Second Thoughts

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On her way to meet her second child, a mom wonders where to put love for two.

As we pulled the RV into the rest stop along I-84, the Snake River was in view. Although I was tired from hours of driving, I felt excitement energizing me. I stepped out of the coach, stretched my arms, and shook out the muscle tension in my back and neck.

I picked up my three-year-old daughter, Bianca, and walked to the stone fence that encircled the rest stop. There was a beautiful, bright, golden ribbon of water below, rushing past rugged stone walls. Above the cliffs of stone, the land was flat as a table, so characteristic of the Idaho desert. The dry landscape, with its mesquite and sagebrush, seemed alive in the warm wind. The sky was an unreal shade of blue-golden-tinted, as if it were aglow.

As we leaned against the retaining wall admiring the Snake River, I asked Bianca again how she felt about going to Idaho to meet her new baby sister. She said, "But I want a baby brother!" and continued to insist that she was acquiring one, in spite of my explanations over the last two days. Once a three-year-old makes up her mind, there's no dissuading her, especially Bianca.

When we got the call the day before that our new daughter had been born, my husband and I checked the baby name book one more time and decided to call her "Phoebe," a Greek name meaning "bright shining one." Then we set about making plans to pick her up. I called my Dad, announcing the new arrival and asking to borrow his RV so that the whole clan could drive cross-country to meet our newest family member. I packed clothing and sleeping bags. I lovingly chose new baby things for Phoebe-a little outfit with dinosaurs printed all over it, tiny T-shirts, diapers, a binkie, formula, an infant car seat. My husband, Howard, was in charge of cameras, food, and fueling the RV.

But as we got closer to Idaho, I got scared. I didn't want anyone to know I was scared, for this was supposed to be an exciting, joyful time. Everyone would be appalled if they knew it, but I worried that I wouldn't love the baby. I was afraid that I would lose Bianca if another child came into the picture. I was afraid my husband would be jealous or that I would be. I was afraid the baby would be defective in some way. I was afraid the birthmother would change her mind.

By the time we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I was nearly hysterical under my ever-so-calm exterior. I started saying crazy things like "I wonder if we'll get to the hospital before it closes." As if a hospital ever closes! I began to understand what Bianca was going through. She wasn't sure she was ready for a baby sister yet. Was I?

Enough Love for Two?

Bianca was such a wonderful child. A little angel. She was sweet, loving, cooperative, and precocious. Everyone loves Bianca. She has a gentleness, a serene quality about her that captures your heart. I just couldn't imagine where I could put love for a second child.

So there we were in the hospital parking lot. My husband asked if we should bring the video camera. I said I was too nervous and asked for the still one. Then we all piled out of the RV. I lingered behind, pretending to lock the door, to allow the others to go ahead of me. But there was no way to avoid this moment. In baby matters, the mother is the leader. All eyes were on me. Howard and the girls waited for me just outside the electric doors to the hospital. I paused, took a deep breath, and then lead our little band inside.

For a while everything was a blur. Howard and the local adoption attorney handed me papers to sign. Then a clerk asked how we would pay the hospital charges. Howard handled all of this while I fidgeted, my fear still growing. Like a bride before her wedding, I kept thinking, "It's not too late to change your mind."

Then the doctor came strolling down the hall, a big grin on her face. Barely had she greeted me when she gave me a hug and said, "Well, let's go get your baby!" I felt strangely calmed by this woman. She had obviously been through tough times. If she thought I deserved this baby, then I guess I did.

We followed the doctor down the hall to the nursery. But when we got there, my fears resurfaced. The doctor walked into the room and got very efficient. She began talking to a nurse, glancing at the babies in the room, reviewing a chart, and ignoring me.

Wisps of dark hair peeked out from a pink and white stocking cap. A plastic hospital I.D. bracelet encircled a delicate little wrist. All she was wearing was a diaper, a T-shirt and that little stocking cap. I felt drawn to this little one. My heart ached for her. But I didn't want to pick up the wrong baby. I didn't want to offend some other mother. The doctor noticed my hesitation, strode over to where Phoebe lay, and picked her up. "Here," she said as she unceremoniously put my daughter into my arms.

It was at that moment that all of my fears melted away. Love swelled within me, and it was more than a match for my negativity. Love flowed around us all-- Bianca, Howard, Phoebe, and myself. We took turns holding Phoebe and admiring her. She was a beautiful baby. It was a wonderful golden moment, the day I met Phoebe, the bright, shining one!

Bianca did change her mind after helping dress the baby in her new dinosaur pajamas. She conceded that she did not have a new baby brother after all. She had a new baby dinosaur!

Kathy J. Marshack lives with her husband and daughters in Vancouver, Washington.

Books for New Brothers and Sisters

Abby by Jeanette Caines. A tender book about a preschooler who loves to look at her baby book with her big brother. For ages 2 to 8.

Emma's Yucky Brother by Jean Little. Emma has always wanted a little brother. Does she get what she wishes when four-year-old Max joins the family? For ages 4 to 8.

Enid and the Homecoming by Cynthia G. Williams. Enid gives his friend, Ment, a special new present that helps him realize that being a big brother is okay. For ages 4 to 10.

Jin Woo by Eve Bunting. David likes his family just the way it has always been-him, Mom and Dad. But now a new baby from Korea is coming. For ages 4 to 8.

Things Little Kids Need to Know by Susan Uhlig. A little boy describes what he will teach his sister as soon as she comes home from across the world. For ages 2 to 6.

Credits: Kathy J. Marshack

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