Linnea responded to the news of the seven week old baby in my belly with indifference to the doll handed to her. She then unabashedly declared, “I wanted a goat, not a sibling.”
We laughed, of course. We also were worried. Worried that perhaps she would take longer than expected to come around to the idea. And yet, we were surprised too. Heck – we thought – she was the one who got us talking about the idea of another babe in the first place.
Back in the doldrums of winter that year, she sat in a bar stool coloring. When she looked up for a moment, she nonchalantly said, “Mom, if you have another baby, I can read a book while you feed her. I will help take care of the baby too.” And so the conversation began. As two educators who tend to kids all day, we didn’t necessary feel a strong pull for a second, at least not right away. With Linnea’s sweet words, the conversation shifted.
When I was about three months pregnant, Linnea leaned over after our bedtime story and asked if we could not talk about the baby until December. Another time, she caught me rubbing my belly and gently moved my hand away. And yet. She would find my copy of “What to Expect When You are Expecting” on our bedroom bookshelf and spend many long minutes flipping through, once even post-it-noting the pages. After the first ultrasound, she asked for the pictures and looked at them for the entirety of our 11 minute drive home. And when she felt the baby kick for the first time, her eyes widened with joy, her expression full of awe.
Linnea didn’t miss a doctor’s appointment. While my parents were visiting, my mom asked her if she was excited to go to the doctor because we had an appointment later that day. Without even looking up, Linnea did her version of a five-year-old eye roll and said she had already heard the heartbeat “like a million times”.
She was convinced the baby was a boy, but at breakfast the morning of our 20 week old ultrasound in September, she said she would be mad if that were true and excited if the baby were a girl. Mother Nature granted her this wish, and I continuously explained we would love the baby no matter what. Linnea did not always look convinced.
In January, Linnea rubbed “Stay in Lotion” on my belly. She began to complain of back aches ironically the same times I would. And on the morning of January 25, when I explained to her I was having a contraction while I stood at the kitchen counter, she next to me, she bolted to the baby nursery, retrieved my yoga ball, all the while shouting, “on it!”
After Ben cooked a pancake breakfast while I showered, we both took her to school that morning. Her preschool teachers rubbed my belly for the last time, and she watched us walk the length of the sidewalk. We looked back one last time to her up in the playhouse, watching us, smiling with a small wave, the feeling of change upon us.
Willa was born at 4:01 that afternoon. Linnea was the first besides me and Ben to hold her just two and a half hours later and read her first book, “Dear Zoo”. She came bearing a gift for her sister and did not want to leave. After school the next day, she came to visit and wanted to stay until nearly her bedtime (and we thought she would be bored). Once home, she read story upon story to her and asked often to hold her. Linnea would come barreling down the hallway after school, rush into the nursery to find us in the rocking chair and pour kisses upon her little face. Instead of apathy or jealousy, we faced a love so strong it seemed to teeter on obsession. Space, Linnea. Please do not lie on her arm. No, I don’t think you are quite ready to carry her while walking yet. She is lucky to have you for a big sis – you love her so much.
Just tonight, right before bed, Linnea was letting Willa “kiss” her (big open mouth upon her cheeks). I placed sisters tummy and tummy and warned Linnea that Willa might drool a little to which she replied, “Oh that doesn’t bother me. She’s my favorite.”
Because of Linnea’s impending graduation from her Montessori school tomorrow, we have been perhaps extra reflective and sentimental. Ben asked her, do you remember when you said you wanted a goat more than you wanted a sister?
To which she replied, “Oh my sister is WAY better than a goat.”