I have been asked quite a bit if Ellie is ready to be a big sister. The short answer: I sure hope so. We've been doing the best we can to prepare her for what is coming, but really, how on earth can a two-year-old grasp the concept that there's a baby in Mama's tummy that is going to come out and live with us and change her world?
I wanted to have Ellie take a Big Sibling class at the hospital, as I did when I was a wee only child getting ready for an impending baby sister. But, our hospital requires the big siblings to be at least three years old, so that was a no-go.
This is Ellie modeling MY "prepared big sister" shirt last summer. I received this shirt from the hospital where my sister was born, back in 1985!
So, Eric and I have been doing what we can on our own. We bought Ellie a bunch of big sister/baby brother-related books that talk about what she can expect, and she has really enjoyed those.
I mean, let's not sugarcoat it, here.
We also have been bringing her with us to all of my doctor appointments - largely because we don't really have anyone to watch her, sure, but she seems to enjoy going, too. She likes to lay on the table "like Mama" and lifts her shirt because "baby brother needs a check-up." She asks to turn off the lights and see baby brother (via ultrasound), and when she hears his heartbeat on the doppler she exclaims over what a "noisy lawnmower" he is. Because obviously.
Ellie is ready for baby brother's check-up!
An unexpected plus of bringing Ellie to all my doctor visits: when she had to go to her own doctor, she was as good as gold! We've gone twice now in the recent months (just for check-ups), and both times the doctor and nurses have exclaimed over how exceptionally well-behaved and cooperative she is, especially for a two-year-old. I attribute that to knowing the doctor is not a scary place - after all, Mama goes all the time and it's totally fine!
We've also tried to involve Ellie in preparing our home for the new baby. She "helped" Eric build the dresser for Plus One a couple weekends ago, and I plan to have her make a painting for his nursery, too.
Ellie and Eric "hammerling" the dresser
Ellie has also started to recognize when she feels baby brother moving when she is cuddling with me. She'll pop her head up and say, "Feel him moving! Baby Brother kicking you!" The other morning she also told him good morning and said, "I'm gonna getcha!" Kills me.
VIDEO: Ellie feeling Baby Brother move
These days she's also very much into "helping," which I hope to use to my advantage when the baby comes, so that I can help her feel involved and important while caring for the baby takes up so much of my time and attention. I also hope she'll want to just mimic me - she's been very into babies lately, and taking care of them. For example, if she sees/hears a baby crying at storytime, she'll comment on it and try to figure out why the baby is crying: "Needs a bottle! Needs a change! Needs a nap! Needs his mommy!" She likes to "take care of" her baby dolls, too, so I'm hoping that we can just be a little Mommy Team when the baby comes.
"Wearing" her baby in her backpack! Somebody get this girl a Moby wrap.
So I think we've really done all that we can to prepare her: books, pretend play, talking about it, having her involved in the process. If anyone out there has any other suggestions that we may not have thought of, please, share! Otherwise, we'll just hope we've done as much as we can!
I, on the other hand, am not entirely sure I'm ready for Ellie to be a big sister. I've still been feeling a lot of guilt about changing her world in such a dramatic way, and she has been so sweet lately that she hasn't been making it easy on me. For example, the other day we read her "Welcome to the Neighborhood" Daniel Tiger book, and after reading the following page about a "supermommy," she turned to me and pointed at me and said, "there she is!":
"Daniel pretending the special visitor really was a supermommy."
Then, the other day she saw this cup at breakfast, and asked me what Pooh and Owl are doing:
She notices everything, that one.
I said something along the lines of, "They're hugging! They're friends!" to which she replied, "Like Mama and Ellie! Mama and Ellie are friends!" And I was all, OMG STOP I AM TOO PREGNANT FOR THIS EMOTIONAL ONSLAUGHT.
She and I just have such a good thing going. Because I have been lucky enough to be able to stay home with her, for the majority of the days in her life, it has been the two of us. We have such a tight bond and we really have our own little groove going. It breaks my heart to know that everything is going to be different for her so very soon, and she has no real way to anticipate or understand it. I worry about her feeling left out or betrayed or forgotten, none of which will be true but I can't bear the thought that she might feel that way.
Of course, I know that ultimately, we'll all find our new groove and it will be just as good. Or rather, even better. I know that even if it doesn't happen immediately, in time she will love having a brother, a playmate, a built-in friend. And she and I will still have that close bond we have now, our days together will just look a little different.
Thanks to my TimeHop app on my phone I was reminded today that just last year I shared this article about the gift of siblings on Facebook. Reading back through it made me think again about how true this is:
"[Siblings are] less tailored fits than friends are. But in a family that's succeeded at closeness, they're more natural, better harbors."
My sister is certainly a gift - in fact, she's one of (if not THE) best gifts my parents ever gave me. We've gone through life together, serving as each others' constant playmates, friends, confidants and cheerleaders. We've seen each other at our best and our worst; we've shared countless tears and even more laughs. She knows me through and through and I can't imagine my life without her. So I keep reminding myself that in the end, this baby brother will be a gift to Ellie: someone who can know her entirely, who will understand where she came from, who will hopefully always be by her side. I know I cannot guarantee that my kids will have the same close friendship that my sister and I are lucky enough to share, but I will do all I can to help that relationship grow so that they will ultimately see one another as the great gifts that they are.
And in the more immediate future, I know Ellie will be okay. She's a sweet-but-resilient little girl who is probably way more prepared for the challenges and changes that Baby Brother will bring than I am. She's going to be a great big sister.