I actually have two children.
I sometimes catch myself thinking "I'm really not grown-up enough for that kind of responsibility!" Not only one small person, wholly dependent on me and Alt.Father, but two of them. Which means that we are a family of four (how convenient for theme park entry tickets!).
When Alt.D1 was born, that amazing, indescribeable feeling of first seeing my own baby was a bit of a shock. This was for real, and there would never be any going back ever again. She was and is a fantastic force of nature, and I love her with all of my heart. Which would be fine, except that when I was pregnant with Alt.D2, I suddenly realised that this love was going to have to be shared between Alt.D1 and the new baby. I fretted that when the new one arrived, I couldn't possibly feel the same as I had done the first time round. I looked at my daughter and thought
"She is my baby, what's going on here? What am I doing?"
Loving her with all my heart would surely not leave space for baby number two.
Then somebody told me not to worry, I would just grow a new heart when the next one arrived, just for them. It turned out they were right and there is plenty to go around. We have settled into four-ness quite nicely over the last six months, and it almost seems that things were always this way.
When Alt.D1 first met her baby sister, her main concern was where the legs were! Being swaddled up, the new sister she had been waiting for so long to meet resembled a little caterpillar (certainly a hungry one!) and Alt.D1 ran a check thus:
"Aww, she's got tiny little ears, and a tiny little nose, and tiny little fingers and tiny little hands, and tiny little... WHERE ARE HER LEGS?!"
she was more than a little worried!
Having finally established that all parts of "her" baby were present and correct, Alt.D1 got on with the business of being a big sister. This has not been without its difficulties as we've all of us been adjusting to Life As A Four. Being 2 years 9 months old when your life is suddenly turned upside down by the arrival of a new person in your home can't be easy. I was sad to find that my happy, calm, friendly toddler turned into a grumpy, stroppy tantrum-ridden image of her former self. To be frank, she was bored by the baby, who couldn't do anything, wasn't any fun to play with, and monopolised Mummy's time.
As the months have gone past, this seems to have abated slightly, and while we still have our moments, Alt.D1 clearly adores her little sister, and Alt.D2 can't get enough of the entertainment machine that is her big sis. The biggest smiles are reserved for the funny faces she pulls and the noises she makes for her. It warms my heart (or should that be hearts?) to see the little mop of blonde hair leaning over the little fluffy head as I hear silly talk being whispered into the baby's ear and squeals of laughter in response. Even at this stage, they are sharing private jokes!
Going along in the car yesterday, Alt.D1 said to me:
"Mummy, I have to take care of Alt.D2, don't I? And she has to take care of me, too. Because we are sisters."
I assured her that yes, this was true. I started to think about the two of them, their relationship now, and what it will be, for the rest of their lives. Who knows how many fights and scraps there will be, how many tears and slamming doors, how many hugs and giggles and shared confidences there will be in the years to come. Through it all, they will always have each other, which is something else that I hadn't considered before Alt.D2 came along. They may not always like each other, but now there are two of them, it means that they will always. have. each. other.
No matter what roller-coaster rides life takes them on.