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My Daughter Wants a Sibling

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.

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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.

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"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 know.

"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 subject.

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