Pregnancy is a life-changing event, not only for the mother, but for the father and the soon-to-be big sibling. Below is a listing of local resources to help ease the transition of this new family dynamic.
Childbirth Classes for Expectant Parents
All area hospitals (Mary Washington Hospital, Stafford Hospital and Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center) offer childbirth classes for expectant parents. During these classes, parents-to-be learn what to expect during the labor and delivery of a child.
Mary Washington Hospital Labor and Delivery RN Sarah Melzer shares,"Attending a childbirth class before the birth of your baby can be a great benefit for dads-to-be. Surprising to some, the classes are not just for those couples planning on a 'natural childbirth'. No matter what your plans are for the big event, childbirth classes can give you the information you need to be an active and supportive partner during the birth of your baby."
Classes are often held over several weeks or during a weekend.
Melzer adds, "In my experience as a labor and delivery nurse, the fathers that have attended childbirth classes are more informed about the birth process, and with this information comes a confidence that reduces the stress and anxiety levels in both the mother and the father. Plus, learning the signs of true labor and knowing when 'it's time' may save you an unnecessary 2 A.M. trip to the hospital."
Mary Washington Healthcare system and Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center both offer a free one-hour sibling class for younger children to attend. (Ages vary by hospital system.) The classes may include a tour, video and practicing (big brother/sister skills).
"The class helps siblings learn gentle ways that they can hold or touch the baby," says Denise Bennett, RN with Sentara. "It's also a great way for them to learn about sharing mommy and daddy because that baby needs to eat a lot. I like to tell little kids that the baby needs a snack or meal about eight times a day."
Encouraging Big Siblings at Home
There are several ways to encourage your child to have interest in the new baby. The Nemours Foundation recommends the following:
1. Going through your child's baby pictures
2. Reading books about childbirth (making sure they're developmentally appropriate)
3. Visiting friends who have infants
4. Packing a bag for the hospital
5. Thinking of potential baby names
6. Going to the doctor to hear the baby's heartbeat
In addition, siblings can help participate in activities, such as setting up the nursery, picking out baby clothes and choosing books to read to the baby in the nursery. A fun, interactive book titled "The Big Sibling Book" by Amy Krouse Rosenthal serves as a journal for siblings during pregnancy and the baby's first year. The book helps prepare the child for the new arrival with interviews, sticker activities and pages for recording thoughts and reflections from the big sibling's perspective.
Kerry Pinto is a freelance writer living in Stafford.