Well I’m not too far off from an actual birth now. We’ve been preparing for quite some time and preparations for this birth involved some different things for us to get ready like a water birth, cloth diapers, where will Little #2 sleep in the apartment and most importantly how do we help Little Man get ready for a baby? I needed to prepare him in a concrete way so that he understood why he couldn’t jump on me, why my belly was expanding and just what could he expect at the end of our nine month journey.
I looked into alternative methods to prepare children for child birth. I thought about books – he isn’t always the most attentive reader. I thought about videos – his attention is only rapt if there is another child or music that he likes. I thought about talking to him and showing him photos – he only really appeared to “get it” during our ultrasound and only for a few days. I was seriously wondering what am I going to do to help a not yet 2 year old understand he was going to be a big brother!? Then I remembered my birth junkie addiction – MamAmor Dolls.
I had at first been squeamish over these dolls myself when in 2010 someone showed them to me on Facebook. I mean a doll that gives birth – are you kidding? However, I revisited these dolls months later and began to fall in love with them as they continued to evolve. I coveted them and stalked the site until I saw Eva – with her brown hair and streak of neon blue (I had just dyed my own fabulous streak of blue to celebrate my final year as a 20 something). She was me and I was going to have her. Soon after I ordered Eva – I saw Heather and couldn’t help myself and got her as well. I have since acquired a third doll but we’ll talk about her later. I accessorized each of my dolls so that they reflected the attachment parenting ideals that I myself practice.
I took out the dolls and let Little Man look at them with me. I showed him Eva which most closely resembles me – still pregnant. Heather I showed him with the baby in her sling. I pointed to the baby and named it for him and then I pointed to Eva’s baby bump and said baby. He repeated after me as well. I showed him how the baby was born and let him manipulate the dolls himself. I let him play with the dolls whenever he would ask for them. Usually he would point and say “baby” and then I would give him one or both to play with. My husband wasn’t exactly thrilled with these dolls to begin with and thought it was weird to let Little Man play with dolls – but he was won over by Little Man’s persistence during the week when I am not home and facilitated the learning as well.
After I was pretty certain that Little Man understood that there was a baby in Eva’s belly – I decided it was time to make the connection with the baby growing inside me. During his playtime with Eva and Heather – I began pointing from Eva’s belly to my own and repeating baby. He looked at me curiously and then tried to lift up my shirt to get my baby out. After some laughter and funny moments he realized that it wasn’t going to work the same as the doll – but he understood that there was a baby in there.
Over time – he has asked less to play with the dolls and will point to my belly instead of trying to lift my shirt when someone asks where the baby is. He did bring Heather and her baby to bed tonight but only the baby ended up staying. Now I am just hoping that he will make the connection that there will be a baby in our arms and that baby is the baby he has been playing with inside my belly. He definitely knows that there are babies in real life but I think about how he will react when I am holding Little #2 and he cannot put the baby back in my belly when he is done playing with it. We’ll see – others have made it work so I am sure we will too.
So you still are not ready use role playing for preparing your children for birth? Well, Luschka at Diary of a First Child compiled a list of some Books to Prepare Children for Childbirth, Homebirth or Waterbirth. On About.com, Stacy DeBroff wrote an article, Preparing your Toddler for the Arrival of a New Baby, in which she has a few ideas that we are going to be investigating during this last month. Last but not least the ever prepared Dionna of Code Name: Mama compiled a list of 30 Natural Birth Videos and Slideshows to Prepare Children for Labor and Birth.
There are other reasons to get a MamAmor for your family then just to prepare a child for birth. Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite shared her reasons for getting her girls a doll in this post – An Emotional Day. I think that commemoration of the bond between mother and child is something to be celebrated and that these dolls are a unique representation of that. MamAmors are used by birth professionals to help families prepare for labor and birth through a variety of situations. They are high quality and handcrafted.