My little sister gave birth to her first child last week in the late hours of the evening of July 20th, just before spring officially turned into summer in the changeover of the solstice and just like that the world is a little brighter, the future more full of wonder.
But I don’t know what was harder, giving birth to my first baby, or the long wait to hear the news that my little sister had successfully and safely given birth to hers.
My mom, big sister and nephew arrived to the hospital early to sit in the waiting room in case there was any reason they might need us. In case she came quickly. In case there was something we could do other than speculate, nervously chew our fingernails, watch terrible daytime television, scroll through news headlines and pace the hospital floors.
Turns out that’s about all we could do, until my husband and dad arrived in the evening with Edie, a wild little gift sent to distract us from the long wait.
By the time we got the text from my brother-in-law, the one that said “She’s Here!” the whole lot of us, the entire family minus one brother-in-law, had supper, watched Edie climb up and down from the waiting room chair about 150 times,
went through dozens of YouTube kid songs,
chased the cousins chasing each other down the hall
and lost Papa and the kids for an undocumented amount of time because they went outside to get some air, examine the landscaping rocks and pretend that they were zombies and got locked out of the building. It wasn’t until gramma’s worrying instinct shifted for a moment from her youngest daughter to her missing husband and grandkids that their lives, in my nephew’s words, were finally saved.
It was a long wait…
And while I had complete faith in the process, in her doctor and the hospital and the way things were going, I surprised myself at how nervous I became just sitting there helpless, knowing my little sister, the one who used to follow me up the crick when we were kids, the one who sat with me to watch Garfield cartoons after school every day, the one who had wild curly hair that matched her fierce little attitude, was a few rooms down in the middle of one of the hardest tasks she’ll ever face.
If there was a way I could have ensured a painless and fearless process for her, I would have ordered it up. But that wouldn’t be fair. Every mother has her own story of how their children entered their life, with a wail or a sigh, a quiet exchange or a dramatic display, and now my little sister and her beautiful, dark haired daughter, have theirs.
And while I’ve had the privilege of watching her tackle almost every phase of her life with confidence and some nervous nail biting as she grew into the woman she is today, I am looking forward to seeing her in her next role as mother to a daughter who has her eyes.
Turns out maybe there was a plan for all those years my husband and I spent waiting to have children…maybe it was so that we could raise them together, my little sister and I.
She used to follow me up the coulee and along the crick, her purple barn jacket zipped up under her chin, the rubber soles of her boots keeping a careful distance between her and her big sister who hadn’t discovered her lurking behind the trees yet.
I would leave the house unannounced to sing to myself as I inspected my tree fort, the frog count on the crick and the wild raspberry plants growing alongside the beaver dam. And she almost always followed, stopping at the tire swing for a quick ride.
My daydreaming mentality made it so I almost never noticed her behind me until we were well into our journey up the crick and I had no choice but to keep her along with me, no matter my protest. Because she’s always been more strong-willed than me, more stubborn and certain and all of the things I could have used more of in my life. But I was on my way to growing out of her, I thought, the way big sisters do when they find themselves searching for the independence needed to survive impending adulthood. And I was five years older and wiser and I didn’t know where she fit in my world as I sat cross-legged on the pink carpet of my bedroom floor, strumming my guitar and writing love songs to the clouds.
But she was there, right across the hall from me dreaming her own dreams, right behind me in my footsteps, right beside me in dad’s pickup and in the front row clapping during my volatile and sensitive years, the ones that prepare us to launch out and on our own, but I wasn’t there for hers.
I missed the parts where she found herself in love for the first time, her winning baskets on the court, her late night cries over friends, her name in the paper on the honor roll, the straight As on the fridge.
I was gone by then, out of the house and down the road miles and miles and I’m sure she could have used a sister in the house for that.
It’s funny, I’ve never really thought about it until today—today when I’m struggling to find a way to convey what it’s like to wait for her call…if she needs me…if it’s going ok…if she’s arrived…
By the time you read this she will have given birth to her first born, a daughter. As I type she’s in the hospital room, my baby sister wincing at the needles, breathing through the pain, leaning steadfast into a new life…
A new life that seemed like a faraway myth all those years ago as we walked together in the trees, the sun sinking below the treetops to sparkle on us through dark branches as we headed up the trail toward home. And a hundred years later, or just a blink of an eye, here we are in big forts we call houses, two wide-eyed, wild-haired children raising children of our own.
And I’m so glad to have her along with me.