Big Brother, Little Sister: Growing Pains

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Nature walk along the bike trail and looking for milkweed.

As I sit down to write this post I have been wearing the same milk encrusted nursing bra for over two days now. Last time you heard from me gentle readers I was about 9 months pregnant and expecting our little lady. Well, I am now officially the mother of two kiddos. As a reminder, Henry is four and half years old, and Ruby, is a sparkly little lady about 5 weeks of age.  So you’ll have to excuse me if I haven’t mustered up the energy to take a shower just yet.

Ok, really, it’s not that bad. I do manage to groom myself, feed all children (and myself) and have time to write these meandering blog posts (not to mention, I squeeze in at least 1 hour of facebook surfing, and P90x workouts all while wearing sexy skinny jeans). Supermom anyone?  I’m completely kidding about the workouts and jeans. That being said, the last 5 weeks have been such a huge adjustment. I’m sure most of you are scratching your head thinking, “duh heather…of course having another kid is a huge adjustment.”  Yeah well, the part that has been the hardest adjustment is the relationship I have with my son. This sweet little guy knows how to make me laugh, push my pissed-off buttons, and make my heart swell.  And that’s just within a 5 minute period of time.

Let’s go back for a moment. When Henry was born, the relationship with my husband Karl changed in a flash. The night Henry was born, after we got settled in to our recovery room, I cried. And it wasn’t tears of joy. It was tears of sadness and loss. I felt like I had lost my best friend and he had fallen in love with someone else…our son. Let’s put a few things in perspective here—I had been in labor for over 18 hours, was stitched up like a trussed thanksgiving turkey, and hadn’t eaten in 24 hours…so yeah my emotional state of mind was a little skewed. Regardless, it took awhile for to me to get used to this new transition in our life. And it took awhile for me to adjust to the new marriage that Karl and I had with a little bouncing baby thrown in to the mix.

With the impending addition of Ruby to our world I wasn’t worried about how it would affect my relationship with Karl. He and I have grown closer in the time that we have been together and I knew we would weather this transition. It was Henry that I was worried about. Over the last 9 months he has been quite vocal about not wanting a sister. I didn’t push the issue with him, but hoped that once he saw Ruby he would fall in love. Yeah, not so much. What I have come to realize is there is no “normal” way a child should react to having a new baby brother or sister. Some big brothers want to hold the baby…others will throw their Tonka trucks at their little brother (I’m looking at you Karl). Regardless, I think in my mind I had imagined Henry would want to hold Ruby, snuggle with her…hell, I had even hoped that he would call her by her name rather than refer to her as my “poopy sister.” To make matters “worse” for the first week that she was home, he would tell us we shouldn’t have had a baby every time she cried.

Deep down inside I know that Henry loves his sister and is just adjusting to this new change. When I’m not looking he steals kisses from his sister’s little head. He will even rub her tummy when she is crying. I quietly look out of the corner of my eye, overwhelmed with mommy pride, my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes knowing that if he sees me staring at him, he’ll say, “you know I don’t like her, mom.” Anyway, we are all adjusting. Let’s be honest, it’s been a challenging time for me as well. Don’t get me wrong, Ruby is a joy, and I’m head over heels in love with her. Oh man, those cheeks are so delicious, I smooch them every moment I get. Poor girl had garlic smelling cheeks after my allium-laced meal the other night. I digress. Before she was born I worried—do I have enough love for two children? And the answer is yes, I do have enough love for two (and some left over for my husband and myself!), it’s just logistically hard to spread that love between two very different babes.  One wants to eat every two hours, and the other wants me to play with him every waking minute. But you know what? We are making it work. And it feels pretty awesome.

For awhile I felt guilty about having another baby. Henry has always been the center of the universe and he knows this…he is very aware of this. Yet one thing I have realized in this very short time of being a mom to two, is that Henry is gradually adjusting to the idea that he is no longer the center of attention all the time. This makes me sad at times, but if I change the lense in which I look through, I can see that this is such an important life lesson for him. It’s a lesson, that for me as an only child, I’m still learning. He will learn to be a big brother…whatever that might mean. He will make it his own. I am here to shepherd him along in the process.

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Heather is originally from upstate New York but her family returned to Vermont 4 years ago. They have lived in NYC and Chicago the past 10+ years and are happy to be back in Vermont. Heather's previous jobs as a starving actor in NYC, package design guru at Estee Lauder, and advisor to fortune 500 companies at Chicago’s top business school have not prepared her for her current job today: stay at home mom to Henry (7) and Ruby (3). A self proclaimed foodie, Heather spends her "many" hours of free time preparing elaborate meals, eating out, tending to her garden, canning it's bounty and willing her one tapped maple tree to weep more sap. She is also a mother runner.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Heather, I know that feeling of sadness! When you go to the hospital to have the second, you realize that your relationship with your first will never ever be the same again, but you know what happens eventually? You can’t imagine a time when you didn’t have those two rascals underfoot, and you are even more delighted at the idea that some day they may grow up to be best friends, confidantes, protectors of each other and admirers of each other’s talents and gifts, and hopefully, not even distance and time will part them. It is something to which you can look forward! In the meanwhle, if Henry is anything like my Miranda, hide the heavy toys!

  2. This is a great post. I look at my son Henry, age 4.5 and my daughter who is now 19 months and they have grown to be best friends. It seems like yesterday that he looked at her, one day new, and thought she was from another planet and had no idea how much she would impact his world. She now runs to him screaming “HUUUUUG” and he always is the last to kiss her goodnight.

    There are ups and downs and so many changes everyday. Congratulations to your family and best wishes!

    • thank you honi! its been such an adventure and its only been 6 weeks since she was born and we introduced her to henry. i am looking forward to watching this relationship blossom.

      🙂

  3. I am crying from relating to the guilt feeling. I so wanted to protect Jacks world. I had a cousin with a son very much like yours. His words, “life was so much better before Emily.” That haunted me and caused me much panic! My son was 3 when our daughter was born (she is now 5 months). I worked very hard at not pressuring the relationship between them. So much that I would not allow anyone else do it. I called, texted and emailed our house guests telling them to not call Jack “big brother”. That was a trigger for him, he disliked the label. By removing it, he accepted her. For that I am thankful.

    You are right, it is a positive growth for our children. It is awesome to observe. Jack is loving, compassionate, empathetic, etc. and I am hoping for patient!

    Best of luck.

    • zenaida–i actually thought about doing the same thing with henry..i.e. prepping guests beforehand about not talking with henry about being a big brother!

      since i published this post henry has gotten so much better at “accepting” and “loving” his little sister. still has his moments, but its been wonderful to see this change.

      thanks for your comments!

  4. Heather, I could have written the same post a year and a half ago when Wren was born! I especially identify with the feelings of guilt over changing my son’s world so much. Now its pretty fun to see them play together and I realize its special to have a sibling so close in age. Welcome to the family of four club!

    • christin–you’re the 2nd person to say the same thing–about being able to write the same post a few years back. good to know i’m not alone. from our birth experiences to the new sibling experiences we have a lot in common! 🙂

  5. Loved this Heather! I’ve been thinking a lot about how Nora will react to a baby brother or sister, and it was comforting to hear you say that that there is no right way for them to respond.

    • Nissa–can’t wait to see how Nora reacts. She is so bright and cheery…i bet she is going to be the best helper and give tons of kisses. 🙂

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