A tale of two sisters
If you thought planning for two weddings at once was wild, how about two babies? Yes, friends, I’m excited that another member of the family will be joining us in 2017: my sister, Katie, and her husband are expecting their first child. Our due dates — like our 2013 weddings — are about six weeks apart.
No, that was not planned. Yes, it’s slightly crazy. But we’re cer- tainly thrilled . . . and setting up auto-delivery with coffee suppliers now. Maybe buying a back-up Keurig for the back-up Keurig, you know? Can’t run the risk of anything breaking down. Anarchy will follow.
I think constantly about parenthood. That reflects in my writing, of course, because nothing changes you as profoundly as a new baby. It puts everything — world news, ca- tastrophes, triumphs, politics — into sharp relief, and I find myself thinking often about the weighty responsibility of raising good humans: inspiring them as best we know how.
I just earned my motherhood badge 19 months ago, and this will be my first time as an aunt. I’m looking forward to seeing our children grow up side-byside and hope they’ll feel more like siblings than cousins. My only concern? With our babies so close together, I only hope I’ll be able to be there for Katie as she has been there for me.
My sister and brother-in-law have never been more than a phone call away. My son adores them. Like our parents and family, Kate and Eric swept in after Oliver’s early birth, accompanying Spencer and me on countless hospital trips and coming by often to check on us after settling at home.
Katie and Eric brought us lunch, diapers, formula, Star- bucks. They held the baby so we could shower or nap or sim- ply sit alone in a different room, catching our breath. They organized news to share with friends and family, and acted as a go-between with others when we weren’t up to visits.
More than anything, were there.
Long before I became Ol- iver’s mother, I was Katie’s sister. Though three years my junior, she has taught me many lessons about strength and how to work hard even when the end result is uncertain. Katie and Eric have certainly faced challenges in their early years of marriage, and they’ve remained they close and determined through all of them.
I don’t worry about how they’ll be as parents. One glance at how bonded they are to their nephew demonstrates they have more than what it takes. I do worry that, in my own newborn delirium, I won’t be able to extend the same level of support that they have given Spencer and me — and I know they’re going to need it.
I guess that’s when we call on our village.
It takes one, doesn’t it — a village to support us, to encourage us, to step in when we’re shaky and uncertain and frail? “One day at a time” has become my mantra, given that parenthood is nothing if fraught with the unexpected. We depend on others to care for and about our children when we send them out into the world, just as I try to respect and care for others. It’s not easy, but we are all in this together.
Parenthood isn’t all grunt work, but these baby years are hard. They require emotional reserves, patience and a degree of selflessness that I never expected and wasn’t sure I possessed . . . but you find a way. When you dig for the last of your energy, unsure whether even a droplet remains, you find the well has been punched deeper. Someone helps. You make it.
Spencer and I learned last week that our second child is a girl — a soon-to-be sister to our son. Though that was my gut in- stinct all along, there is a huge difference between thinking and knowing. Now we know.
I find myself thinking often about raising a son versus rais- ing a daughter. My anxiety kicks in as I ponder how to be a good parent to both. Is there a differ- ence? Should there be? Consid- ering I had no experience with either at the start, I didn’t think I’d be this nervous. But I’ve only recently gained confidence with Oliver, and I am.
Though when we distill it, I want to think raising children is simply the responsibility of raising children: teaching them to be kind, curious, empathetic, strong. These aren’t “boy” qualities or “girl” qualities, you know — just good human qualities. And if I keep reminding myself of that, I know we’ll be fine.
Katie and Eric will find out the sex of their baby in the months to come, and we’re all daydreaming about life with this trio of cousins next year. Exhausting days and nights will follow, and I’m dreading our return to the sleepless newborn life.
But the sun will crack through that gloom before we know it. I will reach out a hand to help my sister through the fog, too.
Together, the village moves forward. It succeeds.