(One year after this post was originally written, my daughters have once again welcomed a little sister to their family. They are now a solid tribe of goddesses who will navigate this wide world together long after their parents are gone – and once again my heart swells with joy for them.)
Last Friday my daughters became big sisters again, and the event brought about big excitement to their world. They girls are nine years of age – old enough to anticipate the baby’s birth, be patient during the long wait that is pregnancy, and even understand the basics of where their baby sister came from (“ewwww!”).
When I saw them at school on Friday before the baby’s birth, their anticipation was palpable. Their classmates and teachers, too, were excitedly waiting to meet the new baby and asking the girls if they knew what her name would be. I found myself getting excited too, participating in the joy and wonder that is a new baby, a new life, a new family member.
Except that based on social convention, I probably shouldn’t be excited about the baby, because my daughters’ new sister has nothing to do with me. She is the daughter of my ex-husband, who is now happily re-married and the father of two more daughters in addition to our twin girls. It is their family, not mine, which has grown with this much-anticipated baby.
My daughters, it turns out, are great sisters. Although they have fought fiercely with each other since they were in the womb and competed for attention as they crawled and learned to walk, they clearly love each other. They are always together, but their fights over attention, their property and anything else imaginable are still many. This does not seem to be the case with their little sister, aged 18 months, and their new baby sister. They adore their little sister and talk about her incessantly – her laugh, the funny things she does, how they love to entertain her, how they have changed her diaper. In fact, she may be the only thing they completely agree on. They love being big sisters.
Every time I hear stories about my girls and their sister (and now, sisters) I feel deep happiness. As of last Friday, my daughters have two more people in the world who will be there for them when I no longer am. Two more women to grow up with them, support them, and form a part of their clan. Even if my girls fight as adults (and they just might), there will always be two more sisters to rely on, to turn to for advice, and to laugh with. I now see good things for my girls did come from the divorce, which years ago seemed so hopeless and destructive.
But there is also a bittersweet sadness when I hear of my daughters’ sisters, and it has to do with a dream I’ve had to let go of. I know giving them a sibling is something I will never do because of infertility, timing and circumstance. When others have said the girls’ stepmother is brave to have two children so close in age, I have only thought that she was lucky – so very lucky – to never have to experience the incredible sadness that is infertility. The years spent hoping for a happy accident that, by now, I know will never happen. The treatments, the injections, the doctor visits, the scans, the tests, the lack of answers that all point toward the same diagnosis: “unexplained infertility.” The inability to do something that, as women, we consider basic.
Sometimes I wonder what a house with four little girls is like. With my two, our house is already loud and disorganized, the laundry is never done, and the bags of groceries are always being unloaded into the fridge, only to disappear before they have settled in. I have no idea how you run a household with double the amount of little girls. I’m not sure I could do it, but I’m also sure I’d make it work.
When people say their children are a miracle, I can safely say mine truly are. And when people say that they are too old to have children, I can say I really am. Because even if I wanted to adopt, I’d be cut off by my age and cancer history. By now, I have mourned the fact that I will never give my daughters siblings in various ways, and acceptance of that fact has made my current life joyful and full of unexpected gifts. Getting to this point was not easy, but the more grateful I am for what I have and the less I chase what is not meant to be mine, the happier I become. If anyone would have told me a few years ago that my girls would have two more sisters, I would have never believed it; and yet today this is the case. Today, they are four, even though I am only mother to two.
Daily, I look at my daughters’ shenanigans with wonder, amazement and love and am keenly aware of just how lucky I was to have them. And I have come to realize that even though my daughters’ sisters are in no way related to me, I am full of goodwill and love toward these two little girls who are a big part of my daughters’ lives. There is an invisible and strange thread that connects us, and it is a good thing. Should they ever need it, those little girls can count on one more person in the world – the mother of their sisters.
It is never easy to let go of something we want badly, but when we do, we are often gifted with things we didn’t even know were possible. How wonderful and mysterious the universe is in the gifts it gives us, isn’t it?