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.