Q&A: Preparing for a Baby Boy

Jessica writes:

"My question revolves around your knowledge as a mother to two children, specifically two boys.

We are expecting our second child this April.  We recently found out
that he will be a boy. We already have a 2 3/4 year old daughter.  Our
family has tons of girls in it, and everyone (myself included) thought
this baby would be another girl.  While we are very excited to be
having a boy, I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around it.  I
think my major concern is that I don’t really know what to do with a
boy.  Several friends suggested some "retail therapy" to help me get
more in the little boy mood, which is also necessary since we knew we
were having a girl the first time and consequently own very little baby
clothing that is not purple or pink. Other than more masuline clothing,
is there anything you "need" for a boy baby?  Or for two children?  All
I can think of are more carseats and a double stoller, as well as
replacing a few items that either we either wore out or didn’t like
with my daughter.  Also, do you have any little boy tips?  Or dealing
with a newborn and also an older sibling tips?  We are a very girly
household, and my husband, though great while he is home, travels a lot
for business.  Part of me knows very well that everything will be fine,
but another part is panicked."

My biggest tip is to stay out of the way of the penis.

Not really, of course. My biggest tip is to prepare yourself for The
Cute. Because boys are cute. Not that girls aren’t, but there’s just
something about baby boys that makes them irresistable. Do you have any
friends with baby boys? Because you might want to see if you can spend
a little time with one so you can steel yourself for the full frontal
attack of cuteness. Am I sounding goofy and over-the-top? Of course I
am. But I can’t help it. I just love boys. (And I was one of those
women who always assumed she’d have at least one daughter and never
gave a thought to having a boy. But I find myself staring at baby boys
much more than baby girls now that I have one–kind of the way I now
think bald men a super-sexy since my husband lost his hair.)

I think the only prep you need to do for having a boy instead of a
girl is to be on the same page with your partner about a few key
issues, specifically penis issues and gender issues.

Penis: I’m certainly not going to tell you what to do about
circumcision, although I can offer my own experience. I felt that it
was not right to cut off a part of a person’s body without that
person’s informed consent, and El Grande was OK with that, so we didn’t
circ. It turns out that I took the easy way out, because there has
never been any maintenance on either of my uncut boys’ members. However,
penises are strange little creatures, and it took me almost a year not
to be a little stunned every time I changed a diaper and saw one there.
At any rate, make sure you and your partner are absolutely on the same
page about circumcision before you have the baby. Then, whether you cut
or not, be prepared to think it’s all a little strange down there for
awhile.

Gender: The two of you as a team need to talk about what messages
you want to send your son about sex and gender roles and identity. I
imagine it’s different from the way you approach this stuff with a
girl, since no one will tell you not to get a girl a catcher’s mitt or
let her wear denim overalls. But plenty of people don’t feel
comfortable letting their sons play with dolls or wear toenail polish.
Talk about it now, so that no one gets upset about things that happen,
presents that are given, clothes that are worn, etc.

About the things that you need for having two kids:

A double stroller is essential if you use strollers at all. (I
realize some people in suburbs never need them–in the city where I
live it would be ridiculous to try to get by without one.) Think about
how much and where you’re going to use the stroller. If your daughter
is a decent walker you might want to think about something like the Caboose.
In NYC I go so far that my older son can’t always walk that far (3 mile
roundtrips, for example) that we bit the bullet and invested in a Phil and Ted’s  (for some reason the Amazon page only shows it in single mode–you buy an extra seat that attaches underneath and behind the main seat
so you have two kids stacked vertically in the footprint of a single
stroller) The Phil and Ted’s has changed my life and I recommend it
unreservedly. If you’ll be pushing both kids a lot but don’t want to
spend the money on the Phil and Ted’s and have lots of wide doorways,
consider a side-by-side umbrella double like the Maclaren or the Inglesina Twin Swift.

Even before you use the stroller, though, you’ll need a really good
front carrier for the baby, so you can be handsfree to play with your
older one. I have an Ellaroo Wrap
and I absolutely love it. We used it from Day 2, and it was the perfect
carrier–more secure than a ring sling, but he could lie down
horizontally in it and nurse easily (and completely discreetly). I
honestly don’t know how I could have managed without a great front
carrier, because the little baby needs to be held all the time, but you
still have to play with and feed and run around with your older one.

Read Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish (the women who wrote the classic How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk).
A lot of the stuff in it is common sense, but there are some
interesting things that I never would have thought about, like not
allowing your kids to assign themselves roles within the
family. The section on figuring out whether you need to intervene in a
fight or not is easily worth the price of the book.

I can’t think of any other objects that you need for either a boy or
for going from one to two kids. You will probably get peed on a few
times in the beginning, but a washcloth works as well as those things
they sell to deflect the pee. I’m sure if there’s anything else someone
will mention it in the comments.

The thing I very strongly suggest is that you arrange for someone to
be there to help you for the first few weeks. The first three weeks are
just mind-boggling. You’re really stuck between your two children with
their conflicting needs. If you have someone else there to play with
your older child it takes a lot of the pressure off you. By the sixth
week you’ll start to get it together, so if you can have someone there
with you for at least the first three weeks you’ll have the best start
possible.

My only other advice is not to get cocky like I did. I thought it
would be so much easier the second time through because I knew what I
was in for. And I guess it was easier in a way, but only because I was
able to keep in my mind that the bad things wouldn’t last forever. But
all that other stuff–worrying about milk supply, night waking, feeling
trapped, feeling flabby and ugly, the witching hour, resenting the
inherent work imbalance of the first few months, being tired of holding
up the entire world with only two arms–all that was still there. If
you know it’s going to be just as ugly the second time you can grit
your teeth and get through the first few months, and if it turns out to
be a lot easier for you you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Good luck. Having a second child is a wonderful roller coaster that will add more love and more chaos to your family.