There is a famous story in my family that goes like this: When I was 2 1/2, my sister, Amy Lou, was born. They brought her home from hospital, and my mom's best friend/my godmother, Mary, asked me, "Hannah, what did you get from the hospital?!" I answered, after a moment of hesitation --perhaps because I just needed time to process this weighted question, and perhaps because it just the moment of hesitation I needed for mischief to seep in--
"Gum," I said. "I got a stick of gum!"
Then everyone laughs.
Despite my early reservations about being a big sister, I came around. Amy Lou and I have a great relationship now (30 years later, we did it!).
And I have a great relationship with the other one in that picture...she came along 4 years after Amy Lou in a blaze of scream-crying glory. I have always said that Maren was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, and that is a true truth, but she was also a very VOCAL one.
Anyways, the point is, having sisters is great. It is absolutely one of the most enriching, rewarding relationship of my life, it's wonderful. In the long run. In the short run it is new and different and therefore terrifying. From the parent's perspective, I think it is the scariest, bravest thing you can do. Having another child literally doubles your work. Some say it is more than double. But those people are very mean and should keep comments like that to themselves, or surely we will never repopulate the Earth.
So basically, that is how I feel about having a second child: it is the most wonderful thing ... it is the scariest thing.
But here we go... we're doing it! And I have some concerns.
I worry a little about Olivia taking on the role of the big sister. I worry about the little fights they will get into, the times that O will be jealous of the baby's attention, the days when O will wish she had her mom and dad all to herself again. Although I don't worry about these things too much for some reason. I don't think she will treat her little sibling like a discarded piece of gum. She has more love in her heart than that (not sure where she got it from). She talks about babies a LOT, and she loves to help take care of them at daycare. She talks about her sister too (she thinks we are having a girl, she is pretty insistent on that). She talks about where her sister will sit on the couch, which toys she will play with, how she will take a bath in the same tub as Olivia does. And I hear stories from my friends about how sweet it is to see their kids' sibling relationship blossom, and all of this makes me really excited. It sounds absolutely wonderful and adorable and heartwarming. Almost enough to make me throw myself into this adventure with total carefree excitement.
But not quite.
When we first found out that we were pregnant again, I think we had two simultaneous emotions: the first one was total excitement of course. There was never a doubt that we wanted to have two children, but we never assumed it would just happen. So we were very grateful that we were able to get pregnant again, and so quickly too. But our second emotion was fear...fear of the unknown.
I don't know how we are going to do it all. I don't know how anyone does it all. We barely get out the door before 8am as it is right now. We are constantly a few chores behind. Our house is always almost-clean. But never all the way clean. Never ever. Call me crazy, but I don't think that adding another child to the house is going to move us into the totally tidy category.
I really like my job, and there is no chance of giving that up, but I will have to return to work sooner than I did the last time around. With Olivia, I stayed home for over 6 months. This time it will be about 3 months off, and then a quick transition from part-time to full-time work. Will that be enough time for me and the baby? Will we be able to establish a strong breastfeeding relationship and carry that on as long as we would like?
And that is just the unknown. What about all the things we DO know this time? Newborns are SO hard. They eat, they cry, they sleep (from time to time), they poop and then they cry because they just pooped and how could you not KNOW that and also they are HUNGRY now! On this topic I have found that it is best to not focus on what you know. Just focus on the enduring hope that this child will be different than the first one and they will be an easy baby because they love you and they know that you need this.
Lastly, I have this one other little itty bitty fear. Postpartum depression. Women who have had PPD have a 50% chance of experiencing it again in later pregnancies (for all women the odds are 20%). So while I am not "doomed" by any means, it still hits me in the gut big time. It is hard to deal with this reality. I don't know just want to do with it, but I am trying to prepare for the possibility.
...More on that topic later. Suffice it to say, it is one of the fears that I keep in my little bag of fears.
One of goals during this pregnancy is to be open and honest and nonjudgmental about my feelings. Every single person I have spoken to who is expecting a second child has expressed pure and total joy. Including me, at least at first. It is really the only acceptable thing to say. "We are thrilled!" "So excited to be having a sibling...our family is growing!" "Of course it was planned!!"
Haha...it actually was totally planned in our case, but you know. That doesn't mean you've thought it all through!
So now I try and tell people that yes, we are excited, thrilled, eager to start this new chapter and meet this new little guy. And we are also a little terrified. We don't know what we are getting into. We feel in over our heads sometimes. But other times we don't. Other times we listen to Olivia explaining which toys she will give to the baby to play with, and our hearts melt. My hormones go into maternal bliss overdrive and I feel a sense of calm. This will all turn out OK somehow. I know some of those friends were actually totally scared too (they told me later when it was safe). And they are all doing pretty darn good now. Their hearts grew big enough to accommodate the love for both kids. Even when they run out of sleep, or energy, or money at the end of the month, they never run out of love.
And neither will I.