Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Letter From a Worried Sister...

Please the bottom of this letter for an update.

Dear Lucy and Charlie,

I’m getting worried. I could tell from our last conversation that you’re starting to feel the pressure of your situation. And I’m sure that you and Charlie are starting to freak out a little. And I know that when people don’t react well to the news that you guys are serious about raising a baby together that it would be pretty awful. That you must feel torn between bursting into tears and wanting to square up. I sort of feel the same way.

But I also understand the concern about your readiness for being parents. It doesn’t mean I agree with them, but I get it. I can tell that you’re growing up and mentally preparing yourself for what’s to come. But sometimes people can’t see that from the outside. Other than your growing tummy, it’s hard for people to really see the changes that are happening within you.

I know Charlie is changing, too. He's changed a lot since the yearlong party you had last year, the one most people would call their "freshman year of college". Some days it must feel like he’s right there with you and some days you think life might be loads easier if you could just Square Up and A-frame him. Trust me, we have all been there, no matter if it's with our 30 year old husband or your 20 year old boyfriend (well not, your 20 year old boyfriend).  So please try your best not get your B on. Unless he really deserves it.

Here’s the hard part of this letter. And it doesn’t make me happy to say this to you. I can tell how much your perspective has changed. But the time has come for you to put that new perspective to work. And I get that it’s hard and you’re broke and exhausted and you’re working full time and it all seems really overwhelming. But there are practical details that need to be addressed and time is running out.

It’s time to figure out what needs to be done and then do it. Trust me when I tell you that waiting until after the baby is born to figure things out will only make them harder and more complicated. And when things are already hard and complicated, they become overwhelming. And that becomes an excuse not to do anything about it. You’ll stay where you are. You won’t make plans for the future. So your future will become a series of things that just happen to you.

So let’s get started. Where are you going to live? How much does it cost to rent an apartment there? How are you going to pay your bills? How much money would it take to buy you a decent car? How much would it cost with a really good coupon? Are you going to be married? If so, can I be maid of honor and supply the flower girls?  Although on second thought, I don't think we ought to let Mini come... What about health insurance? How much maternity leave will you be able to get from your job? If you get a similar job working someplace else, can they give you benefits? Have you thought about what your monthly expenses might be after the baby comes? Have you talked to a WIC counselor or a social worker about what support and resources are out there?

Maybe you don’t even know what questions to ask or where to start. Here’s the thing: getting what you want starts with knowing what you want. You and Charlie have got to decide those things RIGHT NOW. If you can figure out a realistic scenario that you’re both be OK with, there are going to be people lining up to help you make that happen. For example: ME. I will be first in line to help anyway I can and I will be throwing elbows and roundhousing anyone who tries to to take my spot as number one helper to you and my new neice (or possibly- but unlikely - nephew).

Doing nothing is always a choice. But it’s a coward’s choice. And you are not cowards. You can do this. So start doing it. Right now. You are both capable of being extremely resourceful and clever. It’s how you survived some of the things life has thrown at you. But you can’t take a day off. You can’t check out for a week because you got tired or busy or you didn’t feel like it. You have to come up with a plan. You have to start making lists no matter how much you hate them. [Editor's Note: If you hate lists then we totally need to talk because they are magical and rad. I'm sending you one of my special list pads. And some sharpies. Lists! Are! So! Awesome! - Kate] [Editor's Note: Ummm... Kate? Please don't frighten her. - Lydia] You’ve got to save money from every pay check. You have to keep your promises and meet your obligations. You have to say no when you want to say yes. You have to do whatever it takes. I know you’re thinking "I'm already doing that."

I think he's flipping the "V" bird.
Well, you have to do it even morer.

Sometimes it is not enough to do our best; we must do what is required. Winston Churchill said that. I’m pretty sure he was talking about the first six months of being a mom. Or possibly something about World War Two and Britain’s finest hour but whatever. It’s true as hell. Even if you haven’t risen to every occasion in the past, you are both up to this challenge now. You never know what you’re made of until you’re tested. And trust me - parenthood is the biggest test of all.  You already passed the first part when you peed on that little stick. And you didn't even study or anything. Now, go do all the other stuff. That little person you're making is counting on you. Go show her how awesome her momma is...

xo, Lydia

UPDATE: The baby was a boy and not a girl! And he's amazing and perfect. Also, my sister and her husband are wonderful parents and they are doing really, really well. I shouldn't have worried so much because my sister took to motherhood like a duck to water. She's a natural and I'm watching her and taking notes (because I'm NOT a natural and could use some tips).
xoxo, Lydia (1/24/13) 

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

32 comments:

  1. Lydia, will you be my big sister?

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  2. Hello! I know I'm a complete stranger. But, FYI... WIC is awesome!!!! saved our budget many many times and I am not too proud to admit that we take advantage of this program. Other things to consider: health insurance, daycare, birth plan.

    Regardless of your reaction to Julianna's letter. I guarantee she just loves the crap out of you. She's trying to be a good big sister and she can't help herself!!

    When I had my first, my older sister was trying to give me advice and I got all offended "she must think I'm stupid"... no, she just has been there and I WAS stupid. When I went home to visit and she politely and without judgment showed me how to give my son a real bath I finally got it. He was 3 months old and I had never submerged him in water because I was terrified. I had no idea what I was doing, she did, and she just loves me and my babies and wanted to help. And she still does... all the time.

    My sisters are amazing resources and they always build me up, give great advice, and love us all whole-heartedly.

    Best of luck on this adventure!! Call your sister, if for nothing else than to hear how everything you feel is completely normal and maybe even be able to laugh about it ;)

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  3. This advice is super awesome. In fact, you've inspired me to make some lists of my own this morning. You know what else Winston Churchill said? "Never, never, never, never give up." Also sounds like the first 6 months of motherhood, right? Or the first 18 years. Whichever. The point is, I'm starting to wonder if Churchill was actually a new mom. (Whuck?!)

    You can do it, Lucy! Woot!

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  4. really? wow...I'm thinking a little over the top. I mean I can TELL you're concerned...but if I got a letter like that...I'd disown you on the spot. Too much. She's gonna run.

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  5. Sadly, I had the same conversation with my sister 19 years ago, and she never got it. Of course, I don't know your sister and she may be much more functional than mine, but be prepared to step in and help with what that child needs (emotional support, guidance, prom dress shopping, etc.) And I disagree with Julana's comments -- if she "runs" it's not because your letter was over the top, it's because she was going to run anyway and your letter (or whatever breeze was blowing that day) gave her an excuse. I hope she takes your advice to heart and sees how lucky she is to have a sister like you standing behind her.

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  6. I got pregnant the 3rd month into my college experience. With the support from my family, I have graduated and moved onto a wonderful life with my "baby daddy".
    I wouldn't expect a grateful response...as wonderful as your letter was. It may make her angry...so be prepared. Bringing the realities to the table right now isn't going to make her happy...just angry :(
    Until that baby comes I would just offer love and advice as she asks for it.

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  7. I don't know you either, Lucy, but all Mommies want to offer advice, so...
    1. Congrats!! :)
    2. You are under no obligation to take every piece of advice to heart; there are women out there that will tell you you're doing everything wrong, simply based on the fact that you are doing it dfferently from them, and this is what you say to them: suck it. There are also many wonderful gems of advice; latch onto these.
    3. As for $$$, a friend of mine used WIC when her baby was an infant; it really helped out a lot. I would also suggest buying baby & toddler clothing at Good Will, for a couple of reasons: $3 for a pretty lacy dress that was worn once to some family occasion then brought to GW is cheaper than a $50 dress that will only be worn once. People who can afford to buy many $50 toddler dresses also shop at GW (my SIL makes over 100Gs a year, and bought lots of stuff there when her kids were little).
    4. Take time to enjoy your child.
    5. Take time for YOU.

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  8. I disagree. I don't think it's over-the-top, at all. If she's anything like most first-time moms (no matter how old), she will face reality in bits and pieces along the way, but a little heads-up is a good thing. Now, Lydia, if you had given her the whole "this is what it looks like when you squeeze a watermelon out of a straw" talk complete with color pictures.. well, that might have been approaching "too much". And, you know your sister best; you know what she can handle hearing and what she cannot. What I like the best is your constant reassuring that you will always be in her corner and do whatever you can to help her. That's what she needs to hear the most, and you delivered! (pun totally intended!)

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  9. So... I am the younger sister and had the first baby.

    My parents were on holiday in Ireland when my sister found out she was pregnant. That would be 5 hours after she and her husband had put a contract on a house that needed to be gutted and totally rehabbed (and it is so utterly awesome). Needless to say they were shell shocked. And after they fed me (hey, I was 7 months pregnant! And they are chefs!) I started to laugh.

    My husband and I, my parents, friends, we all made it work. My sister and husband moved in with my parents for a year. As soon as I was able after my baby was born, I was up there with a sledge hammer and crow bar (um, can you say working out frustration of a new baby?) tearing out walls and ceilings; while my sister watched my little one.

    Family is an amazing thing. Your sister is lucky to have you. And you are equally lucky to have her. Friends help, and they can be your family, but that is a rare thing you have with your sister.

    Good luck to Lucy. And offer to babysit. Often.

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  10. I am the oldest with a pregnant little sister, granted she is older than your sister and has a good job, husband, etc, but STILL, I worry so much about her. I know they will be fine, but they live so far away and I can't stand that I won't be physically there to help her in those beginning months. I worry the most about finances. I think they are a bit in denial about the cost of a child and I wish they were saving a bit more. So, I understand your concern and, Lydia, you are a great sister for trying to be there for her.

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  11. You made me cry. I wish I had a big sister like you. Heck..I wish I had a big sister, period. Sometimes it sucks being the oldest kid/grandkid all the way around. Anyway, you wrote a really realistic letter that covered the bases so well, and I'm jealous of her for having an awesome big sister like you!!

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  12. Lydia, your letters to your sister always make me cry. You are a wonderful big sister. I know all to well how hard it is to be un-married and pregnant. Keep loving on Lucy!

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  13. Lydia and Kate, my darling bloggers that i love so dearly that even though i don't have my own bundle of joy your blog still saves my life every day as a woman in this world YOU. ARE. BEYOND. AWESOME. This letter should be part of our Constitution. I love you. Thank you for sharing your amazingness so generously. xoxo, Emily

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  14. This made me cry. I am the only daughter in my family and even though I have 2 step children, I have to say, I had no idea what was coming when I had my kid (totally planned). But even with all the lows, it's still the best thing I ever did. EVER. I would not trade my kid in for all the smooth sailing in the world.

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  15. I disagree with Julana's comments too. I think this is a beautifully heartfelt and realistic letter. It's important to prepare for as much baby stuff as you can while still pregnant, it lets you deal with the unexpected baby stuff much better. From the sounds of it, I think Lucy will be an awesome mom, especially with the loving support of her big sis.

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  16. That was an awsome letter I wish someone had given to me or at least my sister's. I am the middle of 3 girls and the last to have children and 3 kids later have made up for it. Being a parent is awsome yet the hardest most brain draining experience. At the moment I couldn't tell you what hot music is out but I can tell you what new Laurie Berkner song my kids have heard plus recite the lyrics since i have heard the song 5,984,784,134,000,000 times.

    WIC is possible the best program out there! I have been on it since finding out I was pregnant last march and although my almost 5 year old's and my time is up next month my new baby isn't. She my last(i swear ok i hope-- kinda maybe) is allergic to milk. She is on that special $40 a 12 oz can formula. It would cost us $400 a month we could not afford. So thank you most awsome WIC!

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  17. Great advice. I want a big sister like you. I've had to be a big sister like you. It sucks to have been born first!

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  18. Amazing! I remember when I had my first child at 20. I was on my own and my parents lived in another State. I was stubborn, didn't know what I was doing and took every piece of advice I was ever given to the wrong place and was offended almost all the time by all of it. WIC was a huge benefit! Through it all, I still managed to push through! The love for my little one kept me determined.

    I love your open letters to your sister SO MUCH! I hope she accepts all of your advice and uses all of your guidance to her and her baby's benefit. :) Having a child at a young age is so difficult because as you're trying to raise a child, you're still growing up from being a child. However, your sister was meant to have this baby and because of that, it will work out. I told myself that everyday and now, eight years, a marriage and another baby later, LIFE IS GOOD. XOXOXO

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  19. I don't know your little sister, but I know how hard it is to be pregnant and get a lot of well-meaning advice. It made me want to strangle the people who were telling me what to do. Then about 6 months later, I was thinking, "WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME?" So yeah, this is likely to piss her off because right now all she will hear is the "you-have-to"s and a slight overtone of judginess. With any luck, some of it will sink in.
    And if it doesn't....are you and the Cap'n prepared to raise another kid?

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  20. Great letter! We don't always want to hear what we need to hear, but yours was with love and compassion!
    I also like that you did not sugar coat any of it...because while yes, being a mom is the beat thing in life moat of the times, it has also brought me to my knees at times, and I would have been better prepared if someone had told me that.

    And, life isn't always easy but is always beat when you live it not let it happen.

    Thanks for being real!

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  21. You are a fabulous big sister. Yes, pregnancy is hard, and there's plenty of advice (both good and bad) already out there. What you are offering them is a look at the big picture. As others have said, she may run, but if seeing the reality of the situation makes her change her decision, better that it happens now than after the baby is born. But this is just what she needs to hear right now. Good luck to her and the rest of you standing by to offer support.

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  22. I'm up here in Idaho where the cultural norm is to have babies at 20. Many young couples have 2 before they graduate. They work harder doing so and still achieve success in their lives. (meaning they don't take it as a crutch to give up on their aspirations) If the world tells her it's going to be too hard - then it's going to be too hard. If the world would just tell her that she can do it, then she'll square up and do it. Good for you for being the first voice doing that!

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  23. I was a totally unprepared single mama. Looking back, I'm shocked that strangers didn't approach me on the street and shake me by the shoulders: "When are you going to get your life together?!"

    For any young couple starting out, there's a lot of good advice here, especially getting on WIC. Don't forget to mention -- breastfeeding is HARD. WIC has people who can help you learn how to do it the right way. It's way cheaper than formula, and way better for the baby. So that's just one way that WIC can provide support, besides paying for your grocery staples for 3 months.

    But don't worry too much, Lydia! Even I got it together when I had my little guy depending on me. Had to. There was no other choice. Whereas before, I would have been all, "I feel like giving up," and I would have given up, now I'm like, "dang it, I can't give up until 8 p.m."

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  24. What I love most about your advice is that you aren't telling what choice to make....just that there are some things that she needs to make choices about. And that looking at the options and making those choices would be a better thing to do now rather than waiting until later. But you also let her know that she can wait until later.....but some things still need to be decided.

    And WIC should be something definitely sooner rather than later....awesome benefit (that I couldn't take advantage of because my now ex made too much even when I was off work for maternity leave and making nothing.

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  25. I wanted to add to my earlier comment, that my when I met my neighbor in 2007, she was just finishing up her medical residency AND WAS ABOUT TO GIVE BIRTH TO THEIR 5TH CHILD! When I took a moment to ponder that, she began having kids in her undergrad, continued through medical school and through her residency. She's certainly not super woman, but with a support system and again NO ONE TOLD HER THAT IT WAS TOO HARD or that she couldn't do it! She's now a successful pediatrician and mom to 5! I would love it if you passed that on to your sis to give her that voice to tell the nay-sayers to go suck it! Be strong sister of Lydia!

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  26. I just read a great quote (and i'm sorry I don't remember the source).

    "Just when you feel like you can't take another step, TAKE ONE. You have just proven your brain wrong."

    Really, that's it. Just do it. Just one step. Just one phone call.

    And see about state-subsidized immunizations. Even our (decent?) health insurance didn't cover all the well-baby costs -- and vaccines really can add up that first year or so. They even had a doctor on hand for checkups.

    ---kate in michigan

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  27. Lydia you are an awesome sister and an awesome writer. I just love your writing style and your articles about your sister always make me cry. She is so damn lucky to have you in her corner. That kind of love is powerful and can work miracles. You are not too tough on her, you love her enough to be truthful with her. Motherhood is hard but it will be the toughest job she will ever love.

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  28. Lydia..I love you...you ROCK....lets get THAT straight! but as for your sister...she is not going to listen. I am sorry. I'm a second born..I know. My older sister pushed so hard too many times, and we don't speak to this day. I love that you CARE!!! You're a ROCK STAR!!!! but I have to tell you from experience....be very very careful. ONLY give advice when asked by her.....otherwise....you're in for a lot of hurt. You are amazing. I love your blog!!!

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  29. @Julana - thanks so much for writing back and know that I'm sending hugs right back at ya. I took all these comments really seriously and so did Lucy. Yours wasn't easy for me to read but that doesn't mean I didn't need to read it. There were some on here that hurt Lucy and that KILLED me. She reads the blog and obviously she & Charlie are cool with me sharing this stuff. It's just all so complicated. So many moving parts.

    After thinking about everyone's comments and talking to Lucy I'm going to back off. I always want to be 100% honest with her but I don't think I gave her enough credit for all the things she's already doing. And I don't think I considered how much I hated being the recipient of oodles of uninvited advice. And that being said, I totally neglected to consider how graciously and patiently she's listened to me prattle on.

    You know who I am? I'm the older sister in Knocked Up. You know how she got thrown out of the delivery room at the end? Because she was a know it all B? That's me.

    But I stand by everything I said because God knows its all true. I just am going to try and be as supportive, honest and loving as I can. Cause I am terrified and I adore her.

    xo, Lydia

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  30. Lydia...thank you for responding to ME! wow. xo
    I never meant to HURT you or your sister by what I posted. I was only speaking from experience as the younger sister. I hurt everyday because I don't have a great relationship with my older sister. It has been over a year and we barely communicate. My mother must be screaming in her grave! EEEK Sometimes though the best thing we can do for the people we love...is just BE there. No words necessary. I know you love your sister, and I think the fact that you WANT to help her is the BEST.EVER. I am sorry if I sounded harsh, but the letter sort of hit me. There...I admit it. I took it personal! AHHH Anyway, I adore you and Kate...and this blog keeps me SANE. Well..as sane as I can be. ha

    Thanks again. You're a great sister. Wish you were mine.

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  31. Lydia and Lucy - I have to say how lucky you both are! YOU HAVE EACH OTHER! And you're both going along on this amazing adventure together, even though your perspective to it is (obviously) very different. Lydia, as an older sister, I admire your support and ability to be there and just accept... all while not hiding in the sand from the truth, too! And Lucy, as an older sister with a younger sister, just know that everything comes from the most amazing, overwhelming, profound source of love... sisterhood! Enjoy every bit of this ride, because it will never be exactly like this again! It' never easy, no matter the circumstances, but it is TRULY amazing! Good luck to you - can't wait to hear happy news on your new arrival via your very caring big sister!

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  32. Glad to hear it worked out!! You worry because you care. And because moms worry.

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