Baby on Board

Last year’s September football game against Carson was memorable for Harvard-Westlake’s defeat. But for cheerleader Jacky Iniguez ’09, it was the day she almost missed the birth of her baby sister.

Iniguez was preparing for the important game, which was to be televised, when her mother called to say she was going stay in the hospital because doctors needed to keep an eye on her. However, her mother went into labor, and after apologizing to the cheerleading squad for leaving them right before the game, Iniguez suffered through rush hour traffic on the 405 to make it to the hospital as her mother was being wheeled into the delivery room. She stayed with her mother until she gave birth to her sister Arianna at 6 p.m., two hours after she left campus.

Although the 16-year age gap may seem uncommon, Iniguez is one of many Harvard-Westlake students who became an older sibling in the past three years. Oliver Doublet ’09 has twin three-year-old brothers, Nicole Hung ’10 has an eight-month-old brother and Gina DeVitis ’09 has a six-month-old sister.

The ease of the transition varies from family to family depending on how integrated the older sibling is into the family involving his or her younger sibling.

“In some ways it’s like two different families, you know because you have the second kid,” school psychologist Dr. Shelia Siegel said. “It’s like their parents are doing their own thing.”

When Iniguez was 15, her mother had a miscarriage. Iniguez and her two siblings, ages 14 and 16, had been excited about the potential addition to their family and distraught about the loss of the child.

Months later, the children became suspicious when their mother slept more and had mood swings, exhibiting the same signs she had during her earlier pregnancy.

After the three month mark, her mother confirmed their suspicions and said she had waited to tell them so the family wouldn’t have to grieve as they had before.

Although Iniguez was excited to have another sibling, she had some reservations.

“The baby would be born the beginning of my junior year, which is supposed to be the most difficult year at Harvard-Westlake,” Iniguez said. “I know it sounds a bit selfish for me to think like that, but I couldn’t help it.”

Because both of her parents work, this past summer Iniguez spent a lot of time babysitting her new sister and doing household chores with the infant in tow.

“It’s a little strange being out alone with her in public though because people give me the strangest most disapproving looks, as if I was her mother,” Iniguez said.

Hung already had two siblings when her parents announced that they were expecting. However, her mother was not pregnant. Her brother Ryan was born via a surrogate mother. Like Iniguez, the Hung siblings were not told until the surrogate had passed the three month mark.

Intially, Hung and her sister Ingrid ’13 were upset with the news. As the oldest, they were very accustomed to their family unit, a moderate size of five. However, their eight-year-old sister Candice was much more open to the possibility of growing their family.

Within the first few days after Hung heard the news, she came around and began to get excited about the impending arrival of her sibling. Although she is worried about the 16-year age gap, she is easily able to see the positive aspects of being the older, wiser sister.

“I guess I’ll be able to give him better advice when he’s older and I’ll be a parental-like figure in his life,” Hung said.

In 2005, Doublet went from being the baby of the family to the man of the house. That year, his mother gave birth to twin boys, Will and Luke. Doublet was living alone with his mother at the time while his older sister continued her high school education in Paris, where their father lives.

In a single parent family, Siegel explained, the change in the family dynamic is different because the parent does not have someone to share the burden.

“Instead the parent looks to the siblings to fill that role,” Siegel said.

When the twins were born, Doublet had to become more self-sufficient as his mother’s attention was often engaged with his younger brothers.

His school work had to become much more independent and he had to push himself to study, which is difficult when two three year olds are racing outside his bedroom door.

“I feel more like an uncle or an older friend than I do like a brother,” Doublet said.

Unlike Iniguez, Doublet was not present for the birth of his siblings. Instead, in August of 2005, he was doing community service when he got the call that his brothers had been born. Sitting next to him was DeVitis.

One day when DeVitis was staying at her father’s house, she found a baby magazine. And her stepmother, Lyndsey, was refusing raw foods and alcohol. So it didn’t come as a surprise when she found out she was going to be a big sister for the first time.

As an only child, DeVitis was ecstatic when she heard the news. In May 2008, Sophia Pearl was born.

DeVitis fears that she will not have as close a relationship with her sister as she would if their ages were closer together. As much love as they may feel, they will never experience something at the same time because of the 17 year age gap.

However, it is evident that despite the differences, the bond of blood is stronger than any other.

“The moment I held Sophia in my arms, it was almost like she knew I was her big sister,” DeVitis said. “I honestly can’t even explain how everything completely clicked when I held her for the first time. I love her more than anything.”