The phone rang at 5:30 a.m. I jumped out of bed and ran to the phone. "Mama, we're on our way to the hospital."
"Did your water break,? I asked her. "No, but I've been in labor since around 2." Quickly she told me the details. They'd left Rebecca still asleep with a teenage neighbor sleeping on their couch until I got to the house. Rebecca, my 5 year old granddaughter, had been out of preschool most of the week with a really bad cold and cough. I was hoping she'd be completely well before the baby was born.
"Get your coffee before you drive, Mom," my daughter said.
I assured her I wouldn't drive until I was wide awake and hung up. Still a bit groggy, I had a few minutes of wondering what to bring, then making a small pot of coffee, and whispering prayers for my daughter. I prayed for a short easy labor and a healthy baby. I kept up the prayers while I brushed my teeth and packed a small bag with clean clothes, poured a cup of coffee to bring, and while I was driving to my daughter's home.
Anna was born 4 hours later, healthy and beautiful. In every way a little twin of her big sister, the baby's facial expressions, her blond eyebrows, tuft of hair on top, the way she looks when she's about to cry mirrored Rebecca. Her skin was pink and perfect. The short labor must have contributed to her flawless skin. She didn't look like she had been through the trauma of birth. Rebecca, on the other hand, had this miserable suction machine attached to her head during delivery. Her head had been literally bent out of shape. The nurse, trying to not scare the parents, had used the swaddling blanket to wrap Rebecca's head so she looked like a tiny Islamic girl.
After a while my son and my grandson, Aiden. came over so the kids could play. We arranged a "Big Sister" party for lunch time. A few hours later, my daughter- in- law showed up with a bouquet of pink helium balloons and a white chocolate cake. We called for pizza. Aiden's little sister, my 7 month old granddaughter, Franny, sat in the middle of the living room rug surrounded by baby toys, but mostly she adored watching the older kids playing. Her eyes followed their every move. Rebecca and Aiden competed against each other by making funny faces and silly noises to see who could make the baby laugh the hardest.
The tension and excitement of the day began to wear on Rebecca. She wanted Aiden to go away. Every toy he picked up annoyed her. Somehow she scratched her toe, a small injury, but her faced crumbled. Rebecca burst into tears, sobbing. I held her tight telling her it would be okay. I kissed her toe. She looked up at me, "I just miss my mom so much."
I just held her until it passed. The pizza arrived. I could see her struggling with her emotions. Her cough and cold prevented her from going to the hospital to see her mom and the new baby. She was being brave, but there was more underneath it. I think Rebecca glimpsed an understanding that her world was about to really change. As much as she wanted the new baby sister, she wasn't the only child anymore. For her, that was a good thing. She needed a sibling to balance out the adoration and attention only a first child gets, but having to share her mother is another matter. It's also a necessary reality, but still, my heart aches for her.