The Final Weeks with One

I’m stuck on the floor. For the third time today, my daughter asked for help building a train track. Even though it takes everything I’ve got to lower myself down to the hardwood and haul myself back up again, I keep doing it. I could ask my husband for help, but for some reason I feel compelled to do it myself. It’s the same reason I lay down next to her when she can’t get to sleep, even when I have a ton of work to do. The same reason I let her “wash” the dishes, although it takes ten times as long and substantially increases the chances something will break.

It’s because I realized that these last few weeks of pregnancy are also the last few weeks she’s my only child.

I know some people feel very guilty around this time. It is a hard realization that forevermore your attention and love will be divided. But I’ve never felt guilty. My daughter desperately wanted a younger sibling and still does. Plus, as an only child myself, I know exactly the gift she’s getting. Not just a playmate when she’s younger, but someone to share the burden of life with her as she’s gets older. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have, only a sibling understands your family, the crazy things your parents do, and when support is needed. I actually find myself wishing for a sibling more now than I did as a kid.

Despite that, I feel a definite nostalgia for her babyhood. As I prepare for another newborn, I remember the first months we had together; she nursing and napping, me reading and napping, long walks while she napped in the stroller (there was a lot of napping). In many ways it was the most peaceful and healing time in my life.

She still wants me to cuddle her in the rocker when we read stories at night, but she’s huge now. She’s definitely not a baby anymore, and as weird as it sounds, I think I only just wrapped my head around the fact that this new child is a whole separate, additional family member, not a rewind to the first time. It won’t be the same as the first time. I know that because everyone tells me so, but also because since I had my daughter, nothing is the same as before: not my career, my body, my social life, or even the kinds of movies I watch or the books I want to read. Children change everything. I know that, but does she?

This little brother is going to change a lot about life for her. She’s sharing a room with him, her sleep will be disrupted and her schedule will be different when I have two kids to get ready in the morning. At night, the three of us will squeeze into the rocker for story time. He’ll come on every trip to Grandma’s, most of her playdates and every family vacation. She’ll share the backseat with him and come with me to drop him off at preschool. But some things I hope will never change. I hope she’ll always feel like we can have fun together, just the two of us. I hope she’ll always know I’ll have time for her when she needs it. Although I’m about to get 2.5 times busier, I want her to know our mother-daughter bond will stay just as strong.

As I count down the days (only 9 left!) I’m doing my best to savor every moment alone with her. Despite my (substantial) physical discomfort and all the preparations for baby, I hope she feels loved and prioritized. I know things are bound to be bumpy at first, but I have faith that with some creativity, I’ll be able to carve out time for each of my kids and make them feel, even if it’s only for an hour or two, like they’re the only one.

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