When I was a little girl, I had blonde hair and big blue eyes - and three brothers. I used to kneel down every night and pray for a little sister. After my sister was born, my dad always said that I must be responsible for her existence, because how could God resist such heartfelt pleas from a little girl? (Obviously, I'm not cute and blonde any more - maybe that's where I'm going wrong...)
Anyway, my sister came along when I was 7, and from the moment she was born she has been one of my favourite people in the world. Five years ago, she came very close to death when she had an operation that went wrong, and during the long months of her recovery I spent a lot of time either at her house or at my parents' house, looking after her and my niece. She is the family member who lives closest to me, and if we go three weeks without seeing each other, that's a long time.
Today is the due date for her fourth child. I'm so happy that she's still here to be having a fourth child, and I know I'll love this baby as much as I love the other three. I also know she's going to need some help while the baby's very small, and I'm always happy to go to her house and help with bathtime and bedtime, or to have my nieces for a night at my house to give her a break. And since it looks as though I'll be unemployed in a couple of months, it'll be even easier to give her a hand while DH and my BIL are at work.
On Thursday of last week, she had an appointment with the doctor, who said that the baby was fully engaged and could arrive at any moment. As the other three were all at least a week late, she wasn't prepared for this news, and BIL hadn't got any of the baby stuff out of the loft yet. The one thing that concerned her was that she had nothing for the baby to wear if it was born - the cradle and car seat could be got down from the loft while she was in hospital, but as she said, hospitals do prefer babies not to be left naked after they've been born.
So on Thursday afternoon, I nipped out and scoured the shops for something for the baby to wear, just in case. I wanted a pack of babygros, but they were all either pink or blue, and we don't know yet what she's having. So I found a nice little yellow and white outfit, and took that over to her. I then stayed and helped put the children to bed, and told her that I would be available for babysitting duties at any time of the day or night if needed.
Then last weekend DH and I had the children overnight while my sister and BIL got everything down from the loft and sorted it all out, so that by the time they picked the children up the next day, everything was ready.
And ten days after she was told the baby could arrive any minute, we're still waiting. My parents have now arrived and will be staying with her for the duration, so I'm off babysitting duty standby.
The last ten days have been Baby Fever Central - every e-mail mentions it, there's been another one from my SIL saying what a special and precious time this is for my sister, even my friends are now asking me if there's any news whenever I speak to them.
I never knew I could be so excited for someone else and so sad for myself all at the same time.