(by Jennifer Joan Fay)
Shortly before the pandemic started, I entered into a new relationship with someone I had met in college. Things progressed quickly, and I moved with my five-year-old daughter Alanah from my parents’ house where I had sought refuge and safety to a new home.
Since we were getting older, my (now) husband and I decided that we wanted to try for a baby right away, and got pregnant very quickly. We were beyond elated, but I knew the prospect of a new sibling would be unsettling for Alanah. To celebrate, although we did not tell her why, we took her to Disney on Ice, even got chosen to be on the ice, ride in the magic car, and take pictures with the Frozen characters.
Then it hit: Covid-19, and the world shut down. There were new regulations for our jobs; Alanah had to be homeschooled; and I was scared even to have food delivered, or to have anything come in the house without being sanitized. We couldn’t see family or friends, and we were confined at home together 24/7. At age 38, my pregnancy was considered high-risk, and then I developed placenta previa, a condition in which the cervix is covered, putting the baby at possible risk for complications. It was an anxious time, but I tried to make the most of the time with my daughter: We did arts and crafts projects, went on masked walks, and I signed her up for classes and Disney character events.
When it became too obvious to hide, I told her that she was going to be a big sister. She actually started referring to the baby as “little sister” even before we knew that it was going to be a girl. It was like she had an intuition. I worried about how the new baby would affect my relationship with my first-born because we were always so close (and recently inseparable). So that she would feel more connected, I encouraged her to be part of the naming process.
The name Aubriella won out. Alanah was pretty much on board with the name because we told her it means “whimsical pixie,” and she loves all things mystical-magical and fairy dust. Although Alanah adores her, she does compete for attention, which can definitely can be a challenge at times and absolutely can make me long for a glass of shiraz. One time I was doing something with the baby, and Alanah decided to put cream cheese on her face as a facial mask. I always explain that the baby needs more care because she's not able to do things herself, and I tell her that when she was that age, I gave her the same kind of attention. I try to include her in feeding or changing the baby, and her new thing is making TikTok videos with her sister, which makes her feel more involved. I got her three dolls that she can “mother.” She feeds them and takes care of them in the same way that I feed and care for her little sister—she mimics what I do and always wants to be included.
I try to plan things that Alanah and I can do, just the two of us, so she doesn't feel that the baby takes all of my time. We bake things like the Oh Henry bars that my grandmother made for every holiday. I'm a disorganized, messy type of person, even in the kitchen, but my stuff somehow comes out delicious. When we do get alone time, we’ll talk about her school crushes or her desire to be a singer. She sometimes opens up if something upsets her or hurts her feelings, and I’m proud that she's able to express those things—it’s important to do that. She is sensitive and emotional just like I was at her age—her similarities to me sometimes amaze me.
Did this parenting warmth come from my upbringing? Honestly, I try to do the opposite. I am more affectionate than my mother, and I make it a point to be more attentive to my children's emotional needs and wants, to make sure they know I love them. That is something I didn't have myself.
While the pandemic era has been challenging, I was able to spend quality time with my Alanah, and I brought a beautiful, healthy baby girl into the world. Not everyone can say that.
Oh Henry Bars
4 c. old-fashioned or quick oats
1/2 c. corn syrup
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. melted butter
6 oz. chocolate chips
1 c. peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
optional: unsweetened coconut
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix oats, corn syrup, and brown sugar in large bowl.
Add optional coconut.
Add melted butter and mix until well combined.
Press firmly into a greased 13 x 9 pan and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.
Over low heat, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter together, stirring to blend.
Spread over cooled cookie base.
Chill 1 hr.
Cut into 2 dozen bars.
(Almond butter or sunflower seed butter can be substituted for the peanut butter.)
Can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to a month.