‘When will you have another?’ ‘Will you give her a sibling?’ ‘No one wants to be an only child.’
And with the return of the intrusive questions returned the sting. The pangs. The envy, as those around me who had their first at a similar time went onto their second, third child. I told myself to be grateful, to be happy, and content with one. That I was so lucky to be where I was, finally a mother, that I shouldn’t allow myself to grieve again. But it was like being dragged down all over again. Like when people told me that my diagnosis was hardly life or death. That I wasn’t sick. That it wasn’t the end of the world.
When what they really meant was: I should get over it. That I shouldn’t grieve.
My daughter is now seven, going on 17. She is a force to be reckoned with and I am thankful every day that I get to be her mother. I have worked tirelessly through my grief, through mourning the large family I’d dreamed of before MRKH robbed me of that – a dream which resurfaced briefly when we went through the surrogacy process.
When my husband and I went through surrogacy, I realised my grief affected him too. It touched him, brought him low too. Pulled into the swirling watery mess of my infertility. Even after that, I thought that was it; I thought he was the furthest reach of my grief, that the ripples would go no further.
But then my daughter asked for a sister. Or a brother. And she asked with such hope in her face, such light, with the innocent face of a small child who has known nothing of grief, nothing of sadness. Nothing of the pain I (and her dad) have gone through to even get to the moment of her asking. She already knew the beautiful story of her birth. But I told her then, again, and again, reminding her – with love -that mummy has a broken tummy and cannot have any more babies. Over the years I have whispered it to her in quiet words, how much I love her, how lucky I am to have her.
How sorry I am that I cannot give her a sister or brother.
One day she stopped asking.
Then, on Christmas day, we had a video call from family members who surprised us by announcing their second pregnancy. I thought I was done with it, the grief, the envy but once more it hit me like a bat in the belly. And then I turned to my daughter, and I saw her lip wobble, her eyes filling with tears as she realised her cousin was going to have the sibling she herself had so wanted for so long. She ran from the room, hiding from us, from the family members who were looking for our joy and excitement but got our shock and barely hidden indifference as we realised how gutted our own child was. The call ended quickly after that and I fled to my little girl.
She was sobbing in her room but she tried to hide her tears from me, as she told me she was sad she won’t have a sibling but that she didn’t want to make me more sad. I held her and told her she doesn’t need to hide her sorrows from me, that she can show me she’s sad.