“No way, never again”…
This was my agonized reaction when friends and relatives came to see our newborn daughter and joked about having a brother for her next.
The sleepless nights, the overwhelming feeling of parenthood and the constant fatigue, it seemed like new babies came with a lot more than just the cute smiles and sleepy faces. They came with hungry tummies and poopy diapers. Also they took their own sweet time to decide which time zone they would rather follow than to fall in place with the rest of the world.
My husband was faring a little better than me since he wasn’t the one whose stomach was cut open to bring the baby out. Oh yes, I was so mad at him for being a man and getting it easy.
Me, I thought my life was over. With the deepest sense of love and protectiveness for the baby came a sense of despair for my own self. (I did come to know later that this was a very natural reaction to the process of having a baby and I was not as exceptional a woman, I thought I was). “How will I raise my little girl? Will I ever do anything in life now except worry about her?”I would mumble incoherent questions between sobs, most of which even didn’t make sense to me. I guess not, he would smile and say, not what I wanted to hear.
Whoever came to see the baby had the warmest expression on their faces. “She’s adorable, she looks like her dad, Oh, such a small baby and she will grow up so fast you won’t even know so hold on to her every minute she’s in your arms”. The last statement seemed a little farfetched to me at that time. I even confided in my sister who wasn’t even married yet, that people who said all those lovely things had short lived memories and since their kids were all grown up they had forgotten the hellish first few months. My sister gave me a look like how can you say such mean things about this cute little baby, all she does is eat, sleep, make dirty diapers and cry and then eat again and sleep…? “hmmm, she does have that shrill irritating cry which goes on in the middle of the night, but she’s very cute”, quickly the aunt in her covered up on the factual but not so pleasant observation.
But time did fly and before we knew it was her 3rd Birthday (sob..sob..sob..very emotional while I write this). And once she started going to preschool every day she came back home and asked for a baby sister to play with. Seeing her friends with their siblings made her feel lonely and jealous. For us it was a huge dilemma. I had just earned a small portion of my freedom back and wasn’t sure I wanted to go through the whole grind again, forget so soon. My husband being an only child himself really didn’t see any disadvantage to that position. But in the end I thought of my younger sister, our relationship as children and how it evolved from siblings who couldn’t stand each other to sisters who watch out for each other.
We were as different as chalk and cheese, me and my sister and all we did was fight constantly. I have been told that I had requested my mom to send the baby back to the hospital where she came from, the day they brought her home (they might be just making this up to try and make me feel guilty after all these years). And yet today, we count on each other like never before. I guess the fights were all about growing up together and once we did grow up, the equation changed completely. We still have our differences but the care and concern comes out even in the disagreements.
She will have lots of friends if not a sibling and they will stand by her, said hubby dear playing the devil’s advocate. True, I thought, but acquaintances, friends, neighbors are more transient than a brother or a sister. Even with the best of intentions, it is hard to go back to old friends as often as you would want to. You keep on making new friends in life, not necessarily forgetting the old ones, but with family there are only additions. I do not in any way undermine the importance of dependable friends; just that I believe they don’t substitute for a sibling and the other way round. Why not give her a chance to have both, I told him.
It has been nearly 2 years since that fateful conversation and subsequent decision. Things have changed at home, like our schedules, the monthly budget and my pitch of voice. There is more mess and more arguments too. What keeps the balance is more hugs and more fun. We are busier but happier.
Between the two of them, things are complicated. History they say repeats itself. They fight a lot and my day often goes by playing referee. But they CAN NOT do without each other. The younger one adores her big sister and the big sister takes her title pretty seriously.
The day I posted pictures of both my girls together for the first time on Facebook, my friend Urvashi commented; your girls are going to be best friends for life. I almost laugh it off when I see them grab each other’s hair for a favorite book but the very next moment they walk together hand in hand, adjusting their pace and direction to match each other and I believe it with all my heart.