Growing a little sister–and a big one

30 04 2014

It’s true what they say about growing baby #2–you spend all your time pregnant with your first baby worrying about your first baby, and all your time pregnant with your second baby worrying about your first baby.  Except it’s less worry, in our case, and more just a matter of attention.  The belly-baby has to kick me to get noticed; otherwise she’s just a basketball in the way of whatever I’m doing with Evanny and a logistical puzzle for how we’re going to manage putting which things where in our little house to get through the infant stage (when E is still in her crib, but the changing table is still in her room, because it won’t fit in ours, so where are we going to change an infant while E’s asleep?) and her baby-dom (when E gets her own room, at least for a while, because she’s too light a sleeper to subject her to another baby’s nighttime fickle-ness, but that means we have to lose part or all of the office I work in, the TV room, and Matt’s music-space (all of which occupy the same room currently anyway–the one that will have to become a bedroom)) and how we’re going to get three carseats into one car–the bigger models are out of our price range, and we’re locked into our lease so we can only shift over within what the same company offers, but there’s no way to get 2 seats and the booster Caleb has to be in until he’s 9 into the one we’ve got.

"Ev, where's Mumma's baby?"

“Ev, where’s Mumma’s baby?” (I had to clarify–when I first said “where’s the baby,” she pointed to her own belly.  For a few more months, anyway, the baby, for all intents and purposes, is still herself.)

Basketballs impede efforts to bend over the tub to wash a toddler, to bend around the floor-toys and furniture to crawl after a toddler, to reach the dishes (again) so I can keep up with all the sippy cups generated by said toddler, to chase the toddler around the playground, etc. etc.–we’re doing okay so far, though, and it’s only a month until Daddy’s home for the summer and able to take over the bulk of the gymnastic chasing.  It’s more the mental switch that’s hard to practice for, although we’re trying.  I don’t know how many times I day I refer to Evanny as some version of “my baby,” and although I try occasional corrections, and am making an effort to say “big girl” at least once in a while, I’ve never liked “big girl,” really (having been the older sister myself, and a chubby one at that, might be behind this), and it’s still so ridiculous to imagine: this baby, with her waving little changing-table naked legs and thin hair only barely now shaping itself into a single, lop-sided, almost curl behind her left ear, being anybody’s big sister some 3 1/2 months from now.  She says “baby” when she points to pictures of herself, and I can’t really dispute the claim.  “We’re going to have two babies,” I end up saying.  “Where’s the other baby?”  And most times she’ll point at my belly, because she knows the answer, even if she has no idea what we’re actually talking about.  Sometimes she points at my boobs, with the same twinkle-eyed look she’ll get when she points at Daddy’s to ask if she can nurse, but when we were in for a belly-baby check-up a few weeks ago, and the doctor got out her doppler wand and said “Do you want to listen to the baby’s heartbeat,” Evanny quickly raised up her shirt to show her belly, because that’s where babies are.  “She’s smart,” said the doc, impressed.  “We do try to talk about it,” I said, because it’s bragging to say “Yeah, I know,” when people tell you your kids are smart, but they are, and we know.

It’s possible the belly-baby won’t be smart at all; maybe she’ll be madly artistic instead, or twice as gymnastic as her physically daring older sister.  Maybe she won’t have any stunning talents, she’ll just be terribly kind, or bizarrely patient–there are so many ways she could add something currently-missing and magical to our little family’s dynamic that I’m not hanging any hopes on any particular version of what could be.  Well, except for one.  I really, really, really want her to love her sister.  I always wanted a sister, growing up; I cried when my parents called from the hospital to proudly announce the birth of my only sibling, a little brother.  My mom had sisters, and my friends had sisters, and I wished and wished that I had had one too, but it wasn’t in the cards.  So while I pretended that I was only a little hopeful that our sonogram would promise us another girl, I was actually irrationally and unwisely attached to the idea, and gleefully relieved when the tech made her identification (especially when, moving through her checklist of measurements, she came back across the bottom half and said “still a girl!”).  My head is full of pretty little pictures of their two heads bent together over some book or toy (preferably in one of our rare flares of green-grass and sunshine, but in a winterized room framed by snowfall or by dim firelight would be lovely too), of them chasing each other across the park on tasseled bicycles, of play-curtained bunkbeds (when they’re old enough that we can have our room back!) and other, yet unimagined illustrations of togetherness.  I know that’s not a guarantee; I’ve known sisters who hated each other, and sisters who, more like my brother and I, simply never really felt like they had anything in common when they were kids.  But I hope and hope and hope, for their sake and for my own attachment to my fantasies.

In the long term, I’m not that worried about her because I figure that, no matter what I plan or wish for, she, like Evanny, will choose her own paths and priorities, and make those things known–hopefully in ways that allow and encourage her family’s participation!  I forget, sometimes, though, that not worrying shouldn’t be the same as not noticing.  We’ve bought her one whole toy of her own–a little rattle with an elephant’s head that makes pretty little wood-chime noises–and I’ve got a few new hand-me-downs that are more summery newborn things, since she’s due in mid-August instead of late September, so at least at first, she’ll be a little off-season to what fit her sister.  We’ve told her brother and our families her name, and sketched out some possible solutions to the logistical problems noted above, and my friend Lydia and I–she’s due with a girl in July–have made half-promises for summer welcome-baby parties in her yard and matching Halloween outfits when the littlest girls are two.  Most of the time, though, I just don’t notice much beyond being tired–and I’ve been tired for so long, at this point, that that’s hardly noticeable either, it just is.  So at least once a day, I’m surprised by my own belly in the mirror, or by the growing gap between what some of my shirts cover and how far down the maternity yoga pants  slide (the regular ones fit far better!).  It’s hard to imagine the little yellow room being somebody else’s bedroom next year instead of Evanny’s.  It’s impossible to imagine my snuggly (although only because it’s a sick-day) little armful of baby daughter being somebody’s older sister, or how tiny a newborn is going to feel in those same arms.  And don’t even get me started on the total fog of impossibility that blows in when I try to imagine combining the incredible time-suck of infant-care with the madcap activity of toddler-chasing.  That, I imagine, you’ll never even get to read about, because where on Earth would I ever find time to do both, teach 3 classes, and blog?!  But there might be a retrospective, sometime after they both start school (at which point, dear Lord, their brother will be in middle school).

My favorite part of the waiting is how taken Evanny is with babies all around her–I feel this bodes well.  Her favorite Peppa Pig episodes are the ones about Peppa’s cousin Baby Alexander–and the one where Peppa and her friends look at their own baby pictures, and when those come on her little rotations of 5-minute episodes, she always asks me to go back and play them again and again.  She points out, and wants to get closer to, every baby we see when we’re out shopping.  Sometimes she asks for them–“baby me?” she’ll say, which in Evanny-ese means “baby, please?” (Daddy started trying to teach her “please” before she had a p-sound, see.)  Two of our playgroup friends have just had new babies–we saw one at the playground Monday, and that was her immediate response to meeting tiny Emmett.  “Not yet,” I told her; “Emmett’s sleeping, and it’s chilly anyway.  You’ll have your own baby soon enough.”   When older babies come to playgroup, she likes to get close to them, and I like to practice holding them; she always crawls into my lap too, to share the space, and if they’ll let her, she holds their hands.  When we hear babies crying, she’ll reenact the crying, hands over her face, and say “baby ooooh.”  And all of it, the attraction, the empathy, the simple interest, I know, is mercurial like everything in toddlerhood and might not last, but while it’s here, while we’re here growing (especially in the still “early” spring of late April in New York, where everything outside is rainy and grey, planted seeds don’t sprout, trees are just starting to shiver with buds, and the idea of an end-of-summer baby seems as improbable as the idea that summer will ever come, when all we’re doing is growing, and growing crazy in the house), it’s delightful.

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