for the first 6-8 weeks of harriet’s life, ramona was not very pleased. she put on a happy face and did her best. but i knew something was wrong in the way her and i just kept missing each other. we were so disconnected. she was taking her anxiety about this new person out on me.
of course, this isn’t surprising. her whole world as she knew it had been rocked. there was no way to prepare her for that. no amount of telling her she’s going to have a sister and then her announcing that to every person she met would actually enable her to wrap her mind around the immensity of adding a new person to the family. a new person who only cries and poops and nurses and needs to be held an awful lot more than ramona is used to sharing me.
thank god she wasn’t taking out these growing pains on etta. but she was taking them out on me. she acted out. didn’t listen. cried a lot about little things. started waking up incredibly early. refused her usual bedtime rituals but demanded i never leave her room. stopped wanting to snuggle. i thought i had lost my spunky ramona. it was a rough beginning — learning to adjust and honor both girls with attention, nurture, snuggles, whatever it was each little girl needed. and ramona acted out in response to these changes. and thus i acted out in response to seeing a side of ramona i wasn’t used to and wasn’t completely comfortable with. that was my issue, i quickly learned. i had to adjust something in myself — not only being a mother of two girls (and dividing my time and energy as needed) but also being a mother to ramona who was, for the first time in her life, experiencing great mental and emotional discomfort that she didn’t know yet how to process.
obviously, something like this was to be expected after a second baby is introduced into a family. but it was really freaking hard to deal with a child so dissatisfied and, well, grumpy for so long. i felt lost. surely. i felt something had been irrevocably changed in ramona. i wasn’t satisfied with people’s explanations that this was just what two year olds do. no. i knew it was deeper.
in hindsight i’m extremely glad there was a little voice in my head –my heart, maybe– that told me not to dismiss her. not to chalk up these “antics” to just her being a toddler. i worked more on myself during this time: how can i be more patient? how can i show i am here to listen? or that my lap is safe if she just needs to be held? how do i enter into her madness, her inability to rationally sort out her emotions?
and then, seemingly overnight, things changed. ramona became a helper. her enthusiasm for her little sister grew. she got excited to do things with mama and papa. she stopped acting out for, at least what seemed to me, little tiny inconsequential things. things just got easier.
we came around to each other. we both started understanding our new normal. and ramona’s confidence and joy and eagerness was restored. phew. and now? this little girl, ramona marilyn, is so stinking excited to be a big sister. each day i am getting a glimpse of the friendship and sisterhood they are going to cultivate together; the companionship and camaraderie they will build — especially when they don’t feel understood by others, by their parents.
i pray i remember this first emotional toll ramona took. i pray i take a bit of that with me as my girls grow and that i remind myself to be patient, to create a safe and warm space, to lend my listening and swallow my unsolicited advice, to curb my anger and share freely my joy and pride for them. even if they’re acting crazy. no: especially if they’re acting crazy.