size, his need, and all his human functions.

The baby, on the other hand was dainty with his tiny head and perfect whorl of hair. He breastfed and slept. His breath smelled like milk and so did his poo. Before I had the baby, my worst fear had been that that I would love Harlan less, or see him from a greater distance. Now that that seemed to be coming true, I began to worry that I had made some horrible mistake, that our relationship was all but over and we’d spend the rest of our days alternating between sorrow and conflict. I knew for sure that things would never be the same. And sometimes I thought: who needs this baby anyway?

Our baby, you see, still did not have a name.

From the moment we found out that Banana was a boy, Harlan had stopped calling him Banana. I had wanted to name him Fox, and shared the name with Harlan, thinking he’d approve and that the name might become a special family secret. But Harlan didn’t like the name Fox. He didn’t like any name that I proposed, not Cooper or Vincent or Ivan or Hudson.  Not Forrest or Cedar or Lake.   This was fine, of course; my partner and I would choose whatever name we wanted. But then one day I suggested Andre, and Harlan, inexplicably, fell in love with that sound.

“I hear you picked out a name for the baby,” his daycare teacher said to me a few days later.

“We did?” I asked. Harlan had shared during circle time that we were going to name our baby Andre.

He called the baby Andre until the day he was born, at which point he called him only baby, a choice which seemed to quietly acknowledge that he didn’t have the final say. My partner and I didn’t hate the name, but we liked other names better.  “Cedar’s a good name,” I tried to convince Harlan. “You know Cedar, like the tree.”

“Andre’s a good name,” he answered, almost in a whisper.

We agonized for days.  We set deadlines for ourselves, and then missed them. We wanted to name him Cedar. We didn’t want to disappoint our Harlan. Friends tried to convince us that it was our right to name the baby, but I couldn’t get past the fear that our choice would impact their connection. Harlan had chosen a brother named Andre; Andre was the name of the brother he loved.

There was another voice in my head, a reasonable one who told me this would pass. Name the baby Cedar, the voice said. Be the grownup; be the parent. It’s silly to think that a name will shape their destiny as brothers.

I listened to that voice and acknowledged its wisdom. And then we went ahead and named our baby Andre.

Three days later, on that stormy day in January, I convinced Harlan to remove himself from the garage floor and come inside where it was warm. I thought I could make him hot chocolate, that I could read him a story and nurse the baby and have some sense, for a moment, that everything would be all right. Instead, as I set the kettle on the stove, I heard the click of the front door. The baby was asleep in his vibrating chair. I took a moment to put my shoes on, not eager to venture out into the cold rain.

No more than thirty seconds had passed, but when I stepped on the front porch, there was no trace of Harlan. I called him. He was not in the yard or in the driveway. He was not down the street or in a tree. I called him again. I raced to the end of the block to peer around the corner, then back to the house to check on the baby who still slept soundly in his chair. I called Harlan again. He was nowhere.

I thought I’d look for him in the garage, and that’s when I spotted them: the bright orange soles of his boots. He had wedged himself between two planters in the driveway. It was his absolute stillness that rendered him invisible; if it weren’t for the color orange, I wouldn’t have found him.

I picked him up like a baby, the heaviest baby who ever lived, and carried him inside, his limbs dangling toward the ground.

“Did you hear me calling you?” I asked him. “Did you hear the fear in my voice?”

“I was playing hide and seek,” he said.

I draped his body on the couch and locked the front door. I couldn’t be mad. I didn’t want to be. This was a challenge he’d somehow designed, like the runaway bunny.  If I leave, will you find me? If I disappear, will you see me? When I’m out of your vision, do I still exist?

What could I do to convince him the answer was yes?


Andre is three months old today. Harlan sleeps through the night again. He still crowds the baby when he nurses, and gives him too many kisses. Earlier today I laid the baby down on the sheepskin rug in Harlan’s room and Harlan lay down next to him and showed him a parade of his stuffed animals. In the morning sometimes he asks to see his baby brother, or sometimes when I’m holding him, he asks to see his face. Many times in a day, he greets him: “Hi baby,” he says. “Hi Andre, hi Andre, hi Andre.”

And just yesterday he told me that he loves me, he loves me, he loves me so much. The words reached inside and touched a place that I realized had been cordoned off for just a little while. Those words had been frequent between us, and then for a while instead there was distance, a baby in the middle, whom both of us adored.

I’ve lost my days alone with Harlan—planless days where we’d leave the house to do one errand and we’d let the day run his course from there. I remember once spending over an hour at Panda Express watching him eat Lo Mein, because that was how long it took him. We talked the whole time about whether ghosts were real, and whether the Panda Express Panda and Kung Fu Panda were the same panda.

These days, our time together is interrupted by nursing, by diaper changes, by naps. Most nights, I nurse Andre to sleep while I read to Harlan and they wind up asleep together, Harlan’s mouth agape and Andre’s lips still in the motion of nursing. But there are rare nights that Andre falls asleep with my partner and I have Harlan to myself. On these nights, we snuggle with no one between us and I savor it, this taste of something I once had every day.

Jennifer Berney’s essays have appeared in Hip Mama, The Raven Chronicles, and the anthology Hunger and Thirst. She is currently working on a memoir, Somehow, which details the years she spent trying to build a family out of donor sperm, mason jars, and needleless syringes.  She lives in Olympia, Washington.