“Hello mummy,” giggles a muffled voice behind me.
I jump out of my skin and for a second think I must’ve imagined it as I’m home alone and my toddler’s been asleep in her cot for the last half hour.
It’s raining cats and dogs so I continue pulling washing off the line that runs across our balcony.
Then I hear a cheeky laugh.
Unmistakably Maya, I turn around to find her little nose and two tiny palms pressed up against the glass of her bedroom window.
Grinning from ear to ear, her dark beady eyes shining, she clearly couldn’t be more pleased with herself having succeeded in rolling up the blind. I’m significantly less delighted as the moment we make eye contact, I know it’s game-over.
So much for the nap…
But the alternative – a nice, cosy snuggle on the sofa – isn’t too bad.
“I have cuddles with mummy when she feeds the new baby,” Maya reminds me, a hint of panic in her tone. Aware that his or her arrival will come as a shock, in the hope she doesn’t feel left out, I’ve told her that this is what we’ll do while I’m breastfeeding. I thought the chat had done its job, as up to now she hasn’t seemed fazed.
But since feeling the baby kick for the first time, certain comments suggesting she’s dubious about her role as a big sister and questioning what it will mean for us as a family, have begun to creep in.
“Rock me mummy, like a baby,” is one sentence I’ve been hearing a lot.
“You’re only MY daddy,” Maya told Mr R the other day.
Attempts at potty training, which I’m determined to crack so as not to have two sets of nappies to wash, are routinely met with: “No mummy! I’m not a big girl.” And this week, when my mum pointed out the church playgroup she’ll be attending a couple of mornings from February, she insisted: “I not bigger yet, I not bigger yet.”
She’s also told me – or tried to show me rather – on a few separate occasions that she wants to drink her milk the same way the baby will feed.
Quite logically and I suspect entirely naturally, her increased awareness of the change that lies ahead of us, appears to have prompted a level of insecurity that wasn’t there before. Braced for some kind of reaction or pushback, I wouldn’t describe this new-found clinginess and desire to revert to babyish mannerisms as surprising in itself, but the pre-birth timing of her behaviour has definitely caught me off guard.
So, while I’m mostly convinced it won’t take her long to get accustomed to the new arrival, I’ve realised that Mr R and I do need to be mindful she doesn’t feel neglected or somehow demoted in the run-up to April 28 and beyond. I’ve no doubt she knows she’s deeply loved by both of us and her extensive family – even when she’s being a Terrible Two, which is often these days.
There’s a charming book we borrowed from the library recently – ‘Mummy, Do You Love Me?’ – in which a mother hen assures her little chick she will always love him, despite his making her “mad” and “sad” sometimes. And now, when we have a spat, she’s taken to quoting the text back to me: “You still love me mummy, even though I made you mad.”
Her evident sensitivity around the forthcoming addition to our family, has brought home to me, however, the delicate balance required during this period of transition. It’s also helped me to appreciate that this next chapter will be a learning curve for Mr R and I, just as much as for our daughter.
All being well, nature will take its course and guide us through. Yet the experience may not always be straightforward. In fact, I fully expect it to be challenging, as indeed most aspects of parenting have been thus far. Because one minute you’ve the luxury of devoting 100% of yourself to one child, then overnight, it’s about loving two equally, without the first feeling they are loved any less.
On the face of it, this seems impossible. After all, if you share something, inevitably there’s not as much of it to go around. My time and energy will absolutely have to be split, our money will have to go further. None of these reserves are infinite.
But, all that said, I’m not worried. For I like to think – at the risk of sounding like a corny greetings card – that love is different. And although there’ll certainly be tough times when it might feel in short supply, I don’t believe it is something we should – or even can – measure in terms of quantity.
Maya might not yet agree.
“No, I love grandad,” was her indignant response when gram explained to her at the weekend that she loves grandad too.
Of course, she’s going to be jealous of the newbie. It would be naïve to suppose otherwise. But, while testing her, I’m confident that having a brother or sister will also develop her capacity to love.
People often whinge about not being able to choose their relatives. I’m lucky. I’ve never felt that way regarding my siblings. I wouldn’t change them.
Here’s hoping Maya is about to embark on a similar life-long journey of friendship with hers.
Lindsay Razaq is a journalist and former P&J Westminster political correspondent who now combines freelance writing with getting to grips with motherhood