Love for an Unborn Sibling
by Josiah Tsui
My mom liked to say that the perfect number of children was four—two boys and two girls. Perhaps because she tossed the statement around so casually, and perhaps because I didn’t know any better, I saw the matter of having children as one of choice, even at the age of nine. But having a six-year-old brother at home and my best friend Michael next door, I didn’t hold it against my parents for not having provided me with more siblings; things made sense just as they were. I knew that Tuesday nights were basketball practice at the YMCA, and that Saturday mornings were violin lessons with Ms. Jessica, and that Sunday afternoons would always be me begging my parents for more time on the playground at church.
Still, my favorite day was Friday. The PTA moms set up a table in the cafeteria after school and sold small paper bags of buttered popcorn for 50¢, which I would buy and try to eat slowly, but end up finishing before the end of the bus ride home. I remember that it was on a Friday that I found out the good news, because when I got home and my mom showed me the pregnancy test, I was holding an empty paper bag crumpled in one hand, and the funny-looking stick in the other, asking “What’s this?” She explained the meaning of the red plus sign, and immediately after, I began to run all around the house, jumping and yelling and smiling.
My brother Jeremy and I could not stop making fantastic plans for the new baby. The first thing we decided was that she was going to be a girl. How could she be anything else? Our family already had two boys, and we needed a sister. We envisioned her life to be full of the best, and convinced ourselves that there was no way we would ever let anything happen to her.
We envisioned her life to be full of the best, and convinced ourselves that there was no way we would ever let anything happen to her.
We even argued about who would be the one to teach her to play basketball, and on whose team she would be if we played two on one. She would sleep in our bedroom, we said, despite our parents’ playful attempts to convince us otherwise. Yes, we would learn to change her diapers and feed her from a bottle, and no, we would not mind waking up to take care of her in the middle of the night. My mom would simply smile and tell us that we would have to wait and see how things turned out.
In the three months after I found out about the pregnancy, my mom visited the doctor every couple of weeks. I didn’t really mind these nights. My baby-sitter would bring games and microwave plates of macaroni and cheese, and my parents would come back in a good mood. But then there was a week when my mom had to visit the doctor several times. I noticed that these visits, unlike the others, seemed to leave my mom a little bit weaker each time. She would come home with her eyes empty and desperate, and then go to her room without saying a word. Finally, on the Friday night at the end of that week, she entered the house crying, and immediately grabbed me and my brother close to her to tell us the bad news. We weren’t going to have a baby sister after all.
How to mourn for the loss of someone with whom I had felt so intimate, and yet never met.
I did not know to cry then—how to mourn for the loss of someone with whom I had felt so intimate, and yet never met. Nor did I understand the endless parade of flowers and dishes of food and people who wanted to share their condolences. But what I did see was that in the eyes of the strangers who visited were the scars of having lost their own loved ones—echoes of the pain and despair in my mother’s life. And yet there was something different. The strangers’ problems had all passed, and in their empathy, there was a sense of hope and triumph.
In time, my mother stopped grieving. The thought of the miscarriage would always sadden her, for she had held life within her, and had seen the joy of the future just ahead. But over the next few years, there were birthday parties, and camping trips, and family vacations. The future she lost had been replaced by one just as full of happiness and purpose and memories. So she continued on, grateful for the people she already had.