You look into the eyes of your three-year-old child and feel a crushing sense of guilt.
"How could I do this to her?" you ask as you rub your burgeoning pregnant belly. "What if she doesn't want a new baby? What if she feels like she's being replaced?"
Parents expecting a second child typically go through a wide gamut of emotions. While they're excited about the prospect of a baby in the house again, they fret over the impact the new bambino will have on their older child. Sometimes they choose to ignore the issue and just "surprise" their firstborn when the baby comes home. At the other end of the spectrum, some talk so incessantly about the anticipated birth that the older child—who can't understand why it's taking so long for this new kid to arrive—gets sick of all the baby talk.
What's a parent to do?
A delicate balance, say child developmental advocates, a tender dance that tells your first child that not only is she still loved and isn't being replaced, but that there are going to be a whole new set of realities at home.
But how parents deal with the impending arrival of a new baby should truly depend upon the child's age, experts warn. You don't want to get into graphic details about amniotic fluid and vaginal deliveries with a two-year-old toddler who can barely grasp the fact that the food he puts in his mouth goes into his belly. At the same time, physicians say you should involve an older child as much as possible so he feels like this is his baby, too.