“The only thing better than one little girl is two,” a friend and mother of three girls wrote to us following the birth of our second daughter, Lena Emmeline, or Emme, on May 31.
Before she arrived, it was difficult to imagine my heart swelling large enough to engulf not one but two soul-swelling loves. And yet with that wrinkly 6-pound, 2-ounce bundle came an instant expansion of my heart’s carrying capacity. Until you’ve held a minutes-fresh person in the crook of your arm and looked into the deep gray well of her eyes as she sees the world for the first time, it’s unfathomable to foresee the ways in which a new child will so wholly captivate you.
But before I begin Emme’s story (or divulge how she arrived, via VBAC or C-Section… that will come next week!) there’s another story that must draw to a close. That’s the story of Raising Elle.
It felt like the first day of summer, the sun baking our bare arms and ankles as we crouched together on the bank of Prospect Creek. Elle’s toes hovered over the water, and I could see in her face the exhilarating abandon, as pure and unadulterated as the icy flow beneath our feet, at the moment she decided to take the plunge.
Splash! She hopped gingerly across river-smooth pebbles until she reached her pudgy hand up to mine, the gesture speaking her words in that language only mothers and children know.
I scooped her back to shore, where she wriggled into the little still space left in my lap and I praised her bravery. She has always been able to stand the aching chill of Prospect Creek longer than I can.
My intention this day had been to plant my garden. Of course I was planting a garden, I had said to Craig’s raised eyebrows, as I waddled to the backyard that morning, dragging a shovel behind me.
But planting a garden isn’t that straightforward a project, when you’re a week shy of your due date and tending a toddler to boot. I had plunked a single row of peas in the dirt before Elle’s entreaties to wade in the water (and my aching back) had convinced me to abandon the shovel and desert the vegetables for a long recess on the grassy creekside.
When Elle’s feet had had enough of the spring’s icy runoff, she found stones to throw. And when she had thrown enough stones, she found dandelions to pick. All the while I sat on the edge of the creek, talking to my 2-year-old the way you talk to a 2-year-old when you aren’t trying to do something else. I asked her questions, about stones and creeks and dandelions. I spotted a bird downstream, and pulled her into my arms so she could see where I was pointing.
“Look, she’s taking a bath!”
“A bird bath.”
“A bird bath!”
And in this way, amid bathing birds and unplanted vegetables, Elle and I spent the day. The first day of our summer, and also our last day as mother and single daughter. I went into labor that night, the mud from the creek still caked between my toes, and the next time we were together she was a big sister and I was the mother of two.
We always envisioned a sibling for Elle, a sister or brother with whom she could complain about her parents and otherwise share the story of her life. And we are tickled that Emme, a sister for Elle, is finally here. With her birth came all of the elation, wonder and heart-swelling love that comes with the birth of a child. But her birth brought something new, something we didn’t experience the first time around. Emme’s beginning brought the end of a very sweet chapter in our lives.
I feel deeply blessed to have two healthy girls to call my own, and equally thankful that Elle can now know the innate companionship only siblings can know. I am also insanely in love with my new daughter and her tiny fingers, and the way she yawns, and every last bit of her newborn essence. Yet there is also a tucked away corner of my heart that aches for my firstborn, and the two-and-a-half years she and I spent together.
I’ll never forget the day summer started in the backyard. It was the day Elle and I splashed in the creek and neglected our garden, and the day Emme decided to begin the 30-hour adventure to join us. It was also the last glorious day I spent Raising (just) Elle.