By the time Tony was four months old, our life with a new child finally began settling into a comfortable routine. He was sleeping through the night, his cries were more purposeful, and our valiant parenting efforts were getting rewarded with big, drooly grins of recognition. We had been dropped in the middle of the new-baby ocean for months, knocked around by waves of sleep deprivation and gripped by the fear of the unknown. Then just when our family of three found our sea legs and I realized we had a good chance of keeping this little being alive for the next 18 years, something earth shattering occurred that dragged us back into uncharted waters once again: the birth of our second child.
Born on January 25th, exactly 13 months after her brother, our baby girl weighed in at a whopping 9 lbs and 3oz. She emerged from the womb already covered in fat rolls, despite stretching to over 22 inches long. She was a large baby by most standards, but a huge birthing accomplishment for someone with a smaller-than-average body frame. When they handed my daughter to me for the first time, she was covered in blue and purple bruises from head to toe; all of the blood vessels were broken in both of her eyes and her little head was so pointy it looked as if you could juice an orange on it. I’d like to say she was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on, but in reality, I was a little concerned that they had swaddled the placenta by mistake. However within weeks, the birthing battle wounds faded to reveal a gorgeous baby girl that I would love, cherish and dress in obscene amounts of pink. We named her Brileigh (Bry-lee) Nicole, a combination of my husbands name (Brian) with mine. Many loved our creativity though most of our friends and family took awhile to warm up to our unique choice. Looking back I can’t imagine her with any other name.
From her first months of life onward, Brileigh was a high maintenance child. At around three weeks old she developed colic. Not the type of colic that mommies at the playground complain about when their infant squawks more than twice an hour. I’m talking real colic—true colic, the type of colic for which surviving mothers should be awarded restitution pay. My now-darling daughter would begin to scream every afternoon at the stroke of . Not ten ‘til, not five after, but exactly sharp. The screaming would commence on schedule, last for exactly four hours, and then halt as abruptly as it began. During those four hours there was nothing that could ebb her siren. I tried rocking, rolling, bouncing, singing, wrapping, unwrapping, feeding, changing, and at one point even pleading. Nothing stopped the possessed little creature, I could only let the fit run its course while I struggled to maintain my sanity. By the time I was on the verge of contacting whatever gypsies my grandparents always threatened to sell me to, the colic finally stopped. The fog lifted from our home and our nerves finally settled back into our skin. I could finally begin enjoying my baby girl.
After such a rocky start, I worried that Tony and his new little sister would never bond. He didn’t seem to mind the new bundle of joy however, after a few curious glances in the beginning, he seemed to decide that she was utterly disenchanting and ceased to acknowledge her existence at all until she began to toddle around the house stealing his toys. Once she made her presence known, I anticipated friction, jealousy, and sibling rivalry. But to my surprise, by the time Brileigh turned one, she and Tony were inseparable friends.
Aside from being convenient playmates, Tony and Brileigh formed a bond that surpassed that of normal siblings. Tony’s delayed speech left him with an alien-like gibberish that was indecipherable to most, but not only did Brileigh understand him, she learned his special little language and they communicated with each other as no one else could. Babbled conversations and belly laughs became the soundtrack of our car rides as they shared jokes and thoughts that I wasn’t privy to. When Tony’s speech finally developed, he passed that skill along to Brileigh, along with everything else that life taught him. When Tony potty trained, Brileigh did too. When Tony learned to ride a bike, his little sister rode right behind him. They formed a special connection that has only become stronger over the years, and as much as they love their other siblings, Tony and Brileigh are a separate unit all of their own.
I nicknamed Brileigh “Bug” early on because she was my first little ladybug. But I had no idea how fitting the name would become. She is always a “lady”, prissy and feminine, soft and gentle by nature, even when she is running the bases at baseball or digging for worms in the backyard. Also, thanks to her love of idle chatter and her incessant needling push for attention, she is able to “bug” the living crap out of me like no other child I’ve ever met before.
As Brileigh’s personality developed, it became apparent that we would forever butt heads. Our relationship is both helped and hindered by the fact that she is exactly like me. Awkward and attention-starved, she is a culmination of all of my most irritating and endearing traits reflected back to me through a face identical to my mothers. She has a knack for crawling under my skin and pecking at my brain until I am ready to snap, yet she does it in such a charming way that all I can do is hug her tightly and laugh with a somewhat maniacal edge.
Brileigh loves to talk, so much so that when she runs out of things to say she starts inventing subject matter to keep the conversation afloat. She rattles on while I am fighting traffic (“What if you turned down the wrong road and we kept driving forever and ever?”), cooking dinner (“What would happen if the house caught on fire but we were out of water and we couldn’t put it out?”) or watching a movie (“What would you do if your movie started talking in Chinese and you couldn’t understand it?”). And if she feels like she is being tuned out, she just turns up her volume and tries again.
But none of her petty faults can hold a candle to her beautiful heart. She is brimming with a level of compassion and generosity that most adults don’t possess, and her only desire in the world is to help people. She is a miniature mommy by nature, constantly fussing over everyone, trying to protect and comfort them, even when they are years older than she. She insists on setting an alarm to wake up earlier than everyone else so that she can assume the responsibility of waking us all up with a firm reminder that we don’t want to be late. She voluntarily takes on the task of mothering her younger sisters, if only so she can throw herself into a chair and complain about how much work it is. As cute as this all may seem, I’m constantly amazed at how well she “manages” our large family at the age of six. She is a natural-born caregiver and organizer, and I can’t wait to see how that skill unfolds throughout the course of her life.
My Bug is a beautiful child, inside and out. Despite the drama that accompanies having a daughter of any age, she is destined to be my biggest challenge and then my best friend. I worry about her tendency to be easily influenced by her peers but celebrate her unique ability to put the needs of others before her own at an age when selfishness is a natural inclination. Raising my first born daughter is paving a path for the three little sisters who are following close behind, with a mixture of trepidation about the difficult years of hormones and heartbreaks and anticipation for the amazing end result that is sure to come.