WHEN YOUR BABY BROTHER BECOMES A FATHER
On the evening of November 15th, pretty much all of New Jersey was in a state of panic as a relatively small amount of snow caused complete upheaval and chaos. That same night, in a sleepy town in Vermont, a different type of upheaval and chaos was happening - the birth of my sweet and perfect nephew, Judah.
In an instant my baby brother - who I affectionately call Mikey, Little Mike, Little Mikey, Mikey S, etc - became a father. (It should be noted that Mike is actually taller than me and no one else calls him by these nicknames, except my parents).
In the months leading up to Judah’s arrival, I had no trouble imagining my sister-in-law, Emma, as a mother. I think she was born for this job. She’s strong, loving, creative, confident, and nurturing - she was and is going to rock motherhood. And while I knew that Mike would be a great dad, I had a hard time envisioning the kid that once fell out of his chair yelling, “I scared nunder!!” as a father.
On Thanksgiving morning, Jared, Avi, and I drove up to Vermont to meet Judah. My mom had gone up a week earlier, so my dad drove with us and kept Avi company in the back seat. When we arrived, Mike and Emma were literally glowing. Light and love was emanating from them as they proudly introduced us to their son. To say I was overwhelmed by this moment would be an understatement, but Mike and Emma were in their element. I don’t know how they felt on the inside, but on the outside, they seemed calm and confident. Emma nursed Judah with such beautiful ease, you’d think she had been doing it for months. And Mike seemed to constantly be one step ahead, anticipating both Emma’s and Judah’s needs. As a big sister and big sister-in-law, I was so proud.
But I was also fighting some conflicting feelings. I remember being that new mom with a newborn baby - feeling nervous and unsure but desperately wanting the outside world to think I had it all under control. I felt physically and emotionally vulnerable but I didn’t want anyone else to know it! I spent way too much time on google searching for answers and clarity -
Am I swaddling the right way?
When was the last time he ate and which boob did I give him first last time?
How many poopy diapers is he supposed to have?
How many feedings in a 24 hour period?
Should I wake him up to eat?
Not to mention the questions I had about my own health and healing -
When will the bleeding stop?
What if my stitches don’t dissolve?
Will I ever be able to sit without a pillow again?
What the hell is going on with my boobs?
I didn’t want Emma and Mike to go what I went through. Searching through google, desperate for answers at 3am is not fun. I was literally bursting at the seams with information that I wanted to share. I didn’t want to be a know-it-all, I didn’t want to be patronizing, and I wanted to be a loving and supportive family member...but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ALSO want to tell them exactly what to do and when to do it. Besides my new training as a postpartum doula, I’m the big sister. Being bossy is in my nature, what can I say?
But I bit my tongue. At least I tried to. I’m sure I gave my share of unsolicited advice, but for the most part I really tried to wait until I was asked. I thought about that feeling I had as a new mother - of desperately wanting the world to think ‘I had this’. And I remembered that well-meaning but unsolicited advice sometimes felt like an admonishment - “You’re not doing it right! Do it this way instead!’ I never EVER want to make another mom feel that way.
All I can say is, I hope I did ok. I hope I walked that fine line between loving support and over smothering relative. I hope that Emma and Mike know that they are doing a beautiful job.
Welcome to the world, sweet Judah. You’re a lucky guy to be surrounded by such love.