You Have Siblings, and You’re Welcome

Siblings. Overwhelming love, endless chores, an immediate and complete shift in lifestyle. Siblings don’t just happen. Brothers and sisters are earned joy.

Before you have children, it is easy to romanticize pregnancy and dream up what your future family will be. I pictured itty bitty baby shoes, daily stroller rides, and our first Disney trip as a family. I was going to read “Goodnight Moon” every night during our very regimented (because it was recommended) bedtime routine. I would take magical monthly teddy bear pictures, with the goal of recreating a teddy bear collage as seen on Pinterest, to be gifted to my angelic baby at her first floral-themed birthday party.

What can I say? When I was pregnant for the first time, I was without wine, feeling awful, and had A LOT of time on my phone (in silence) to read countless internet articles about what to expect, in between reading the actual “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book.

And then the first baby is here.

The nursery is perfect, my baby is perfect, and she has the softest, most adorable wardrobe with a beautiful collection of baby shoes. And then I figure out most baby shoes fall off within twenty seconds, but she does have one charming, crocheted pair that will stay on.

I then realize the teddy bear picture dream was ambitious.

Also, the monthly pictures are not popular enough to warrant a validating number of likes on social media. And at seven-ish months, the teddy bear pictures become a nightmarish chore due to the baby’s increasing mobility. The baby revolts more each month, ripping off the sweet bow while she attempts to escape. But for a first child, there will still be shoes worn in every picture.

As the pregnancy hormones fade, the beautiful boutique baby pajamas slowly dissolve into hideous fleece footies, courtesy of Amie, a Sam’s Club loyalist who tends to shun online retailers. The nursery grows more disorganized, as the baby gets more curious and capable. It is still possible, with one child, to successfully resurrect the room, should company be headed over. However, an audience is required to justify that level of cleanliness.

I have never been more exhausted because I have never been physically challenged at this level. Suddenly why Uncle Henry long ago said, “Tell me about being tired when you’re chasing around two little ones,” makes sense— despite that week’s itinerary, which included a bachelorette trip to Napa Valley, doctoral-level classes, seeing clients, and being a bridesmaid in another friend’s wedding. Horror sinks in. OMG, he was totally right. I have done nothing cool this week, other than keeping my child alive and maintaining employment, yet I am much more tired than I was in the spring of 2015.

Enter a second (surprise) pregnancy.

How can one handle the myriad of debilitating pregnancy symptoms while chasing a toddler? Survival mode kicks in. The housework shifts to your husband, who works three weeks on, three weeks off. Time to admit defeat and hire bimonthly cleaners. I survive the waiting by scrolling through Etsy “big sister” dress options. Sibling photoshoot ideas my imagination. I declare myself informed on pregnancy and newborn care and decline to read any more on the topic. I feel guilty about being cliché and not putting in the same amount of effort into the new nursery as I did with the first. However, I do not feel that guilty; there are limits on what you can do when a toddler is crawling on your belly while online shopping for the new baby.

The second baby arrives.

All of fifteen weeks later, I figure out that there is a third baby on its way (future mom blog, count on it.) A new level of survival mode is initiated. Make a bottle, throw up, turn on Baby TV, obsessively check email to see if new dissertation edits have arrived, throw up again, deep breath, and tackle around round of teddy bear pictures.

For my second baby, I still attempted to dress her like the adorable baby doll she deserved to be. Bows got upgraded, but shoes stopped happening. There were fewer monogrammed accessories. Milestones were talked about and celebrated in real life, but not shared as much on social media. Adorable sister moments did happen and exceeded expectations. The ratio of pictures of the first child to the second child was 5:3. Just as much, if not more effort was made, but the typical outcome was two shoeless sisters.

Third child?

EVERYONE cried the first night we were all reunited at home. My husband and I started to realize we were very outnumbered, and the chaos had officially become unmanageable. I only had two hands, but there were now three babies. We were just as committed, but baby shoes were no longer an objective. Because I am a hardcore mother who is committed to the idea that you do the same for all, teddy bear pictures were still on. Should the pictures get posted a day or two (or six) late? That is something a mother of one would worry about.

Mommy and Daddy were way more tired and stressed, but the sisters were even more excited to have another join their krewe. An adult can do their best to make a baby laugh, but they cannot compete with a toddler. Babies are enthralled by their older siblings. My shy one-year-old rests her head on her newborn sister’s belly, as her older sister commends her on the good big sister she is, and I think, “Worth it.”

Three babies will never be as well accessorized as one baby. With one, Pinterest perfect is possible, on some days. With two, it is doable, but pushing it. Three, it’s done. The crazy has taken over. Four? I would imagine that is when expectations become irrelevant, and an out-of-body peace is required to cope with the chaos. Families with five or more- you clearly have a God-gifted level of patience and organization.

Siblings are a gift.

As adults, there is no need to describe a childhood memory from scratch- they were there, they know. Siblings comprise a short list of people in this world who are equally invested in family updates. Siblings enable legacy.

For our family, I am grateful that the sisters have each other, and they will never remember a time when there was no buddy to be had.

So, you’re welcome, kids. You have sisters! Now grow up and be good to each other. Sister/ Best Friends would be preferable, but no pressure.

Melissa Fleming lives in Prairieville, Louisiana with her husband, Blake, and their three beautiful daughters: Evelyn (4), Clara (2), and Chloe (1). She graduated from LA Tech with a B.A. in journalism and then earned her M.Ed. and Ph.D. in counselor education from UNO. She is the owner of MWF Counseling, LLC. In between seeing clients, chasing toddlers, and holding babies, she enjoys watching Real Housewives and drinking as much caffeinated tea as possible.

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