Siblings Welcome by Margaret Hart
My seven-year-old son has been talking about wanting a sibling since he was old enough to understand where babies come from, and to witness many of his friend’s mothers pregnant and later, giving birth. All around him, in his playgroups and at school, his friends were becoming big brothers and big sisters to new little siblings. My son has always wanted a brother or a sister, and so have we.
In the early years, the discussions about siblings were easier but no less painful. Fast forward a few years and the discussions continue, but the answers have become far more difficult and far more painful. If you became a first-time mom over the age of 35, as I did, chances are you struggled with building your family. Some older moms I know have been fortunate enough to get pregnant and carry a child to term, but most I know have struggled through IVF, egg donations, and both failed and successful adoptions. If you have been lucky enough to grow your family through one of these methods a first time, you are blessed. If you have been successful a second or a third time, you are lucky.
These are all complex issues to explain to a child who desperately wants a sibling. It rips through my heart every time my son comes home from school and laments, “Mom, out of the 20 kids in my class, 18 have siblings, and I don’t.” While we have had discussions with him about how families are formed, including his own adoption story, he still does not fully comprehend the concept, the process, nor how difficult it has become. Despite the recent trend of celebrity adoptions, those of us who have been there, done that, know it’s just not that easy.
I wish I could say that I take comfort in knowing I am not alone. A year after my son was born I founded an adoption group in an effort to socialize and network with other adoptive parents. While it has been helpful to commiserate and to celebrate with other families, it hasn’t helped take away the pain or made the journey any easier.
How do you explain to your child, who desperately wants a sibling, that it’s just not that simple? How do you keep your smiley face on when your child’s face is red with tears? The answer is: you don’t. You cry right along with your child, and you talk about the sadness you feel. If you’ve come to the end of your journey of building your family, you talk about positive ways to move forward. If you are still on the road, you try to give each other hope and to balance expectations.
We continue to explain to our son that we would love to have another child, and for him to have a sibling. We talk honestly and with hope, as well as sadness, because this is our reality, and we just don’t know what the future holds. While this isn’t what our son wants to hear, it is truthful, and I believe the truth is always the best answer with children. We continue to hold out hope that one day, when we receive an invitation to a party that reads, “Siblings Welcome,” our reply will be “yes.”