A tale of two sis­ters

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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.

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