Monday, January 26, 2015

Big Sister Ellie

I can still hear it ringing in my ears (and hope I always will): that tiny little voice excitedly exclaiming, "Mama! You have a baby!" Those were the first words Ellie said when she first laid eyes on E.J., in the hospital on the day he was born. She was excited to see him, although a little cautious at first - she preferred to tell me about how they (she and Grammy) brought balloons! She looked at E.J. from afar, slowing moving in closer. She didn't hold him at all that first visit, but did the following day, and then she was so sweet that I nearly exploded. She cradled his little head, and even offered him one of the two stickers she was wearing on her shirt. Instant sibling love!

The very first picture of Ellie and E.J. together, at his "0" birthday party!

Holding E.J. for the first time

VIDEO: Ellie holding E.J. for the first time

I have been wanting to write about how Ellie has adjusted to being a big sister for months now. Back before E.J. was born, I shared what we did to prepare her for Big Sisterhood, and I discussed my anxieties about changing her world in such a major way. Six (plus) months later, I think it's time for an update.

The short answer: Ellie is an amazing big sister!

I worried about how Ellie would adjust to being a big sister at every step of the way. When E.J. was born, I wondered how she would feel when I left for days and came back with a new baby. I wondered how she would handle it when I couldn't lift her or get down and play with her while I recovered. I wondered how she would feel when she came to the hospital to visit and saw me with a new baby in my arms, and when she had to go back home with Grammy while the baby stayed with Mama and Daddy at the hospital. When we brought E.J. home, I wondered how she would react to him actually being in her space and really inserted into her world. When E.J. went back into the hospital with a fever at 10 days old, and he and I stayed there for two weeks, I wondered what she must be thinking—did she feel like I abandoned her? Was she resentful of E.J.? When we came back home and Eric went back to work, I wondered how she would adjust to the change in schedule and having to share my attention every day. Would she feel jealous? Angry? Hurt? Each new phase has brought a new worry. She and I just had such a good thing going, you know? We were buds. We had our little routine and we were really just two happy little peas in a pod.

With my best girl in May 2014

However, every step of the way, Ellie has proven to me time and time again that my worrying has been completely unnecessary. She adores E.J. Not only does she not mind that he has invaded her world, she willingly and excitedly invites him in. There have been hints of jealousy, but not in the way I expected: rather than being jealous of E.J. monopolizing my time and attention, she is jealous of me getting to hold/feed/cuddle "her E.J.!" Just the other day I told her, "I love Ellie and E.J.! You are both my babies." To which she replied emphatically, "NO, Mama! E.J. is MY baby!" So there you have it.

Big sister Ellie and her baby

When we first brought E.J. home after his birth we put him in his lamb bouncy seat, and Ellie immediately ran to get her lamb mat so she could be just like E.J. She wanted to be near him and hold him and kiss him and rock him in his Rock 'N Play. She was the very picture of a doting big sister.

Brother and sister on their lambs


Rocking E.J. and tickling his knee!

"E.J.'s holding my hand!"

One thing that cracked me up about Ellie and newborn E.J. was the baby noises. For some time before he was born, Ellie would make these high-pitched squeaking noises and say that's what a baby says. And if she was pretending to be something else (for example, a cat), when she started squeaking, that meant she was now being a baby whatever-it-was (so now she's a squeaking baby cat). Eric and I were all, "oooookay, kids are weird, babies totally don't sound like that," until E.J. showed up, and guess what? HE SOUNDED JUST LIKE THAT. Ellie's baby sound was spot on. And it was even cuter when she would go up to E.J. and squeak at him!

I know that E.J. being hospitalized for his fever was hard on her but she was so brave and oh-so-good. Every day she would ask Eric to go see Mama and E.J. She used the stethoscope given to her by E.J.'s doctor to give him regular check-ups, in addition to the cuddles she was already doling out. Even when we first took him to the emergency room and he was just wailing and crying and breaking all hearts within a 10-mile radius, she was concerned but stoic. She still remembers it—just today she saw an ambulance and I told her it was taking somebody to the hospital. She got all quiet and then said, "Maybe E.J. went to the hospital. He was crying a lot. It made me feel sad. Then I played with Dumbo [her favorite toy in the hospital playroom]." I was surprised that she still remembered it so well, but I guess it would make a pretty big impression on a little one. She just handled herself so well through the whole two weeks, it's easy to forget that it was significant for her, too.

Loving on E.J. during a visit at the hospital

Checking E.J.'s heartbeat

Cuddling her baby brother in the hospital

When we returned home, Ellie was right back to her usual happy self, dishing out love and cuddles to her baby brother with abandon.

She always wanted to "hold him" and would go get my nursing pillow to do so!

E.J. is one loved little boy!

She just loves this kid.

When E.J. was upset in his early days, Ellie would often tell me "Mama, E.J.'s a little bit fussy" (usually when he was screaming his fool head off), and sometimes she would (and still will) try to comfort him herself.

VIDEO: Ellie comforts E.J.

I also wondered how Ellie would handle me nursing E.J. Having only weaned herself about six months prior, I wondered if she would remember that and feel jealous or any such thing. In reality, she has shown interest in what E.J. is doing but hasn't let on that she has any recollection of her own time as my nursling. For the most part, she has been happy to cuddle with us while E.J. nurses (except, of course, when she's mad at me because SHE wants to be the one to feed him!).

Hanging out while we nurse E.J. during an outing

Nursing her own baby!

VIDEO: Ellie tells us what E.J. likes to eat!

One of my most favorite things is when Ellie fusses over E.J. the way we do. Sometimes she'll call him the same pet names that we call him ("There he is! There's my handsome little man!"), and she'll often try to include him in whatever we're doing (making sure he has a toy, etc.). When he used to do tummy time, she would often get down on the floor alongside him. One of my favorite moments of their time together thus far came when she got down on his playmat with him and sang "You Are My Sunshine" to him.

Ellie encouraging E.J. along through his tummy time

Playmat time

VIDEO: Ellie sings "You Are My Sunshine" to E.J.

She also just generally really wants to be around him. When she wakes up in the morning or from a nap, she wants E.J. to come in her bed with her. When he wakes up from his nap, she wants to go into his room to get him. When I'm sitting with him on the couch, she wants to be touching him or holding his hand. When we go out for activities like storytime, she sticks close to him (or at least stops back in from time to time to check on him). It seems he's always on her mind.

Cuddling in Ellie's bed after her nap

Taking pictures of E.J. and her own baby

Helping E.J. through his very first storytime

More post-nap cuddles

I just cannot even adequately put into words how much Ellie adores him. I read an article a while back about a phenomenon called "dimorphous expressions," also known as "cute aggression." This is that feeling you get of wanting to, say, eat your baby's face because he's so cute that you just can't even deal. The theory behind this emotional response is that we sometimes respond with the opposite of what we feel in order to balance out extreme emotions. Basically, E.J. is so adorable that my body/mind/heart cannot handle it, so to balance out that extreme "HE'S SO CUTE I MIGHT DIE" feeling, my brain responds with aggressive (but never acted upon!) feelings.

Ellie is a hardcore sufferer of cute aggression. I can see it in her face. She comes up to E.J. and sometimes she just freezes, tenses up and trembles. She juts her lower jaw out a bit and flaps her arms and starts baby-talking to him: "Ooooh, oh, oh, E.J.! Googoo gaga! Oh, E.J.! His little tiny toes! Look at hiiiiiim! He's so cute!" Then she'll grab one of his appendages and essentially rub it all over herself, like she just loves him so much that she's trying to absorb him right into her skin. She's just a whirlwind of cooing and loving and cuddling and fussing over him, like she just adores him so much that she doesn't even know how to physically handle it so she just shakes and then does everything. It's amazing.

VIDEO: Ellie declares her love for her "buddy"

Also, Ellie has always been a strong-willed child. The girl has always had opinions. Given that she is now two years old, those opinions can change at the drop of a hat. Some days she's a bit like a little emotional terrorist who has me walking on eggshells because I never know what random experience, thought or sentence might send her into a tantrum. (Of course, she spends most of her time being an absolute delight, but there are those days...) The very thing she loved just a moment before might now be the most offensive thing she's ever encountered. It's a challenge to keep up, and she usually keeps me guessing. But I always know how she feels about E.J. Regardless of her mood, she is always happy to see E.J., and always responds with her classic Ellie lower-jaw-out lovefest. And, in her eyes, E.J. can do no wrong - for example, if he's kicking her in the head while they're in their stroller, she'll laugh and say, "Mama, tell E.J. not to kick me!" I will, and then she'll say, "It's okay. He can kick me," and she'll turn around and hold his hand.

"Mama! E.J. got me! It's okay. He can get me. I love you, E.J."

I just have been so pleased with how well Ellie has transitioned to being a big sister. I am so proud of her. She has helped make this transition so easy, and she has really welcomed E.J. into our family with open, loving Big Sister arms. She is such a sweetheart and E.J. sure is lucky to have such a special big sister!

My babies!

1 comment:

Becky said...

They are just the best. I was just thinking about Ellie meeting EJ for the first time the other day, and remembered her line (which I will never forget), "Mama, you have a baby!" Too much.