Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Family of four

Saturday afternoon Leta returned home from a week spent with grandparents and cousins, a much anticipated “vacation” that had been planned for months. In the weeks leading up to Marlo’s birth we’d ask Leta if she was excited about becoming a big sister, and she’d say, “I’m excited that I get to go stay with Grandmommy when it happens!” Like, while you’re pushing that baby out of your body, Mom, I’ll be having chocolate ice cream for breakfast. You should get pregnant more often!

I had missed her terribly, achingly, and was shocked at just how big her hands and feet were when she walked in the door. She was implausibly big! HUGE! ENORMOUS! I was afraid that the gravitational pull around her gigantic head was going to suck all the furniture in the room into a spiraling black hole. I tried not to appear shocked as I can’t imagine a more unwelcoming face than one that says OH MY GOD YOU’RE A MONSTER.

But there she was, my vibrant, skipping, gorgeous five-year-old girl. I hugged her a little too tightly and buried my head into her hair so that I could smell the back of her ears, a scent very different than the one emanating from a newborn’s head, a bit rough, sweaty and full of life. I told her I had missed the smell of her hair, and she just rolled her eyes, like, this is why I needed to spend a week away from you people. WEIRDOS.

She’s handling the addition of her baby sister much like I had anticipated she would. She’s fascinated, and yet she doesn’t ever want to get too close. Why is the baby making that noise, she’ll ask, taking it personally. More than once in the last two days she has said, “I don’t want her to cry at me,” which is just about the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever heard. I’m quick to comfort her and explain that Marlo is not crying at anyone in particular, it’s just that sometimes it’s sad to find oneself sitting in a pile of their own shit.

Saturday night I sat on Leta’s bed with Marlo in my lap while Leta spun imaginary tales of princesses in various corners of her room. It had been raining all day, and the giant, west-facing window in her room resembled an abstract painting, a mottled palette of raindrops and setting sun. And I guess it’s the hormones, the RAGING, TERRORIZING HORMONES, or maybe it’s the sleeplessness, but I started bawling uncontrollably. I felt so guilty, like I had betrayed my first born by bringing someone else into our lives. Here I was forcing Leta into one of the most painful transitions of her life, and even though I knew I was being completely irrational, I just wanted to clutch her to my chest and apologize.

I had no idea I was going to feel that way. I was totally unprepared for it.

And then last night in an effort to tie all of the pieces together for her, we broke out a book of photos I had made of Leta’s first two months of life. There are shots of me and Jon in the moments before we left for the hospital in early February of 2004, of the first few moments of her life where she is clutching at the scale as they weigh her seconds-old body, of her adorable round face as she contorts it into a smile. When suddenly she jumped into Jon’s lap, buried her face into his neck and cried, “I want you to love me.”

Oh my god, the crying. Mine, not hers.

So when I put her to bed last night I spooned her tiny body for an extra few minutes and told her that of course we love her, we adore her, she will always be our first born, our special, brilliant child who first changed our hearts, and nothing could ever take that away. And maybe tomorrow when we woke up all four of us could have chocolate ice cream for breakfast.

  • Mia

    What a sweet moment for you and Leta

  • Jessie

    enjoy this sweet time with your two little ones. blessings to you all!

  • Jeni Reno

    It’s definitely a balancing act. I’m sure you will all find your way together.

  • Megan

    Oh I feel for you! I know the heartbreak that you feel. But please know that it gets better and that you are giving her an amazing gift by giving her a sibling!

  • marisa

    oh… isn’t it wonderfully painful?

  • When my sister came home from the hospital, I wouldn’t let anyone hold her for too long. She was MY baby sister, not anybody elses – I’d say to relatives “OK, that’s enough, you’re done now.”

    Just remember that by giving Leta a baby sister, you’re giving her someone to share the rest of her life with – friends will come and go, but sisters are for keeps.

  • Molly

    I am pregnant with my firstborn, and this post made me all teary in a coffee shop. Beautiful. Congrats to you and your family.

  • The best gift you could ever give Leta is a sibling–you will see that over and over again as you watch them grow. My husband and I look at each other and smile when we see our boys playing imaginative games together and hear them whispering adventures at night.

  • Anonymous

    awww, that would break my heart too. I hope the adjustment goes smoothly for all of you! marlo is just beautiful BTW, I can’t wait to see more of her!
    April

  • Penney

    I COMPLETELY, and TOTALLY understand the feeling of betrayal. I had it with my son and thought for a split second “What the hell did I DO?!” And I cried. Big, fat guilt-ridden tears. Call it hormones, call it PPD, whatever. I can tell you, it goes away. Mine are 11 and 9 now and the only thing I ever think is “Why won’t they stop arguing?” Or something like that on a daily basis. Good luck and know that it is all normal (at least for those who will admit to the former).

  • Liz

    I don’t know you Heather, and I only know what I read on your blog, however, I truly enjoy laughing, crying, and learning about you and your family.

  • Devon

    *BAWL*

  • Bianca

    Thanks so much for sharing Heather. I imagine that you are going through a wonderful yet sad time. change is difficult, especially with the hormone levels of 25 pimple faced teenagers. . .

  • Amy

    Apparently when my mother went to the hospital to have my baby sister, she called to check on my at grandma’s and I told her that if she had a new baby not to come home at all. I was 4 and I made her cry. Don’t worry, 35 years later we are the best of friends. Leta will be fine.

  • Anonymous

    Crying at this very moment, as a mother of four, I know exactly what you are feeling. It gets easier, for everyone, promise.

  • Beautiful! I’ve got my own tears now…

  • Jen

    Yikes. We’re going to be introducing two newborns into our first daughter’s life in about 5 months. I totally understand what you mean about feeling guilty for changing their world without their consent. I think she deserves the extra cuddle. 🙂

  • Oh, that’s heart shattering! When my 2 year-old daughter met her baby sister for the first time she sobbed until she was gagging. Quite the introduction. But no more than 24 hours later she was doting on her, helping me and becoming a wonderful big sister. I suppose it’s easier for a 2 year-old to just adapt and go with the flow since she’ll never remember a time without her baby sister. But I am sure Leta will find her way in no time.

  • Ditto Devon!… x

  • Kelly

    Heather! I felt the same surprising guilt and rediculous crying the afternoon we brought our 2nd daughter home from the hospital 4 months ago. Like why had I gone and changed EVERYTHING by bringing this new baby home?! My 4 year old was perfectly sweet and has adjusted amazingly well. Now it brings tears to my eyes to see how much my two girls truly love each other. Best wishes and congratulations!

  • jenny

    we are going through the same transition… little Chloe was born April 5 and since that moment, our three year old Hannah has been incredible & sweet & wild & challenging all at the same time. it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride! I totally relate to your story and have to admit that it made me cry. damn hormones!! congratulations! you have a beautiful family and i look forward to more of your wonderfully heartfelt stories! ♥

  • Kath

    Gorgeous…you have me crying! What an amazing gift your writing is to your daughters.

  • claydivva

    I remember my 1st born being HUGE too! totally freaked me out, and I felt bad for giving him a bro too. Now, where would I be without 2 of them, 2 is fabulous, perfect, fantastic, you’ll see.

  • Wendi

    As the oldest sister to a brother and sister, I can assure you Leta will treasure Marlo for the rest of her life. I read a quote a long time ago that said “what’s the good of news if you haven’t a sister to share it”. Perk up, everything will be great!

  • Kellie B

    *Hug*

    I was the oldest child in my family, don’t worry she will be just fine 🙂

    You are an excellent mother and wife.

    Congratulations again!

    KB

  • tracey

    Well, at least you will not have this convo with your four year old.
    “mom, I need a sister”

    “sorry sweetie mama can’t have a baby”

    “I KNOW, you can just go to China again and we can pick out one:

    “it’s not that easy”

    HUGE SIGH, then
    “MAMA, you don’t understand. You will get old, Dad will get old , you will DIE and I will be ALONE”

    ok, how is THAT for making you feel like a total failure loser parent? luckily I have some amazing only child friends who assured me they were FINE.

  • Ohhh, you are making me cry – Stop that! I already did my makeup for work! I remember that feeling when my 2nd was born. I felt so sad for my firstborn. It made me cry constantly. His whole entire world as he knew it (mom, dad, & me) is changed in an instant & my heart just ached for him. (OK – I’M SURE THAT HELPED TONS).

    Just hold on awhile, and be patient. The rewards are so great, and pretty soon the 3 of you (including Leta) won’t be able to imagine life without that little baby in it. I promise.

  • Sue

    I know exactly how you feel. My son was only 2 1/2 when his terror of a sister entered the world. I have been apologizing to him ever since but, thankfully, 25 years later, he is still a good sport. You will adapt, as will Leta and Jon, and life will be wonderful. Challenging, but wonderful.

    – Sue

  • Charity

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with Chocolate Ice Cream for breakfast…….it is a well known cure for “parent guilt” You guys are doing fine, pretty soon you won’t remember those days and wonder how you ever lived without Marlo.

  • I can imagine the guilt, but she’ll understand one day. Of course, I was the first born child, grandchild, and girl of the family — but I can’t remember any of the, HEY WHAT ABOUT ME!?’s Though once another female grandchild was put in the situation, about 3 years ago, things changed. Now I never hear from my grandparents! 🙂

  • Jamie

    This made me laugh so hard, then gush with emotion. Thanks. Love it.

  • Anonymous

    I am pregnant with my second child and my daughter is 4 years old. she will be turning 5 when the baby is born and i’ve been reading your blog with extra curiosity, trying to get some clue as to how i will feel bringing home a baby after so many years of being a family of 3. Even now, just pregnant, i am starting to have some of those “betrayal” feelings. Especially when i’m feeling too sick or tired to give my daughter all the attention she’s used to. I also worry about the age difference, and if the two will really be able to connect. So i’ll be checking your blog daily, hoping for the best for your family, and hoping to learn something ahead of time about my own.

  • Zirkuskatze

    You will be fine, all of you. 🙂

  • Crying right now…thank you!

  • Sheila

    I wouldn’t trade my sisters for anything.
    Leta and Marlo are so lucky to have each other.
    Congratulations

  • jennifer

    The crying! MINE, not yours. Mine was 2, so his thoughts weren’t as developed as Leta’s and he has been a champ, not showing any jealousy for this first year, at all (at all!), but the guilt I feel…I have to repeat to myself sometimes…I adore my siblings and he will be so glad to have a sibling too! You are doing her a favor, they will have each other to commiserate with when they both decide how inept and uncool we are, and one day, sadly, they will have each other, when we aren’t there for them anymore.

  • Anonymous

    Wow…you got me with that one.

    I have no children so I will not pretend to relate. Just try to count every little blessing. Two beautiful girls, a loving husband….and more.

    Also, please don’t forget to take good care of yourself. Just from reading about you on this blog I know that you have been to hell and back with PPD…be mindful…let others help you…take care.

    S

  • Kristinah

    Aw, You had me choking up, Heather.

  • Heather,
    That is exactly what it was like with my beautiful almost-four-year-old daughter when we brought our newborn son home. The crying! Yes, mine. I cried everyday for the next six weeks, for all the same reasons you find yourslef in tears now. Then things started feeling better. Keep your support system around you, and you’ll weather it, too. And keep on blogging!

  • Malita

    ugh eyes watering over here – if you’ve seen this video already disregard – it’s “making room for the second” and it’s great

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iURGJpoEcn0

  • You did just right (IMHO) – just let Leta know she’s still special and still loved/adored/wanted, and she’ll be fine. I really wanted a sister, when I was younger, but I became very close friends with both of my brothers. A sibling really is one of the best gifts you give your children, I think. I can’t wait for more Leta stories; she always manages to make me laugh.

  • So precious. And heartbreaking. I am the eldest of 4 and was 3 years old before my sister came along. I don’t remember much – but I do remember not wanting her at first, and then growing to love her so much I would have done anything to protect her and take care of her. Now she is 20 and I am 23, and I have an 18 year old brother and a 15 year old sister, and I don’t think I could love them any more if I tried. Leta is a lucky girl for having a chance to love someone that much. Congratulations to all 4 of you – may there be many ice cream breakfasts in your future.

  • Very normal!!! I felt the same way, but you pay a little extra attention to the first one – make Leta be your “helper” and you will find a balance. Don’t forget, you have also brought home a life-time friend, companion and somebody that Leta will always be able to count on – even when you aren’t around. She will be a blessed child for having a sister.

  • Kate

    Crap. I only have 20 weeks to prepare for that moment of introduction. AHHHH!

  • Kate

    I’m the oldest of 3 kids, and I can tell you that my brothers are the BEST gift my parents ever gave me. Leta is so lucky to have Marlo.

  • I’ll say that when our 2nd son was born we both wore ourselves OUT trying to give the older one [three at the time] as much attention as was humanly possible – we soo didn’t want him to be jealous of his little brother and the time he just naturally took from us. It was a hard time for all of us – but got better each day. Now they’re 19 and 22 and roomates at AUburn – good friends, actually…

  • I loved this post, it even brought tears to my eyes!
    Marlo is so cute I’m sure Leta will fall in love with her too 🙂

  • Marie

    I remember that feeling and you describe it perfectly. What I will try to comfort you with is what I know now, two years after bringing the second daughter home: they gang up on you. After a while you will wonder why you thought it was a good idea to introduce the two.

    What is different about Marlo, vs. Chuck, is that Marlo will ADORE everything that her big sister does, is and says.

    Big, number one thing, which I’m sure you’ve read, is to let her help wherever you can. Let her get burp cloths and diapers and books. And take time, even now, for just the two of you, without Marlo.

    You guys are doing just fine. Keep up the good work:)

  • That was a great post. Change is tough. I dont like change at 30, I can’t imagine what it is like for a 5 year old.

  • Anonymous

    Oh man, the tears. I have 3 weeks to go before second child arrives, and I already feel massively guilty at changing my first’s life so significantly. I know that even in the near future, it will be a treat to have a baby sibling… but still, that transition is gonna make me weep. Not so much because I think she will suffer for it, but because I will be mourning the loss of that special focus and team-o-three bond that she was blessed (and sometimes cursed) to have as the solo kid.