Opinion: Tell Your Kids Early

Opinion: Tell Your Kids Early

images-1By Melissa Uchiyama

From the very start of pregnancy, there are a myriad of decisions to make. No pee stick doles out suggestions on who to tell when. There is no chart. Becoming pregnant while already a parent means another giant decision must be made: when to tell your child that he or she may have a sibling. I say, tell ’em. Tell ’em when you’re comfortable and don’t let fear get in the way of important, life-changing news that’s yours to tell.

Telling our kids early-on puts faith in them as thinking and feeling family members. Our family has only positively benefited from including our children in the good news early on, not stifling a sweet thing, pretending I’m only getting rounder from bread rolls, and not an actual baby.

My husband and I told both of our children very early on (less than ten weeks) and decided to do all of the growing and many of the discussions together, as a family. No secrets. As a result, both of my children (and now again, as I await the birth of my third) bonded with their siblings in utero, through a myriad of communication and lots of tummy hugs. I also believe telling children, and close friends, early-on is healthy, even if complications later arise. They will have already picked up on grief and may feel confused if not a part of the process. This, to me, is family. This is growing in community and building bonds that will be strong as thick rope vines as the new baby is born and continues to grow.

Other parents may dismiss their child’s ability to understand there is a growing baby inside. They often wait months, believing that their older children cannot possibility understand abstract time and that which is not instant. I became pregnant within a few weeks of a close friend. She and her husband decided to tell their toddler, who by the way, is very smart, months later, as a Christmas gift, whereas our daughter had already been touching and kissing my growing midsection, discussing her shifting life as a big sister, and learning about the process of growing a baby, for those same months. By the time our new baby was born, the bond was tangible and strong; they were siblings. It took more time, I believe, for our friend’s kids to latch on to their bond.

At seven weeks gestation, I couldn’t contain my excitement. It was a maternal adrenaline — I called my friend outside of a grocery store. She had taken a moment to answer my call while skiing on a mountain and I knew with certainty, as I divulged my news, should my good news turn to heartache, I’d need her same arms reaching through the phone, reaching into helping me cope. For me, I needed to share.

Certainly, our kids are not our besties we gab to over the phone or over a glass of Merlot. They are our children and we have the job of choosing what and how to edit information so that it is developmentally sound, emotionally appropriate. To be honest, my husband shocked me when he told our daughter at seven weeks. I knew the risks of loss. Even so, we told her and we rejoiced. It’s hard to stifle joy and it’s hard to silence the pain of loss. Kids may see lots of tears at different points—the happy and the sad. I say, with as much uncertainty in the world, let’s choose to show them the joy, never mind the risks. Anything can happen at anytime. If an egg has fertilized and rooted to the walls of a uterus, that is joy. Everything is working, especially if this was an answer to prayer, if the family can picture another squirmy body pulling up to the family table.

Again, if the pregnancy does not go as planned, if there is a problem, an abnormality, a heartbeat that later fails, leaving you empty and grieving, your children will be a comfort. They will be part of the overall process of not just a mom’s pain, but a family’s process towards healing. They will need to grieve, perhaps, the loss of a sibling, a brother or sister they could not meet. But those moments with their head on your belly, listening for a heartbeat? Those loving snapshots of big sis rubbing lotion on mom’s belly and those talks about what goes on in the womb? This is the molecular structure of jewels. These will be healing, sweet memories, the times you included them in your joy.

I say tell them. Tell your kids there is room for one more. Tell them they are important and needed. Tell them you are praying and expecting that strong heartbeat to keep beating and beating until they are in your arms and eating bananas with big sis and later, still, running around. Families share their plans.

Melissa Uchiyama is an educator, writer, and mother. She has appeared in Brain, Child, in regards to nudity and bathing, two pretty cool topics in her book, also contributing to Literary Mama, Mamalode, Cargo Literary Magazine, Kveller, and other sites. Connect with Melissa as she blogs about the motherly and literary life on www.melibelleintokyo.com.

Where Have They Gone?

Where Have They Gone?

Asian Newborn baby girl 1 day after the birth, in hospital.

By J. Galvin

There is a trend overtaking hospitals and it terrifies me. Hospitals across the nation are taking away nurseries within their maternity wards and, instead, are insisting on twenty hour in-rooming for mothers and their new babies in the name of bonding and breastfeeding.

Why does this terrify me? Because I am pregnant with my second child. It was the hospital nursery that saved my sanity and kicked my maternal instincts into high gear when I had my first child four years ago; not a twenty four hour in-rooming policy.

Four years ago when my daughter decided to enter the world I had no clue. I had no clue how hard labor and delivery would be. I had no clue the sheer physical and emotional exhaustion a new baby came with. I had no clue breastfeeding would not come naturally. I had no clue to ask for help from the nurses and lactation consultants. I had no clue some newborns don’t, and won’t, sleep no matter how much you rock them, feed them, sing to them, and offer up prayers to whatever higher power you believe in.

I had no clue until a doctor making her rounds took one look at my face and suggested I put my daughter in the nursery for a few hours. I still remember she was dressed up as a bumblebee with a padded yellow and black body suit and a light up headband. It was Halloween.

“Put her where?” I stammered.

“Put her in the nursery,” she said with both a concerned and an amused face. “The nurses will take good care of her, they’ll wake you if anything happens, and bring her to you when she needs to feed.”

I felt terror, horrible guilt, and an inkling of hope. Was I a bad mother to leave my new baby in the nursery? Would the nurses really wake me if something was wrong? Would I be able to finally rest?

My husband listened to me weigh every possible option while the hormone-laden tears poured down my face. At this point I had been up three days straight between labor pains and a long, hard delivery. My daughter, who entered the world twelve hours earlier, had yet to fall asleep; a trend that would continue for weeks.

“Put her in the nursery.” My husband said. “It will be fine.”

Happy to relinquish all decision making to him, I agreed and my daughter was whisked away to the nursery. I passed out instantly and woke three hours later. I didn’t feel so bone numbingly exhausted or on the edge of losing my mind. I felt such a pull to see my daughter I knew my maternal instincts had finally kicked in.

Fast forward to the present and the countdown, though still a long ways away, to the birth of my second child begins. I feel calmer, more prepared and happier this time around, but still with such trepidation that should not be necessary. I don’t think someone else, namely a hospital, has the right to decide what is best for myself or my child. I alone, with my husband, have that right.

So for the time being, I will do my homework. I will research hospitals in my area that still offer the option of a nursery and will plan accordingly. I will hope hospitals realize that a mother’s decision to rest is key to both the emotional and physical well being of both baby and mom. I will hope hospitals realize that the decision to decide what is best for mother and baby lies with mother, not hospital staff or hospital policy.

Jamie Chase Galvin works part time as an Academic Advisor and is also a freelance writer. Jamie possesses an undergraduate degree in English and a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology. She loves to write any chance she can and lives in Massachusetts with her husband and very talkative four year old daughter.

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Reasons I Hate “Reasons My Kid is Crying”

Reasons I Hate “Reasons My Kid is Crying”


When sharing our frustrating parenting moments goes too far.


Recently, on Facebook, a friend shared one those listicles, “23 BEST Pics from ‘Reasons my Kid is Crying.'” You’ve seen these before: a series of high-res images of sobbing babies and toddlers, their red eyes staring up into the camera lens. The photos are captioned with the reason the child is crying. Things like, “a fly landed near him,” and “it was his sister’s turn to use the hose,” and “the neighbor’s dog isn’t outside.” The idea is that we’re all supposed to laugh at these crying children for being upset about such small things.

Only, I don’t think it’s very funny.

I’m a parent, too, and, trust me, I understand that parents need to blow off steam. At least three times a day, my partner and I look at each other and roll our eyes because our toddler is whining for a cup of milk that is already IN HIS HAND. Parenting a small child can be frustrating and thankless. You love them so much and you try so hard and all you want to do is make them happy. And when your daughter’s whole world falls apart because “her hoodie wouldn’t zip any farther than this,” your only options seem to be: laugh, or lose your damn mind.

So I don’t have a problem with the impulse to laugh. I also don’t have a problem with the need to share the experience. Camaraderie is important—necessary even. We all need to reach out every once and a while and tell someone the things about our kids that are driving us crazy. Sharing the burden helps to ease it.

What I have a problem with is the broadness of this sharing. It’s no longer a phone call to your mom or best friend, or a text message to your wife at work. Now we upload our frustration to a tumblr with 500,000 followers. The photo is no longer just “ours.” Anyone can share it, and LOTS of people do.

The goal of this kind of sharing seems different, too. It doesn’t feel like it’s just about venting, or connecting. It feels almost competitive. Who can write the funniest caption? Who can get the most likes? The most shares? Who can get us to laugh the hardest at their screaming baby?

There’s also a permanency to this sharing that I find difficult to ignore. When you call your sister or best friend to share a frustrating moment you had with your preschooler, the words come out of you, hot and fast, and then…they’re sort of gone. There’s a beauty in the ephemeralness of that kind of old-fashioned sharing. When you put the photo of your crying child on the Internet, it’s there forever. It’s there to be bookmarked and screenshot and re-shared. It can be re-captioned and re-uploaded and searched for. It may be found at a much later time by your kid’s teacher, or your kid’s third-grade bully, or your kid.

We need to remember that these children, even though they feel like “ours,” do not belong to us. They are people. When I snap a selfie with my sisters on the rare occasion all three of us are together, I ask their permission before posting the photo to Facebook. That’s pretty much common courtesy in the social media era. Our kids are too young to meaningfully consent to having their photos shared. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever do it, but it does mean that we have to take some extra responsibility to keep their interests in mind when we do. If someone took a picture of you at your worst, your most frustrated, your most vulnerable and exposed, how would you feel seeing it trend on a viral listicle?

Part of the beauty of the parent-child relationship is that our kids feel secure when they’re alone with us, in their home, their space. They don’t need to hide their feelings or be on their best behavior. They can be who they are, even if that person is someone who completely loses it because “he has a sticker on his face.” When your child looks at you for help, or comfort, they think they’re just looking at you. They don’t know that the phone you’re holding in front of them is a window, and that you’re inviting thousands of people into their private experience of pain. They think they’re safe.

So I can tell you one reason your kid might be crying. He might be crying because instead of helping him, or hugging him, or stepping away for a few deep breaths while you let him figure it out on his own, you’re unlocking your phone and taking a picture and putting it on the Internet, where you’ve invited strangers to come and look and laugh at him forever.