Welcome to the World Marcello Joseph from here on referred to as MJ. MJ was born on October 15 early in the morning. On the days leading up to MJ’s birthday we prepared J for the big change. We spent as much time with him as we could doing all his favorite activities. We knew it would be all about the baby once he arrived so we did our best to show J how loved he is by us.
I made sure I had things planned for him so that while I was in the hospital he was still going along with his normal routine. I was scheduled for a C-section so I already knew I would be in the hospital for at least three days. Lucky for me mom and dad were able to watch J during that time. Knowing when I was scheduled to deliver definitely helped with all the preparation. I marked the day on the calendar and kept reminding J of the day that his baby brother comes. I brought him to the hospital a couple of days before I was scheduled to deliver to show him where I would be and why. Not only did this prepare J a bit more, it also prepared the nursing staff for a not-so-typical big brother that would be visiting later on.
Although MJ showed up a day early it was still pretty close to what we planned, so J wasn’t too thrown off from what he expected. My water broke around 4:55 AM and J woke up, it was as though he knew something was up. I told him “I think your baby brother is coming a day early.” He smiled and went back to sleep. I had my mom put J on the bus for the next two days. I wanted to keep things as normal as possible for him. J came for brief visits everyday after school. He was excited to come. I was surprised by how aware and in the moment he was. He seemed so effected by seeing me in a hospital bed. He had never seen me in a hospital before and his face was covered with true concern . He was very serious and inquisitive about when I would be coming home. Later that night my mother told me he was very weepy at bedtime and mentioned to her “mommy sick, mommy in the hospital.”, A conclusion he came to all on his own. I was sad he felt this way but also very impressed that he managed to put the words together to express this truly genuine feeling of concern. I’ve always felt that J does love me but when this happened and seeing the concern on his face during his visits, I felt such a connection to him that definitely surpassed the limitations of Autism.
My mother comforted him by letting him know I was not sick but that I had given birth to his baby brother and that I would be returning home in a few days. It was hard for him to see me in the hospital I could see his face maturing right before my eyes. I could see the gears turning in his head as he tried to understand why Mom was in the hospital why her belly had gone down and who this little baby was in her arms and what this all meant for him.
Jay had a rough time with MJ’s cries at first. He was mentally prepared because of the prep we did, probably better than I was. He really tried to self soothe when he became overwhelmed by doing deep breathing exercises. It also helped that we had the ultimate sticker reward chart for positive reinforcement, 100 stickers for an iPhone.
We started this about a month and half before I gave birth when he first expressed interest in having an iPhone. I thought this would be a good opportunity to associate the birth of his brother with something positive. And one of the ways to earn stickers towards this reward was by being a good big brother. He earned his 100th sticker a week before Christmas. He was so excited!
I did my best to try to keep J on his normal schedule, dinner at 5:30pm, bedtime at 8:30pm, lights out by 9:30pm. I tried my best to spend time with him exclusively even if it was only for 5 minutes at a time. Although it was really challenging to keep up his schedule along with the demands of breast-feeding a newborn after having a C-section, it was well worth it. I could see it was the comfort he needed to adjust to this big change. Thankfully I had the support of my parents and my husband. One of the things that is a real stabilizer in J’s routine is his bedtime story. Through his nightly story time he was reassured that although things had changed some things wouldn’t and it was a great opportunity for some one-on-one time.
MJ is now three months old and his big brother Jay is doing amazing with him. He no longer gets anxiety about his baby brother crying, rarely puts his hands up to his ears, and no longer shouts “NO MARCELLO!” when he hears his baby brother cry. After three months of baby Boot Camp, I think it has desensitized him a bit to the noises of a little one. I’ve noticed it has also helped him with his day-to-day interactions. If you’ve read my past blogs you know auditory sensitivity is a big issue for J and I had hoped that having a baby in the house every day would desensitize him to the sounds and it seems to be doing just that. He handled the holidays with all his little cousins better than ever. He is more social and while we are outside he doesn’t get as much anxiety when he sees a small child. Although he still does have some issues at school with unpredictable noises and yells from specific classmates his sensitivities have decreased immensely. Now if I could just get him to change diapers.