Interview with a big sister
I was just a few weeks past my 4th birthday when my twin sisters died eight days apart. One sister was stillborn, the other died, rather unexpectedly in the NICU. I am now 16.
What do you remember? I remember bits and pieces of my mother being pregnant with them, and having to go on bedrest. I remember being told when they had died, I don’t remember exactly what my parents said, but I remember both times being really awful. My clearest memory is actually a good one – it is getting to go see my baby sister in the NICU, and having her hold onto my fingers, and look at me, like she knew who I was. Her hands were so tiny, they could not even circle two of my fingers.
What did your parents do that was helpful? My mother had crippling depression after they died. She tried to compensate for it by planning a fun thing to do or place to go every day, and I remember this – waking up every morning happy wondering what fun thing I was going to get to do that day. I had something to look forward to. I barely remember her being severely depressed, just kind of a vague impression of a “happy kind of zombie mommy”.
Dad also stepped in, since my mom was so withdrawn, and taught me to swim.
One of the things my mom did for herself was write about what happened. She wrote down my reaction to everything that happened as well, which I now really appreciate. One of the hardest things about what happened is that my memories are so few and so blurry. I wish I could remember more, so the stories help.
I am very glad my parents chose to bury them, because it is comforting to have a grave site to go to.
What wasn’t so helpful? Your kid is stronger than you think. I was (understandably) shielded from so much, I see that now. The worst was not getting to see and hold my sister who was stillborn, cause she wasn’t in really great shape : (. I wish they had let me hold her. I wish I had more memories – bad memories (those my parents could not avoid, like telling me they died) are really more comforting than no memories (the sibling did get to go to both twins’ funerals, but does not remember these).
I miss having sisters. I want to know what they would have been like, even if they were bratty (although I’m sure they would be adorable and amazing). I have a brother now, and it’s not the same.
I am more afraid of having my own kids, of one day being pregnant and giving birth, combination of the twins, my mother’s bad obstetrical luck in general, and a detailed description in sophomore health class of baby coming out of vagina. I would prefer to have a ready to order healthy newborn beamed into my arms. (afterIfinishcollegegetajobandgetmarried).
Where are you now? One of the things that kind of stuck was a kind of empowering. My mom chronicled my fascination with little girl superheroes, the PowerPuff girls, which started when the twins got ill in utero, and I still hold onto that. I take martial arts, and stand up for myself. I really want to do some sort of work empowering women ensnared in the sex trafficking trade.
The article written by this young woman’s mom is in the members’ website section. Her mom says she should probably add that her daughter is incredibly gracious and tolerant of growing up with neurotic somewhat overprotective parents; and that in the births and deaths of her sisters, she definitely took on the burden of eldest child, and transitioned from “only child”, even before baby brother came along 2 years later.