As women, I believe we help each other when we share our
fertility struggles. Private pain is
isolating, but swapping tales of infertility or pregnancy loss helps us feel
less alone. That’s why I’m so open
about trying to conceive.
The downside of all this openness is that everyone and their
mom knows I’m trying to get pregnant, and no one is shy about asking how it’s
going. “Are you still trying?” “Any luck this month?” and “Do you think you could
be pregnant?” are all questions I might field at the preschool drop-off line. Sometimes I appreciate the
interest; other times I wish I’d never opened my big, fat mouth.
Well, if I thought that was bad, now I’m facing an even
tougher interrogator—and she lives in my own home. “Mommy, when am I going to get a little
brother or sister?” My 3-year-old really
wants to know. Sometimes it’s more of an
accusation, as in: “Mommy, I’m upset that I don’t have a sister.” She’s made it clear she would prefer a girl
baby. In her words, “Boys are boring”—except Daddy, of course.
Sometimes I appreciate the interest; other times I wish I’d never opened my big, fat mouth.
This is a tough one for me—so tough that I purposely avoid
storybooks that address new siblings. Even though my daughter is obsessed with
Russell Hoban’s "Bread and Jam for Francis," I cannot bring myself to check out "A Baby
Sister for Francis." And I felt
really ambushed when Daniel Tiger’s mother was suddenly pregnant this season. Not cool, PBS.
I’d know exactly how to answer my daughter if she was an
adult. I’d say the following:
"Honey, you have no idea
how much I want to give you a sibling. I
treasure the relationships I have with your uncle and aunt, and I want that for
you. Being an older mom, I am panicky
about leaving you alone in the world, and my deepest instinct is to create a
whole generation of family for you.
"My motives aren’t all selfless; I crave another baby. I want to sniff that sweet baby’s head while
he sleeps on my chest with his tiny fingers curled around mine. I want to experience the baby magic one more
time, especially now that as a quasi veteran, I should be less fearful and more
patient. (The baby’s going to roll over when
he’s ready—they all do!)
"And I love the idea of sharing everything with you, my big
girl. We could watch the baby growing in
my tummy, and I could teach you all about the miracle of life. Together we could welcome this new member of
our family, who would worship and adore you from birth. I would love to watch the baby watching you
do all your big kid things, and trying to be just like you.
"I too dream of a utopian future where our family of four plays
minigolf and board games. When you get
big enough, you stop playing against each other and take on your old
parents. At night, Daddy and I must implore
you to stop giggling and go to sleep already, because in my fantasy you giggle
more than fight.
"I can picture the whole thing, honey, but I have no control
over any of it, and that is more frustrating than you can imagine. As your mom, I can feed you healthy food and
read you great books and make sure you know how much you are loved, but I can’t
tell you whether you’ll ever get a baby brother or sister, because I just don’t
"And while I don’t think being an only child would hurt you
any—because I don’t buy into the myth of the selfish, lonely only—I still
want so very much to create that baby brother or sister for you."
That’s what I’d tell my daughter if I could, but alas, she
is only three. So instead, I say, “Yeah,
it would be fun to have a little brother or sister, wouldn’t it? Babies are so cute.” And then I offer her a cookie and change the