During my first pregnancy, I spent the entire nine months in a deep panic. I was terrified that I would be rubbish at being a mum. I felt sure that I would mess things up and that I wouldn’t know what I was doing. I had so many vivid dreams during pregnancy about trying and failing to be a mother. In most of them, I couldn’t feed the baby and so the baby would just get smaller and smaller until it disappeared. I was so worried about what parenthood would be like.
And then Ebony was born and all of that fear melted away. I realised that yeah, ok, I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, but neither did this helpless little baby, She wasn’t judging me. As long as she was fed and loved, she was happy. My previous worries about whether I would bond with the baby suddenly seemed ridiculous. As soon as she was placed into my arms, my whole world changed forever. My heart grew three sizes and I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging, I had finally found my place in the world. I felt like I was born to be her mother. Nothing else had ever been important as this challenge. She was my everything and I wanted to be the very best version of myself for her every day.
Becoming Ebony’s mama was the making of me. Together, we found our footing. Being a mother isn’t always easy, in fact, sometimes it’s really bloody hard. But it is always a privilege. I feel so lucky to be Ebony’s mother. She is truly my best friend. Ever since she first learned to string a few words together, she has been my favourite person to speak to. She comes out with some crazy things and I’m glad I get to be the one to hear them. We are in sync with one another and I love that.
The thought of adding another child into the mix is quite terrifying. Sometimes it can difficult enough with one, why would we have another?! At first, I could only think about the newborn days. I love the newborn days. I love having a teeny tiny person who is completely and utterly dependent on me. I love hibernating at home with my newborn and just focusing on getting to know each other. I love that feeling of invincibility after birth and the power of being able to nourish a baby. I love the smell, the cuddles and the hours spent napping together. And that’s all I thought about for the first few weeks of the pregnancy.
Then I started to think about Ebony. I started to think about what an amazing big sister she would be. She loves babies and is always really gentle with them. She’s always excited to see the baby brothers and sisters of her friends and will happily play with them to try and keep them up. She’s so kind and loving towards me and I realised I couldn’t wait to see her treat the new baby the same way. She started telling me about all the things she will do with the new baby and all the things she will be in charge of teaching it. My excitement grew as I imagined the three of us snuggled up together after school, chatting about Ebony’s day while the baby fed.
And then I started to think about Ebony a little more. I started to think about how having a sibling isn’t wonderful all of the time. How sometimes they ruin your games, break your toys and spoil your fun. How they steal the attention you have been so used to enjoying by yourself. How they start to determine the schedule so you can’t do whatever you want, whenever you want it anymore. And then I started to worry. What if the transition from only child to big sister is more difficult than I was anticipating? What if she isn’t happy when the new baby arrives? What if she longs for the way it used to be? What will I say to her then? Will I even notice that she’s feeling that way when I’m sleep deprived and breastfeeding and completely hormonal?
We talk about the new baby a lot, usually because she has brought the subject up. She has quite a few books about new babies and, of course, she has spent time with babies. But is that enough? Is there any way to really prepare a child for the birth of a baby? I mean, I didn’t feel at all prepared for the birth of my baby when I was 25, so it seems a bit much to expect Ebony to at four. Is she even really capable of imagining how things might change when we become a family of four?
How did you prepare your only child for the birth of a sibling? Are there any books you would recommend? Did you do anything you felt worked really well? Or anything that didn’t? Any advice gratefully received!