This is part of a two post series. Read the first part, “When Your Sister Keeps Having Kids…And You Can’t” here.
Last night I posted a status message on Facebook about which I have long daydreamed–an announcement that my sister is pregnant and that God willing, within the next eight weeks, I will become an aunt. This announcement was nine years in the making. Nine years of watching my older sister and brother-in-law struggle with infertility, face unimaginable tragedies, and yet somehow inspiringly pick themselves up again and again to pursue their dream of becoming parents.
During their long and emotional journey, I, the younger sister, gave birth to two sons, now ages 8 and 6. And though these births were certainly not without their complications, I conceived easily and when I wanted to both times–something that I likely would have taken for granted if my experience hadn’t been juxtaposed by that of my sister.
READ: How Can I Comfort My Friend Struggling with Infertility?
This juxtaposition reminds me of the words of Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, “A man doesn’t have time in his life to have time for everything…a man needs to love and hate at the same moment, to laugh and cry with the same eyes.” When laughing with my own children, there was often a part of me that was crying for my sister–because she couldn’t laugh with children of her own.
This story is far more my sister’s to tell than mine, and I know that whatever emotions I felt, she felt at least tenfold, but it’s also important to acknowledge infertility’s ripple effect throughout an entire family. As I watched my sister struggle, I felt many things: guilt, anger, confusion, inability to understand–but the two feelings that I came back to again and again were sadness and helplessness. It is terrible to watch someone you love go through such hardship for so long and not be able to do much to fix it. I used to daydream solutions that in hindsight were pretty ridiculous–my husband and I would have another child and give it to them; I would carry her child for her, despite the fact that my own two pregnancies ended prematurely and with pretty serious risks for both me and my children. I wanted so badly to change her situation, yet there was really very little I could do.
READ: Circumstantial Infertility–How To Treat Your Childless Friends
I sat in shul each Rosh Hashanah and prayed to God that this be the year that brings them a child. At each Mother’s Day brunch with my family–that my sister somehow had the strength be at with a smile on her face and her camera at the ready (without her, I would have far fewer pictures of my kids)–I hoped that next year, it would be her holiday as well. Sometimes I would get jealous when I saw pictures of my friends’ kids on Facebook hanging out with their cousins. If I felt this way, I can only imagine how much worse it was for my sister and brother-in-law.
I hope that I have been sensitive; I don’t know if I always was. I tried not to talk about my kids all the time or complain of sleepless nights, but I’m sure that there must have been moments when I said the wrong thing. Over the past eight years, my sister and brother-in-law have been an incredibly loving aunt and uncle to my children–coming to the hospital when they were born, buying gifts for them, delighting in their milestones, playing with them, and babysitting for them–all things that I imagine were not easy, and yet they did them, out of love for me and for my children. For that, I will always be grateful.
For now, our entire family looks forward to welcoming a very special baby girl who will be loved beyond words. And I look forward to discovering a new aspect of my relationship with my sister, one where we can share the joys (and challenges) of motherhood and where, together, our eyes can laugh without being tempered by tears.