by Bonnie Overly
I’ve had a brand new pair of pink baby shoes sitting on my bathroom counter for a week now. I had decided it was time to go through my girl baby clothes and separate items for saving, donating, or passing on to friends when I came across these shoes. My daughter never wore them. They are still in the box. Not only could I pass them on to someone, I could gift them at a baby shower. They are just the kind of adorable thing that would be fun to watch an expectant mother unwrap and have the room dissolve into a chorus of “Awwww”s.
I have four beautiful children, but getting them here was a difficult and complex process that our fertility specialist forgot to fully explain. Oh, he mentioned the needles and the hormones and the surgeries, but he left out the part that it would be like ripping your heart out of your chest Temple of Doom style only to send it speeding along a rickety old track while some bad guy tries to smash it with a shovel. If it ends well you’ll be left hanging off the edge of a cliff by your fingers. If it doesn’t, it’s hello crocodiles.
So believe me when I say that I understand what it means to be given the gift of a child. Any child. And I absolutely adore my sons and would not trade them for anything.
With three sisters of my own, I can’t help wishing that my daughter could also experience that blessing. Because there is just something about a sister. There’s the understanding that you share over having been raised by the same mother. There are the genes that closely correlate to yours so that when your post-childbirth hormones go bananas, you can say, “Did you experience the thing, too? Please tell me you know what to do about the thing.” There are the inside jokes, the understanding talks, and the all-important pact that if one of you ever falls into a coma, one of your sisters will be there to pluck those pesty black hairs out of your chin.
From the time she could talk — and even with a twin brother as her constant companion — my daughter was acutely aware of the absence of sisterhood in her home. When, at the age of four, she found out I was expecting my fourth baby, she was determined — this baby was going to be a sister. My husband and I thought so too. Even after two ultrasounds showed otherwise, I still went into the delivery room unconvinced that the baby really was another boy.
He was. And although my daughter loved her baby brother instantly and with everything she had, she still wishes for a sister. I still wish for her to have a sister.
There will be those who will say that this kind of longing is ungrateful, but they are mistaken. Sadness over a lost dream doesn’t equal ingratitude for your reality. And for me, part of moving on is accepting that it’s possible to love what is and mourn what isn’t. It’s possible to fully embrace the children I have been given and accept that there will be an occasional twinge over dreams that never came to pass.
So I’ll keep the shoes for now. Not as a symbol of what I am lacking, but as a reminder of what I have been given. And someday, when I pass those little pink sneakers on, I’ll do so with gratitude for all of my miracle babies.
And gratitude for the lessons I learned from a little pink pair of shoes.