Though I've read that you really shouldn't bother telling a young child about a new baby until a month or so before it's born (since long periods of time are essentially meaningless to them), we told Kate right away and have seen the various stages of her understanding, or lack thereof.
- For a long time, she insisted she had a baby in her belly too.
- After we got her a Big Sister book, she started to get the big/little, me/baby concept.
- She went through a time of seeming frustrated when we would talk about Baby too much (watching my belly for movement, or even looking at an album of her baby pictures).
- A nicer development was naming her baby doll "Sister" and involving the doll in reading stories and such.
- Only in the last month or so has she used Claire's name regularly, praying for "Baby Taire" and using "Baby Sister" and "Baby Claire" interchangeably.
She'll comment on how big my belly is, and is more willing to kiss or talk to the baby when I suggest it. She seems clear on the fact that Baby won't do much at first, but that, as the big sister, she can talk to Claire and teach her about things, and that Claire will love to watch her and think she's the coolest. Kate seems to understand that Baby is coming out of my belly soon and that then we can see her and hold her. I've explained that when Claire comes out, my boobies will make milk for her, just like they did for her. I even briefly mentioned the difference between nursing and pumping, but figured, "eh, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Tonight in the bathtub, we looked at my big belly and together urged Claire to come out. We told her how much fun it is out here and about all the fun things we'll do together once she's out, like take baths and go to the zoo.
Eager to get this party started, I ate spicy nachos tonight for dinner (the same ones we used to "smoke Kate out" when she was four days overdue) and we took a long walk. Kate played on her swingset when we got home and I walked brisk laps around the swingset, which seemed to annoy Kate.
"Stop, Mommy!" she said.
"I'm trying to get Baby Sister to come out," I said.
"Baby Claire's not coming out," she replied.
"She's not? When is she coming out?" I asked.
"Soon," Kate said.
"Soon like . . . before Trunk or Treat tomorrow night?"
So there you have it. Kate's official prediction is that Claire will be born sometime Wednesday. Good to know. And even better to know that, even if it's not Wednesday, she will be out "soon," whether that's tomorrow or next week sometime.