There is nervous anticipation tumbling around in my swollen belly along with you. The feeling is familiar, but still, this time around feels different. The idea of meeting you in a few short weeks is surreal, despite having done this before. In the evenings, when the hard work of caring for your big sister is done, I suddenly remember you. I stroke and poke my belly until you respond with a kick or a roll. Then, swiftly and right on cue, my mind fills with guilt.
Let me level with you; you are getting screwed over, but only a little bit.
I hope that your eyes (which if I remember correctly, should have opened weeks ago), are not yet discerning enough to see the mountains of difference between how I am preparing for you versus how I prepared for your big sister. When your sister was growing in my belly, we affectionately, if unoriginally, referred to her as “The Baby.” This time, my bulge has been astutely named by that baby, and I am sorry to say that the name has stuck. In our house, you are known as “The Ball.”
It gets worse, Ball.
While your sister got custom picture frames and décor carefully selected to fit a pink and gold color scheme, you do not even have a room of your own. Ms. Woolf would be disappointed for sure. Your imminent arrival has us scrambling to upsize, but I am sorry to say that the housing market is not cooperating. Your dad assures me that things (not to bore you, but these things include interest rates and inventory levels), should change sometime next year, hopefully before you become too cool to care that your roomies are Mom and Dad.
You may not have a room, but you have plenty of other things.
In fact, the other day, I wrote out a long list. “Things for Ball,” I cleverly titled it in my notes app. Toys, books, play mats, bouncers, a high chair, a stroller, blankets, clothes, etc. To my delight, I was able to whittle this massive list down to just a small number of items to buy. Again, this time around is different. I have not spent hours poring over research about which baby products will be best for your development, partially because we already have almost everything we need, and partially because I just don’t believe all the hype anymore. I am not going to be influenced into buying the latest product that somehow functions as a play mat, baby carrier, and lounger all at once just because a former reality show contestant touts its virtues on Instagram in exchange for cash.
Most of your toys and books are not new; instead, they are chock-full of charm and character, having been thoroughly enjoyed by your big sister.
Some had the unfortunate luck of being purchased during her “chew on everything” phase, but they are (or will soon be) both clean and functional. Your highchair is sturdy, but holds remnants of some of your sister’s messiest meals: stubborn stains that refuse to go no matter how hard I scrub. Many of your clothes are gently worn, but your sister grew like a weed, so she did not spend too much time rolling around in the leggings and sleepers that will soon be yours. This time around, we may not have dedicated hours to buying, washing, and folding tiny clothes, but I promise that you will be dressed for both occasion and weather whenever I can manage it.
I feel a little bit guilty about so many things this time around, but the one I worry most about is time.
They say that it is the most precious commodity, and I fear that I won’t have enough of it to give to you. Do you already find my time management skills to be sorely lacking? Does it matter that I haven’t spent hours talking to you while you tumble around in my belly? Is it bad that, were it not for the terrible pregnancy sciatica, obvious ball-sized belly, and occasional aggressive jab from you, that I suspect I would sometimes forget I am pregnant altogether?
When you arrive in this world, my eyes and heart will be focused on taking in the miracle of you, but part of me will be wondering how your big sister is faring with her grandparents back home. Has her energy drained them all? Will we return to a house full of exhausted zombies with one gleeful toddler wreaking havoc in their midst?
When we finally get home, my attention will be further divided. Our nursing sessions will look a bit different from the ones I shared with your sister. I am certain we will get some of those peaceful, content moments of pure connection, but they will be punctuated by your sister’s squeals, giggles, and tantrums. Instead of gazing happily at your sleeping face during naptime, I will be managing your sister’s schedule and enjoying glimpses of your peaceful, slumbering self in between tasks on the daily agenda.
Ball, I hope I haven’t painted too bleak a picture.
I have been focused on the negatives, but you are also getting an abundance of the good stuff; these include things, in fact, that your sister did not get to enjoy.
For one, you have the benefit of parents who actually kind of know what they are doing. When we left the hospital with your sister, everything spelled potential disaster: every car ride, every diaper change, every nursing session, and every sleepless night were fraught with anxiety. This time around, we are practiced enough with newborn care to make your day-to-day go relatively smoothly, and wise enough to understand that when disaster comes knocking it is usually with a whisper and not a yell. The hiccups and bumps in the road are just par for the course, and this too shall pass – it has before.
And unlike your sister, you will be getting a mom who is more equipped to live in the joy of the moment, rather than futilely insisting on perfection from morning to night. The last time around, I was convinced that everything had to be flawless – exclusive breastfeeding or the world would end, adhering to the recommended wake windows or the world would end- you get the picture.
This time around, I know that life with a newborn cannot be perfectly designed.
It is messy; plans will fall to the wayside, exhaustion will take over, and I will occasionally lose my patience. The last couple of years have shown me how to confidently stand in that mess, dirty diapers and all, and genuinely enjoy at least some of the beauty that it brings.
This time around, you won’t be the first grandchild on both sides of the family- your sister already took that honor for herself. No baby shower, no Facebook announcement, even, but you have a whole village of people eagerly awaiting your arrival. And the best thing of all that you will have that your sister did not, is your sister herself. She is fierce, sweet, mischievous, and already loves to hug you hard while you cocoon safely inside my belly (We are working on the word “gentle.” Hopefully mastery will come before you do). Sure, you will fight, argue, and disagree, but there will also be beautiful facets of your relationship that emerge over time– the closeness, the inside jokes, the protectiveness.
A lot of things have expanded in the past few years: my waistline, my belly (twice), my ability to be present and patient, and my tolerance for noise.
They say that your second baby shows you just how much the heart can expand. Right now, I can’t imagine loving anyone as much as I love your big sister, but I can’t wait for you to prove me wrong. Just a few more weeks now, Ball. See you soon.
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