In a month or less, my husband, son and I will finally meet the next member of our family. He’ll be a separate little person with his own personality, sleeping and eating preferences, noise level and the rest. Having been through pregnancy, birth and mothering once already, I do have some ideas of what to expect (goodbye sleep), but for those reasons I’m also acutely aware that my experience could mean little depending on who this little being is. For that matter, in the sleep deprived days and nights ahead, will I be the same mother that I am now?
My husband and I have grown into the parents that we are slowly, taught by our own experiences and opinions, advice and examples from role models, and most importantly by the guidance of our son’s needs. He has transformed us and taught us so much in just a few years, and now we’re inviting a new personality into this dynamic. We’re going to have challenges we haven’t dreamed of yet, and this is where my natural tendency to worry finds fertile soil.
What will the sibling dynamic do to transform us as a family? As parents, will my husband and I be able to handle the future inevitable tensions and challenges with grace? How will our presently happy, confident son handle the adjustment from only child to big brother? Will we continue to have the patience for his and his brother’s learning processes that we have for him today?
Change is such a good reminder in this life, where we fool ourselves into taking things for granted that are not and have never been guaranteed, that we are not the captain of this ship. For all of these worries I have today, I also have to consider that a month from now my worries might be about something altogether different. Birth, as far as we’ve come, is still a high stakes event. Our baby might have severe allergies or special needs. Or something else entirely. When our first son was born we were in the process of trying to save our beloved and very ill cat, who we had to put down when I came home from the hospital. And, with all of these worries swirling around, it’s possible that we may come home with a peaceful, healthy, happy baby and a proud big brother. The possibilities sprout to infinity, and my imaginative little brain actually tries to follow each thread.
Then there is the future. I can imagine equally well visions of myself as the frazzled referee, splitting up arguments with exasperation, as I can imagine watching my boys play with the same swell of love that I get now when I see my son experiencing the world for himself. I look around our house, still new to us now, and envision my boys as teenagers, navigating through these spaces with the boredom of teenage-hood. I try to imagine what pictures will be on the walls by then, and what kind of young men they’ll be. Will my husband and I have succeeded in helping them toward adulthood with the skills they’ll need to do well for themselves? The strength to be good and kind men?
I noticed this morning as I walked into our messy living room and found my husband and son lounging in it under a Saturday morning sun, that instead of the mess I was seeing something else. Everywhere in the house, the signs were there. Our nursery and our son’s room are both freshly painted and decorated thanks to the angelic efforts of a sister-in-law and brother-in-law. Stacked in the nursery is a mountain of gifts from family and co-workers, helping us to be ready for our new arrival. Around the house are toys enjoyed with enthusiasm and forgotten in a moment of excitement over something new. Artwork yet to be hung rests propped against furniture and boxes still packed are stacked here and there. There’s plenty to do. Yet, looking around this morning, I saw us. I saw our community and felt the support there. I saw a peaceful moment with “my boys” and my heart did that filling up thing it does so often when I look at them. And everywhere I looked, it translated to love.
My biggest hope, looking forward into the murky mist of the future, is that no matter what comes next, I’ll find more moments like I did this morning. Whoever this little being is, the one I know through his little hiccups and his slow, luxuriant stretches that make me freeze and make faces until he’s done, he’ll be family. He’ll be ours to protect, guide, nurture and love. And if we succeed at all, love will be his reality as much as it is ours now.