You Can't Hurry Sibling Love

I always had a strange feeling growing up that I would struggle with fertility. Totally normal childhood concern right? Matching Barbie wardrobes, wearing the right light up sneakers to match my Lisa Frank notebook, and impending fertility issues.

I was shocked when the exact opposite happened. I got pregnant with my first son pretty soon after my husband and I officially decided we were ready to embark on parenthood (hah!). I had a smooth pregnancy, and jumped into parenthood without looking back.

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My son, Brooks, was a perfect baby. He slept well, ate well, played well. My husband and I thought we hit the baby jackpot (and we still do). It seemed like we blinked and he was eating solids, crawling, babbling, and sitting up all without any issues. We knew that we were good parents, but we also knew what a good kid we had on our hands.

Then we got cocky.

“Maybe we should start thinking about having another baby?,” I asked when Brooks was barely 8 months old. As if the stars aligned, we sat next to a couple at a wedding reception that same week who had just had their second child 18 months after welcoming their first. They went on and on about how wonderful it is. We green lit a second baby that night.

I regressed back to my concerns about fertility especially since I hadn’t gotten back into a normal period cycle since having my son. That concern was again deemed ridiculous when just a few weeks later I was looking at a positive pregnancy test.

We were ecstatic - we were going to have two babies just 18 months apart! As we geared up for another 10 months of pregnancy, a little seedling of doubt/guilt was planted into my mind.

Are we robbing Brooks of his special time with just his mom and dad? Is it too soon? Will he be ready? Our justification for this was always, “Don’t worry - I’m sure they will be best friends!”

Flash forward 10 months and we are welcoming a chubby new baby with the roundest head I have ever seen almost 18 months to the day since we welcomed our first. Once the meds wore off, it was time to introduce Brooks to his baby brother. He was so young, I really wasn’t expecting much of a reaction. But, baby, was I wrong.

Brooks’ lack of reaction spoke loudly. For the first few months Brooks didn’t give the new kid, Vance, the time of day. I’m sure he silently thanked him for the extra Bubble Guppies that he got to watch while I nursed, but otherwise he was uninterested.

We did our best to encourage interaction slowly. Brooks was learning body parts so we would suggest he tickle Vance’s toes or boop his nose. The few times Brooks decided it was safe ended in a look of disgust.

Eventually, Brooks understood that the new kid was a permanent fixture, but that didn’t change his mood. We continued to encourage interaction but Brooks was getting bigger and able to run away and scream or grasp his dad’s neck with the strength of a pro wrestler.

I stayed up crying for weeks thinking that I had done something wrong to both of my boys. I robbed both of them of the special sibling bond that I had banked on during those 10 months that I was cooking Vance. I was at fault, per mom guilt usual.

As Vance developed physically, we started to see a small shift in Brooks. Brooks started to sit closer and obviously question what Vance was all about around the 5 month mark when Vance was participating more at mealtimes. But still there was a lack of interaction that didn’t match the Pinterest perfect bond that I had in my mind for them. Naturally, I took to Google.

Instead of falling down the message board rabbit hole with all its unnecessary abbreviations that I spend an equal amount of time Googling, I took a step back. I thought about the situation without getting my emotions involved. These were the facts:

I had two healthy boys. They both were developing ‘on track’ according to medical standards. And they are both two very different human beings who are just starting to discover the world around them.

What I realized by just shifting my perspective a little bit, is that I was the only one putting pressure on my boys to bond. There was nothing wrong with the situation. It wasn’t what I had imagined, but at the same time they are both so much more than I could have ever imagined. When I take a step back, I really can see just how young they are. Even though they likely had no clue, the pressure that I put on them was unfair.

Sometimes I compare their sibling relationship to that of a married couple. There are life moments that present any couple with the opportunity to either grow together or grow apart.

I have seen these moments become more frequent in the past 3 months. Vance is now waving, saying a few select words, cruising, and becoming a toddler. With these developments, Brooks has taken a marked interest in what the the baby is doing. “Cute baby go night night?” is a commonly heard phrase in our home in addition to “Here you go, cute baby.” Which is the sweetest prelude to playing together that I could have asked for.

We have also continued to do our part to help them interact more. Every night Brooks hugs the baby, tells him he loves him, and closes the door of his bedroom. Little repetitive actions like this have made Brooks realize that Vance is an important part of his family (and that the kid is here to stay.)

Now that Vance is just about walking, I sense that the life moment that presents them with the opportunity to grow together is coming soon. Brooks loves to chase and be chased. Once his brother is able to play that game, I imagine that they will be inseparable.

But again, that is just my imagination.

If that doesn’t happen, I will still be there to encourage their own unique sibling love story.