A little more than four months ago, Grace came into the world, all cheeks and deep-sea eyes and baby kitten hair and rolls of deliciousness. She has changed the axis of our world, which was once firmly, solely balanced by E, my ten-year old son.
E was not so sure about having a sibling. He told me in those exact words.
"I'm not so sure about having a baby brother or sister," he confessed, sitting in his loft bed just an hour after we shared the news that I was pregnant.
"It's OK, " I reassured him, smoothing his wily brown hair to his forehead. "You can feel however you want to feel about this. It is all OK."
I paused then, kissed his fingers.
"And," I continued, "none of us ever know how we feel about our siblings. One minute, they are the most important person in the world and the next minute, they are making us crazy. This is how it is."
We repeated this conversation several times over the six months that followed. I heard in his words that he expected himself to have a revelatory moment when the love flooded him and was left convinced, confident.
But even I was scared. Edged around the excitement, I worried those things that all parents of more than one child smile and say will be resolved once the baby is born. Yes, you will love this second child just as much. Yes, the first child will get over it. Yes, you will eventually sleep again, leave the house unstained by spit-up, spend your diaper budget on lattes, wear heels and have sex and feel yourself again. Yes, it will all come together. But not until the baby is born. Long after the baby is born.
I admitted I had my own anxieties but that I knew from having him, that they would dissipate. I knew from loving my nephews that, as much as we could not imagine a world with these babies-to-be in it, as soon as they were in our arms, we could not imagine the family without them. It would all be OK.
He still didn't know. Until, as we all know, the baby was born. Then my son, all long-haired and goofy faces and stand-up comedy and YouTube break-dance tutorials and questions too late at night about what happens to our souls when we die, was flooded and convinced.
That didn't mean the nervousness went away. He was nearly silent, asking permission in a whisper to sit next to me on the hospital bed, eying the tubes and monitors snaking around my body, grimacing at the protective vernix coating Grace's pink flesh.
But he was in. He had a baby sister and he was fully in.
Today, his was the first face she saw, peering over her swing while she stretched inside her swaddle, cooed into the otherwise empty living room. Sunshine spilled across her face and the two of them laughed and snuggled and soaked each other up. He left for school with drool kisses still wet on his cheeks.
We make Mommy & E dates to the movies, to paint pottery, to get a slushie or special treat from Starbucks. We remember aloud what it was like when it was only us. We are wistful for the days when we were a team of two. We do the math on how old Grace will be when he can drive her to soccer or play dates, joke about her taking over his room when he leaves for college. We ease the anxieties we can't see by remembering how we made it through the ones that have past.
Then the Not Boyfriend comes home or the baby wakes up and the pitch in our voices rises to greet them, pull them into the center of our gravity, hold them close, kiss their heads.
Oh soul, you worry too much, reads a Rumi poem I have scribbled on a Post-It in my night stand drawer, going on for just a few lines and ending, You are in truth the soul of the soul, of the soul.
Next to the poem, years ago, E pressed on a sticker of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. Winnie looks worried over a tiny bee that has landed on his nose, and Tigger looks delighted, surprised. Teetering there, tacked to my Rumi, is the concern and the wonder, perfectly placed.
It will not always be as it is today. There will be more questions, more uncertainty. There will be doors slammed and cries of injustice and whining in the backseat. There will be disappointment, jealousy, fear, frustration. Because of their age difference, there will be gaps of time when they do not relate to each other in between the moments when only they get the language they are speaking. There will tears.
And because they are siblings, just as I promised my son, there will be long hugs goodbye, inside jokes at inappropriate moments, teasing parents and one another mercilessly, late-night calls and unsolicited advice. I know this because I have a brother. And because I know them, see deep into their growing souls, I also understand that there will be many, many costumes when at least one child is wearing a wig or tiara or knee-highs that look like bacon. There will be deep discussions, Scrabble, ritual passings down of favorite books. There will be whispers, confessions, car dancing.
There will be, one day, if life goes as it should, the two of them alone in a room, fending for each other.
But that is a lot to foresee, or perhaps project, and so I try very hard each day to narrow my focus to the boy and his baby sister, his gangly legs and face that looks more like a man each day and her soft newness cuddled up in his careful arms. I don't want to forget who we all are in this very moment. You are in truth, I think, sitting and smiling and sighing as you are.
Seeing this all, loving her, holding him exactly where I always have in my heart — it has erased the worries for me. At night after he reads for a while and we say our prayers together, I sit on a bean bag under E's loft bed and sing him the lullabies I've sung to him for a decade. Most nights now, Grace is on my lap, nursing or singing along in her funny little baby babble. The vision that this might happen came to mind many nights when I rubbed my swollen pregnant belly while I sang, and it came true.
Through all those worries, it came true. It is still coming true.