Should I take my older child to his sister’s 20-week sonogram? Babble.com’s Parental Advisory.

I have a four-year-old son and am due with a second child (a girl) in early December. I’m wondering your advice/thoughts on taking my son to the twenty-week sonogram as part of introducing him to his new baby sister and helping him to understand that the baby is growing in momma’s belly. I vacillate between thinking it might be creepy for him (it really does look like an alien!) to thinking it would be a wonderful way to integrate the idea of a new baby into our daily life. Obviously there will also be much discussion about what a big help he’ll be, his questions, etc. between then and the birth. You have the most levelheaded, intelligent, and logical answers around, so what do you think? – Sonomom

Dear Sonomom,

Our first thought is: how cool that you’re thinking about integrating the idea of a new baby into your son’s life. Our second thought: wow, those twenty-week sonograms sure are long. If it’s the anatomical scan – scheduled at twenty weeks and done in a hospital – the visit can take over an hour (not counting the waiting room portion). There’s the whole laundry list of parts to be measured, not all of which are readily visible from every fetal position. So there may be wait time mid-sono as well as beforehand.

Unless you’ve got one of those newfangled 4D machines, it’s tough for an untrained adult to tell what’s what without expert help, let alone a little kid. So he probably won’t get the alien creep-out, but he may not get the cute sister either. He may just get . . . bored. Really, really bored. And then there might be fidgeting or disciplining, or “no running in the hallways,” or “don’t touch that screen.” And you’ll be on your back, trying to focus on the close-ups of femurs and heart valves.

We’re not saying this is bound to happen; your kid may be riveted and really enjoy the technology and the doctor and nurses may be lovely and friendly and he’ll come out thinking the hospital is the coolest place on earth. This is entirely possible. But you’ll need to factor in a bunch of variables: his general attention span, early twangs of jealousy about so much attention paid to “the baby,” the tolerance of the technician for fidgeting and kid questions, the amount of room and chairs in the sonogram room . . . the list could go on.

You might consider bringing another person to help out. This way your son can come in for the money shot and then, if he wants to, leave and go have fun taking the elevator or running around the lobby or getting an ice-cream from the cafeteria. A partner could be a great option, as he or she will likely be more involved with the older child’s care as you tend to a newborn. However, you’ll need to be sure your partner’s okay with being away from the action. You may both want to be giving your full attention to the screen, especially if there are any issues that need discussing.

Whoever comes should be a fun person, familiar to your son, and ready to ply him with some distracting books or toys. The idea is to keep the experience as light and loose as possible so he has an easy-going, positive vibe about the hospital. He may be back in that same hallway when you’re in labor or after the baby is born. By making the trip special and focused on his needs and interests, you can start to build a good association with the place. And with being a big brother.

One other option is to take him to a less intensive sonogram at your midwife or ob/gyn’s office. It might be blurrier, but it will probably be more casual, and certainly shorter. You could bring it up with your care provider at the next visit so you can both decide whether it’s a good idea and, if so, which appointment would be best. The bottom line is that this could be a really great opportunity for your family to share and learn. Just keep thinking about the big picture for your son as well as the little picture of your daughter.

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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