Anna scrutinizes her three-month-old son, Jonathon, fresh from his bath, sweet smelling and glowing with dreamy-looking calm. She waits patiently for his unfocused eyes to nd her adoring gaze. Two seconds, then a third pass, until Jonathon’s eyes catch and nally lock onto hers. His face lights up. His eyes and lips widen into a broad expression of surprise, delight, and focused intelligence as if greeting his mother for the rst time with, “I recognize you. -- You’re Mommy. Hi, Mommy!” In the blissfulness of this instant, two thoughts cross Anna’s mind -- wonder at its sheer perfection and doubt about its future. She asks herself, “What would it be like to have another child?”
As parents ponder their rstborn child’s adjustment to the arrival of a sibling, they imagine various scenarios. Dad coming from the hospital with the “news.” Visiting Mom at the maternity unit. Finally, the big day arrives; baby comes home to stay forever. Sometimes parents foresee their rstborn child reacting like a bomb going off -- with an explosion. In other fantasies, the timer goes off more slowly. After a period of adjustment to the newborn, the older child calmly calls a meeting with her parents and in a civilized tone of voice announces that the baby must be returned to the hospital immediately. Then she explodes. Many of us have imagined the best and the worst outcomes, at one time or another, but one thing for certain is that apprehension over a rstborn’s reaction to the arrival of a younger sibling causes parents so much anxiety, even dread, that they actually put off having another child. Most parents assume that the only way to nd out how a particular child will respond to a newborn’s arrival is to actually walk through the door carrying the newborn baby.