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Baby Girl... Big Sister

Two months. That's how long my first-born has before life as she knows it transforms forever. Her baby sister is due in nine weeks and my beautiful Yasmeen will no longer be "the baby." She will become "the big sister."
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Two months.

That's how long my first-born has before life as she knows it transforms forever.

Her baby sister is due in nine weeks and my beautiful Yasmeen will no longer be "the baby."

She will become "the big sister."

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I often wonder what this will mean for her, for us, and for the newest addition to our family.

When I think of her big eyes looking up at me and her soft hands grasping mine, I know that the little girl who made me a mother, the tiny baby who taught me what unconditional love is, the girl who gave meaning to my life, and the one who is growing up all too quickly, is still a baby herself.

Yet all those who have done this before me have warned me: once her sister arrives, we will start to expect more of her than we do now.

We'll tell her to help... because we think it will make her feel involved.

We'll ask her to be patient... because her baby sister is still not as understanding as she is.

We'll put some of her needs on hold... because a newborn's cry for hunger can be much more harrowing than a toddler's.

We'll teach her to protect her baby sister... because after all she is "the big girl."

Yes, I'm glad that my daughter will soon start to adjust to the realities of life where things don't always go your way.

And yes, it makes my heart grow bigger to know that she will be capable of such strength and kindness.

But it also breaks it to know that my little girl will no longer be "the baby" and that she will have to deal with emotions and some measure of responsibility that up to now she has been sheltered from.

I'm also a big sister, and I've often wondered if the urge to nurture and protect a younger sibling is something you are born with or something engrained in you through upbringing.

I know many other big sisters who revel in the opportunity to care for others and shower them with love and affection. But, I've also heard from big sisters who have felt burdened by parents to bear too much responsibility for younger siblings that they felt deprived of a childhood themselves.

So where does this disparity come from? How do you know what kind of an older sibling your child will be and how do you make sure as a parent you do right by all your children?

I've received so many tips and advice from parents whose ideas are shaped from their own experiences as siblings and as parents - everything from how to engage the child and not make them feel abandoned to how to curb jealousy and gently enforce discipline.

I'm not sure what the "right answer" is, if there even is one. I just know that the best I can do is to love both my girls with all my heart and then take things one day at a time.

And as the days towards the arrival of our second little girl etch closer, I see glimmers of hope that not only make me proud, but that also tell me "it will all be ok."

Last week in a children's play center, my daughter saw a little girl her age crying. She quickly ran to the pool of balls, picked one out and went back to offer it to the crying 18 month old.

This morning, she toddled into our room with her favorite baby doll and a swaddling blanket she'd found in the closet so I could wrap her doll. When I did, she squeezed its hand so it would make a crying sound. She then held the doll close, gazed at me with a slightly distressed look on her face, patted the doll and wiped its face while saying "baby, baby".

When I see these things, I know that regardless of what kind of a mother I am, or how my husband and I help the two girls adjust to each other, in her heart, Yasmeen is a nurturer.

She is already a big sister...

...and the stars are smiling on her little sister who will be born into a world where this big-hearted, kind souled little girl exists.

I know they will fight at times and I know there will be jealousy and frustration at first, but I also know there will be so much love.

And I couldn't ask for more.

So I feel grateful, and I pray that both my girls know I love them not because of what they have done or will do down the line, but simply because they exist.

My life is so much richer now with my first daughter, and knowing that I will have a chance to experience such a beautiful journey again with another little one and watch two little girls grow up as sisters and friends is a gift for which I am so very, very grateful.