To My Fertile Sister
Updated: Jul 20, 2018
As I write this, your son is upstairs sleeping in “his” room at my house. He’s been napping for a few hours. Our plans to walk on the trail got re-arranged when he passed out in the car. I love that he is here sleeping, although I’m anxious for him to wake. The sun is shining and I’m eager to go outside with him and play.
It’s important that you know how much your children mean to me. Your son’s 18 month old brain gets my 33 year old brain. He looks at me, mimics, smiles, makes goofy faces and I melt into a puddle on the floor. I love all the connections he is making and consider myself privileged to be part of his world. And your daughter; when she sits with me, plays with my hair, makes me “tea”, and laughs at my silly jokes, it makes everything feel right in the world. Just as it should be. An incredible joy.
Here’s the thing: along with this incredible joy comes incredible pain. The room your son is sleeping in is empty every other day. The room, eager to be a nursery, only gets to fill that role once a week when your toddler takes a nap in it. Just like our plans to walk earlier, the plans for this room have had to be rearranged.
I’ve been up front with you since day one of our decision to start a family. It's laughable that I thought it would be that easy. I made a "decision" and, therefore, it would happen. My process that started right before you became pregnant with your now-toddler. A process that has lasted far longer than I thought I could stand. But here I am, standing it. Maybe not gracefully; maybe not as well as other wanna-be-mamas out there with empty nurseries. And as much as I’ve been up front, you’ve been supportive. You’ve been forever kind and attentive. You have allowed me to be unhappy with you even when you didn’t deserve it. You have been more graceful than many could be in your situation. A situation that finds you welcoming new life into the world under a cloud: “tread lightly, her sister is infertile”.
Infertile may not be the right way to describe it. I hate using that word. To me, it sounds archaic. I can almost hear the gaspy grandmothers describing someone they know who never had children. The word infertility has permanence to it, like barren or childless. My hope is that this is not a permanent state for me…maybe I’ll call myself less-than fertile.
So here you are, preparing to give birth again. Another human you will bring in to the world while I’m struggling to have one. You lapped me! You lapped your perpetually competitive older sister. Ironic how I inherited extra doses of a competitive spirit and you inherited extra doses of calm. In this situation, I want you to know, I am OK being lapped by you.
One thing this process, less-than fertility, has taught me is humility. Maybe some helpings of humility are just what my competitive spirit needed. I have watched you become a mother and it has been the most beautiful process. I would be a complete rotten liar if I pretended that there were not moments of jealousy. Intense jealousy. More than jealousy, though, I feel thankful. I feel thankful that you allow me to have a role in the lives of your kids.
I'm thankful that you are who you are and allow me to be me; in all my messy, jealous, competitive, overly-sensitive glory.
I have a great fear as we approach the last few weeks of your pregnancy. I fear my sadness is siphoning some of your joy. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more excited when you asked me about nursery colors. I’m sorry I couldn’t give more input when you talked about baby names. I wish I could be there for you differently right now. Even though I can’t be the big sister you deserve, I want to you know that you are the EXACT little sister I need but don’t deserve.
Regardless of how my story turns out, your kids will always have a room at my house. I hope this room sees years of laughter, lullabies, sleepy eyes, and story books. Maybe someday the room will have a permanent resident, but for now, I am grateful that your kids fill it up every once in a while.
With impeccable timing, I hear your son rustling around in the room upstairs. I hear him chatting with my dog who sleeps next to his crib at nap time. For now, I am enjoying his chatting but soon I’ll take him out of the room to enjoy the sunshine with me. I will bring him home to you and be happy for the time we had to spend together. I'll kiss him goodbye as he settles into his home, with his parents, and eventually go to sleep in his own room. I'll drive home and yearn for the time that a little one settles in with us for the evening. All the while feeling glad for this gift you have given me. The gift of time and filled rooms.