Toddler and mom have emotional reaction when he meets baby number two

Feeling guilty about welcoming a second child? That's totally normal.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Terri Peters

When Ashley Clarke was pregnant with her daughter in 2017, she already had an almost-2-year-old son, Jackson, and was nervous about introducing him to his new baby sister.

Photos of Jackson's first time meeting baby Emma showed that the Florida mom's concerns were valid.

When Ashley Clarke introduced her son, Jackson, to his new baby sister, Emma, there were tears from both mom and toddler.Jordan Burch Photography

In the images, captured by photographer Jordan Burch, 21-month-old Jackson sobs at the sight of his newborn baby sister. Clarke cries, too, seeing her son's reaction. The photos went viral in 2017, and have recently gained attention again, proving that Clarke's predicament resonates with second-time moms everywhere.

"I felt so torn because I was beyond excited to meet my sweet girl, but my heart broke knowing he was so upset," Clarke told TODAY Parents. "I felt like I was letting him down."

"I felt like I was letting him down," Clarke said of Jackson's reaction.Jordan Burch Photography

TODAY Parenting Team contributor Dr. Catherine Pearlman, founder of The Family Coach, says Clarke's feelings are normal.

"When women are pregnant with number two, they worry about not being able to manage the children on their own," said Pearlman. "Moms worry about how existing children will welcome the newborn. They worry about not knowing what to do with a baby — especially if it's been a while since the birth of their first child. And, they worry that baby number one won't recover from the harsh new reality that there's a new baby in town."

Pearlman offers these tips for moms who are feeling the emotional strain of welcoming their second child.

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1. Give yourself a break.

"No one would expect a new employee on a job to know how to do everything in the company," says Pearlman. "It's the same bringing home a new baby while caring for another child — it's OK to not be on your A-game immediately."

2. Understand every parent of two or more feels guilt.

"It gets better and easier," promises Pearlman. "The guilt will pass, just give it time."

3. Accept help.

Pearlman says there's no shame in getting the support needed after bringing home baby number two, and encourages moms to ask for help with childcare and accept post-baby assistance like home-cooked meals so they can spend time with their older child instead of doing chores.

4. Find one-on-one time with your older child.

"This will do you both good," says Pearlman. "Even if it's 10 minutes, try to find some time to give your undivided attention."

5. Get baby to bed earlier.

As soon as it's practical, Pearlman says it's helpful to put baby to bed 30 minutes before the older child.

"This allows some uninterrupted quiet time to snuggle, talk, read and have a peaceful end to the day," adds Pearlman. "I recommend parents keep the same schedule as both children age. Always give the older child a little time to be a big kid."

6. Empathize.

"Instead of trying to convince the older child that the baby is the best present ever, try to understand how it feels when a baby comes home," suggests Pearlman. "Validate feelings by saying, 'I know it's frustrating that I can't play right now,' or, 'You seem really sad. Want to sit next to me while I feed the baby?'"

Burch, who is also a mom, says she was taken aback by the emotional scene she photographed that day.

"She was anxious and tearful from the minute I got there and when Jackson came in and broke down, I knew it confirmed all of her fears," said Burch. "But being a mom of four, I also knew they'd all recover quickly."

Today, Clarke says Jackson and Emma are the best of friends, and have adjusted well to sibling life.Jordan Burch Photography

Burch was right. Today, Clarke says Jackson, 3, and Emma, 1, get along just fine.

"They get along really well and he is so helpful with her," said Clarke. "If she's crying, he always tries to make her feel better, and she thinks he hung the moon. But, he always tells me no more babies, just Emma."