We have not yet told Sylvia that she's going to be a big sister. We figure that the eight months left of my pregnancy is just too long for any kid her age to wait. But there's another reason, too--she's been especially focused on babies recently. Not so much caring for them, or pretending to be their big sisters. More like being one herself.
I know that this is totally normal. As toddlers start gaining independence, it's only natural that they'd have some hesitation about all of their new "big girl" or boy abilities. The new skills, words, and concepts she's picking up every day are amazing, but I'd think also daunting.
I've thought of Sylvia's development as similar to being able to see, just a little more clearly, the dark room you're sitting in, just a smidge more a day. "Whoa," I can almost hear her thinking. "You mean that does that, and has been doing that all along?" It must be, you know, freaky, to say the least. Being bundled into a sling and fed from a breast must start to look pretty good. (The picture above is from when she was actually a baby; below, Sylvia today, ready to take on the world.)
"I a baby, Mama."
Sylvia's baby yearning has taken mostly adorable forms. She tells us when she's a baby, and when we should treat her like one. She does a very cute--and not at all realistic, thank goodness--imitation of a baby crying. She sometimes wants "Mama feed me with my spoon," which, frankly, is sometimes more pleasant than watching her feed herself. She points out toys she played with as a baby. She talks about how, as a baby, "Mama feed me milk from Mama zoomies." [Zoomie is our word for breast--long story.] Sometimes she asks for milk from said zoomies, and I matter-of-factly explain that my zoomies only had milk in them when she was an actual baby. (Man, do I feel like we threaded the needle on that one--Sylvia weaned herself at 15 months, and I think if she hadn't, we'd still be at it today, with no hope of breaking off anytime soon--her toddler-possessiveness hadn't quite kicked in at that age.)
But the most distinctively Sylvia thing she does is ask--nay, demand--to be wrapped up, just like we used to swaddle her as an infant. Aron was the master of the tight-burrito-wrap, which I never could get the handle of. Like last night, when she demanded I wrap her up, Sylvia said, "No, Mama. Like Papa do it. Over here," she said, pointing to her legs. "Wrap my feet, Mama. Like baby."
Hopping on the bandwagon
Sylvia's good pal at daycare, Nina, has just become a big sister. And we've been not-so-subtly using this as an opportunity to bring up hypothetical scenarios, test the waters, just put some ideas out there. You know, real casual-like.
Mostly Sylvia ignores us (who am I kidding--me, since I'm the only one foolish enough to go digging for a "I want to be a big sister like Nina" statement). But she was very interested in the pregnancy. Sylvia observed Nina's mother's growing belly carefully, but also with a measure of skepticism and impatience. "Where the baby?" she'd demand, like a miniature Lou Grant in pigtails. "The baby in your tummy? When the baby come OUT?"
Nina's mom would roll her eyes. "You tell me, Syl. Please!"
I've told Sylvia, many times now, that before she was born, she was in my tummy. I've shown her pictures of my belly, bigger each month, and then a few shots from the hospital room--pictures taken when we thought I was in active labor, but the fact that Aron was capable of holding a camera anywhere near my direction tells me we were still hours from the good stuff (both because during true active labor, he was a wreck, and because I would've wrecked him). We stare at the pictures together, and I point out where I remember her butt being, her head. We go through her first few months in photos, her nestled in my arms, asleep on Aron's chest, burrowed in her sling. She mostly says nothing about this all, just looks and blinks, and asks to see them again.
My two babies
What I'm feeling, meanwhile, is a pang of nostalgia that surprises me with its force. I'm surprised because what I remember was my impatience--I couldn't wait for Sylvia to talk, walk, be able to sit on her own for five minutes. But I'm also surprised because if I'm nostalgic for her infancy, that must mean that she's no longer an infant. She's no longer... my baby.
I call Sylvia "Baby Girl" a lot. As in, "Let's go, Baby Girl." Sometimes she says, "No, Mama--Siya. Not baby. I a grown-up, like Mama." But not usually.
I know that there's a lot of time between now and October, and countless phases that will be gone through by then. Which, I have to say, is both a relief and a regret. Because you should see the expression on Sylvia's face when we wrap her up, when we try to hold her in our laps just like when she was a fraction of the size she is now. How does she know to conjure the same exact look--a resigned, Zen-like, peaceful face, alert but still, her lips slightly pursed? Like she is consciously putting her entire well-being in our hands, like she thinks we deserve this honor.
Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy.
Next week: Emily's cravings start to define her life.