As I begin to write this, the emotions are overwhelming. I glance down at my pregnant belly and think, in just a few weeks, your time as an only child will end. Right now, we’re on a weekend getaway with your dad; he’s volunteered to wheel you around for a nap in the stroller so Mummy can get work done.
This is my life as a working stay-at-home-mum, always carving out 20 minutes, an hour, and so on. Always guilt-ridden the moment I do get that time. Juggling the three main parts of my identity — wife, mother, writer, in an endless dance for which the music never stops but the tempo is always changing.
And what a two-and-a-half years it’s been. As you climb up into my lap these days, barely able to fit on the disappointing amount of thigh space the baby bump leaves you, I am achingly aware that our time is running out. Your dad and I are so excited to be growing a family and giving you the sibling you so need and deserve, but the transition won’t be easy. Especially for you. I watch you fall asleep with your hand curled around my finger, see the dummy you haven’t yet given up flop to the side of your cheek and onto the pillow, and you still look just like a baby to me. It’s hard to believe in mere weeks, you’ll be the big sister.
In the meantime, I want you to know a few things. Firstly, she is not a replacement. I realised when we found out it was another girl that the rivalry between you might be even more so as a result. But a sister is one thing I never had and always desperately wanted. I’m a little jealous. You two are going to fight, but you’ll be best friends.
You’ll have her back, and she’ll think you hung the moon. You’ll fight over toys, and later, clothes. You’ll both drive me insane. But no matter how much she tries to emulate you, she will always be her own person and you, my darling, will always be just as important and special as you were when you were an only child.
You were the best news I ever got. I waited a long time for you, dreaming of a daughter since I was a little girl myself. There was a time when I did not think I would be able to have children. When your dad and I found out you were coming, it was the best day of our lives. I remember walking around the city like I was on a cloud.
When you were born, my life found new purpose. Instantly, I was changed. I sometimes think about my old self and miss her a little, but you made me better in every way. Stronger, more empathetic and patient. You taught me how to love so fiercely that all the logic goes out the window. You showed me what it is to hold my future and greatest life’s work in my arms. You have forgiven me every time I’ve been shrill, exhausted, or not enough. To you, I’m Mummy, the centre of the universe. It is an incredible honour to fill that spot.
I want you to know how special this time has been with just us two. We’ve taken adventures together that I will remember all my life. I doubt much of these couple years will surface in your own memories as you grow, but that’s why I take so many pictures. And I will remind you over the years. About picnics and long walks and coffee shops, blowing up balloons and baking cookies to throw an impromptu party for two. Dress-up and road trips, dance parties and late night rocking-chair sessions that seem to never end.
For every stress that has come with being a parent, the joy and the pride in being your mum wins out always. In your bad dreams and tantrums, your sicknesses and regressions, I have learned how to be exactly what you need. What a gift you’ve given me in that, and you don’t even know it.
So, as we prepare to welcome your baby sister, I want to let you know that I’m so grateful you were my first. People throw around terms like “easy baby” and I don’t even know what that means — I just know that you each come with your own challenges, just like all people. And that your particular personality was exactly what I needed to get my feet wet as a mum and to learn, learn, learn. I am endlessly proud of the awesome little human that you are, and you are so different from me! Where I always stood on the sidelines, you are bold and unafraid of people and challenges.
Your sibling(s) will look up to you for your strength and fearlessness, and I will always look back on our first two-plus years as such an intensely joyful learning experience. Reasoning with a toddler of your intelligence and will is character building to say the least! I will always be thankful that you didn’t make it “easy.” In the challenge is where we grow. And wow, do I feel more prepared for this baby than I did for you. That’s all thanks to you.
You are going to be an amazing big sister. I watch you kiss and tuck-in your dolls, see how sweetly you approach animals and babies, and my heart bursts for your kindness and nurturing nature. I can’t wait to watch you in the role of your young lifetime, tending to a tiny human who looks at you and sees the world. I am so excited to feel my heart grow twice its size, making room for this new life, my second daughter. But no matter where we go from here, I will be forever grateful that you were my first.