I once spent months of my life pricking needles into my belly and plunging syringes into the fat as surges of hormones flowed into my body. I did it every morning. I did it every night. And then I did it again. Prick. Ice. Repeat.
You saw my desperation and you held my hand. You listened to my cries and you soaked up my tears. I cried a lot. I should have written: Cry. Prick. Cry. Ice. Repeat. I cried at night when the loneliness was most poignant, soaking my pillowcase until the dreams of what may be replaced what was. And then I cried again when I woke from my slumber; the reverie exposed as only the scattered memory of a fleeting delusion. Reality was always the same as it had been the day before. I cried for years: Cry. Prick. Cry. Ice. Repeat.
Until, I woke one morning to find my dream had not disappeared with the morning light. I would be a mother, after all. And you laughed as you shared my joy; and we danced and sang praise. Like our biblical matriarchs: Hannah, too, had cried, and she too had conceived! Sarah, too, had laughed, with joy, with disbelief!
Then, your time came, and you, too, were forced to prick your belly. When you walked toward the chuppah, myrrh, spices, and frankincense beneath your feet, this had not been foreseen. I thought, now, my sister, it is my turn to hold your hand and soak up your tears. And I know how to do it, too. I am Master of Prick. Ice. Repeat.
I played my role and I held your hand, and you held it back. We talked of all that would be after a few pricks and likely a few cries. You looked at my sons and you saw hope in the soft, pink flesh on their bodies and the thin, light hair on their heads. Alas, one morning, just like my morning a few short years before, you awoke and your dream solidified and morphed into reality. You would be a mother, after all! And I laughed as I shared your joy; and we danced and sang praise.
And then, before it could become, your baby was gone.
I watched as you mourned a child that never was. There is no shiva for an unborn child. Only remorse. I tried to hold your hand and soak up your tears, but I no longer was master of this domain, and I was unsure of my place as your sister. Fuck Sarah and her laughter. And fuck Hannah and her tears and the five children she populated her home with.
When you decided to start again—Prick. Ice. Repeat—I held your hand and I soaked up your tears once more, useful again, despite being utterly useless. Back then, only on your second turn, my sons were still an inspiration, only slightly marred by disappointment and envy. And we were both still sure of a future in which we were both mothers.
When you lost another in your womb, and then another still, I became lost alongside and yet remote from you. Because although I cried for your pain, and felt it ache in my soul, I did so after tucking my sons in at night. I was stoic for you as I listened to your fears, and I held out my arm to give you strength, but only when I had the time, between baths and birthday parties. Prick. Ice. Repeat. was waning into a long-ago memory, just as the dreams of its nights once had, come dawn.
When my sons give me crafts with my name proudly scrawled across paper, and they run into my arms for warm, lengthy embraces, I am consumed by thoughts of my own motherhood, both challenging and rewarding. At night, when they are asleep and my body is worn from a day of mothering, and my eyes are heavy with exhaustion, all I can think of is you.
Your dreams are no longer so sweet, I am certain. They are mangled now by loss and doubt and despair the way mine never were. It is hard for you to see them through the haze of hopelessness; just as I know it is hard for you to look upon my sons who once provided you with that hope.
But the dream is there, my sister. Of that, I remain unwavering in my certainty. Hidden, perhaps. Stained with tears and clouded with disbelief, but there. Does it matter—as I read “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” and complain about endless bedtime routines—does it matter that I can see your dream still? Does my conviction make a difference to you while my belly grows soft on leftover Wacky Mac? Why should you believe me when all I can give you is the last remnant of a long day?