During the last months of my pregnancy with my youngest daughter I was offered many pieces of advice about how to help my older daughter cope. “You should buy a gift from the baby and give it to her when you come home from the hospital,” they would say. More than once I heard the new woman analogy. It goes like this, “Imagine your husband came home with another woman who was going to live with you.” My immediate thought was that it would be totally fine as long as she cooked and did the laundry. Now I know they meant it to imply that the new infant would be to my daughter as the new woman would be to me. This analogy was meant to help me see the situation from my toddler’s point of view and to feel empathy for her.
My toddler wasn’t going to be alone in facing this transition. I wish someone had told me about some of the feelings I may have during that time. Because sometimes mothers feel a sense of loss of that special duo they had with their older child. My first baby and I started feeling a change months before her sister was born. Our beloved glider was moved from her room into her sister’s and she chased after it in a panic whimpering, “My rocking chair.” There was a crushing pain that settled deep in my chest when she said that and I wanted to take it all away, all of it. How could I do this to her, I thought. The words of wisdom that helped me reconcile these feelings didn’t come until after her sister was born and so I struggled with guilt and worries about what I was taking from my first born instead of what I was giving to her.
I went into labor with my little one on her due date, but for weeks I was filled with worries about the unknowns of the impending day. Who would watch my first? Would she be ok without me for a night? When I woke up in labor on the morning of November 18th some of the worries I had were put to rest. My sister came to be with my toddler and she brought her toddler. They jumped on the trampoline in the living room while my sister and I talked about birth and I labored on the exercise ball. It all felt normal and easy. We had lunch and I took breaks to work through my contractions. After lunch I brought my first born upstairs for her nap. I lay with her and we read Goodnight Moon and The Hungry Little Caterpillar and I smoothed her baby curls and kissed her precious nose and explained that the baby in my belly would soon be here.
When she woke up I would be on my way to give birth to her little sister and our time as a duo would be over, a new chapter beginning.
Five hours later her sister made her way into the world. As soon as she was settled on my chest and after I had kissed her little fingers and smoothed her wet hair I asked for my phone. My oldest was the first thing on my mind. Her aunt brought her the following morning to meet her new sister. The video we have when they entered the room immediately focused on me with an open sweater, a nursing bra and the lovely mesh panties distributed by the hospital. Surprisingly I could have cared less. I did love those mesh panties though. The piece of advice I received during those early days was that in the midst of all of these many different feelings a mother of two feels, to hold onto what you have bestowed upon your older child, that of the tremendous gift of a sibling. This gift would be a bond and a lifetime of love and loyalty and friendship.