Wednesday 2 November 2016

Becoming a Big Sister

My biggest girl, for so long you were an only child, I didn’t know if adding another baby to the mix would shake up your world in a bad way. Would you feel pushed out? Unsettled? Unloved? Would you resent the new baby for stealing my attention? Would you find yourself in competition for my love? Would you wonder why you weren’t enough?

These were the questions that swarmed round and round in my head when I couldn’t sleep at night. I would lie there, my stomach swollen, my back aching and my mind busy, wondering how you would adapt. As you lay nestled in my arms, I wondered whether you would feel jealous when another baby arrived to share my bed. I stroked your hair and wondered whether another child would weaken our bond. How would we find the time to connect when I would be so busy changing nappies, feeding and yawning?

You were perfect during the pregnancy, I couldn’t have asked for a better support. You cuddled me through morning sickness, you played quietly so I could sleep through the fatigue and you talked endlessly about how excited you were about the new baby. You understood why I couldn’t pick you up as much, why I didn’t want to do as much and why I always slept through our movie afternoons. You were kind and caring and ever so sweet.

The end of the pregnancy wasn’t easy. It seemed to drag on forever, well, it did really. We had been counting down the weeks for so long and then the baby didn’t arrive. We were stuck in a limbo. I didn’t want to venture far from home, I was tired and uncomfortable and crabby. And still, you were lovely. You were excited about the birth, we read stories about it and talked about what would happen. You wanted the baby to be born so you could meet him or her.

And then I ended up in hospital, away from you. And that was hard. I didn’t get to tuck you in at night, I didn’t wake to find you’d crept into my bed. It hurt so much to be away from you, especially knowing that I would arrive home with a new baby. That final week of just us just didn’t exist. Instead, we spent it just an hour at a time in a hospital room. I missed you so much.

And then, finally, your sister arrived. You were fast asleep when I went into labour. My mum drove over to be with you and Laurie came to the hospital to be with me. You were excited when you woke up because you knew the baby would be here soon. The baby hadn’t arrived before you fell asleep that night, but you found out first thing the next morning. You got yourself dressed into your favourite dress and you put a sparkly headband in your hair. You wanted to come straight away. You and Nanny sat in the waiting room and me and Laurie brought the baby to meet you.

You spotted the pink outfit and looked excited to have a sister. ‘I love you so much’, I heard you whisper to her. You held her, I’ve never seen you look so proud before. You were a big sister. You went home again and a few hours later we came to join you. And for the next week, we had time to adjust to life as a family of four. It wasn’t always easy. I was tired, emotional and sore. You spent a lot of time with Laurie, going out and doing fun things while I stayed at home and took ibuprofen. You loved holding your baby sister, especially doing skin-to-skin. You were so soft and gentle with her.

And then it was time for you to start school. It all happened too soon. We were meant to have more time as a family before you were ripped away, but life rarely goes to plan. It was a big adjustment starting school. You were tired, so tired. You were unsettled and emotional and it was hard. You cried easily, you were short-tempered. And so was I. Laurie was there, the voice of calm and reason throughout it all.

And then you settled in. It took two weeks, but eventually the tears stopped and you were back to being you. And things were easier. Laurie went back to work and we settled into a routine. The morning dash to try and get to school before the gates shut. The afternoon pick up, your excited face when you see Ember again after a long day apart.

You help out with nappy changes. You sing to her when she cries. You cuddle her and kiss her and tell her you love her. You read her stories. You tell her about your day. And everything you do makes her smile. You are already her favourite person. I didn’t expect you two to develop a strong bond so early on, but there it is, an unstoppable love between the two of you.

You’re jealous sometimes, of course. Though not of my attention, it’s when other people spend too much time admiring Ember that you go into overdrive. You start kissing Ember, stroking her hair and generally trying to get people to appreciate what a fantastic big sister you are.

You have taken to your new role so well. Being a big sister seems to come naturally to you, and I’m so glad. I can’t imagine how hard this transition would have been if you seemed unhappy or jealous. Instead, you have flourished and blossomed with somebody little to care for. I am so proud of you, biggest girl. I am proud of how much love you have in your heart and how willingly you share it with those around you. Ember is very lucky to have you as her big sister.

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