these next pieces of writing come from two women that mean the world to me. in fact, more than the world, the universe. including pluto. my sister's kirsten (23, married, one sweet little son that will make you want to convert to baby cannibalism), and kori (21, married like a month ago, make fun of her if you like) were kind enough to write about their experiences with (my) infertility. this whole experience has had such a ripple effect on my family, and at times it breaks my heart because i just want the hurting to stop! then again, like they both express, it's brought our family closer together. it has brought understanding, encouraged empathy, and cultivated compassion. i could not be more proud of them, for the lives they are building for themselves, and for how much they continually bring out the best in me.
first we will hear from kirsten...
DISCLAIMER: I am not a writer, nor do I consider myself to be one.
My sister and I haven’t always been as close as we are now. She was off at college when I was in high school, so I didn’t get to see her much. When I did, we were usually bickering over whose turn it was to use the internet. When she finished college she always had her own place where I would occasionally stop by to burn a CD or two. Then she met Josh, got married, and was soon pregnant. I was happy for them, but more happy living in my artificial high school world worrying about what the next concert was. Looking back to when things started to take a turn for the worse for Kenna, I was in no way a good sister. In fact, I was pretty awful. I didn’t realize the seriousness of what was happening and, at that time, was a 17 year old kid who was into boys and bands. I distinctly remember being in a car on the way to Arizona to see a band, that I had probably seen at least twice before, when Kenna was in the hospital delivering a baby she didn’t get to bring home. I wasn’t there when she had brain surgery. I wasn’t there through her miscarriages. Obviously I am not proud of this. I think back and ask myself, “What the hell was I doing that was more important than being next to my sister as she was going through a horrible time in her life?”
Things between us improved, yet I never knew what to do or say around her. The topic of infertility was never brought up. I would direct all of my questions to my parents who would answer them for me so I didn’t have to bring it up to Kenna. I was too scared to say something wrong.
As Kenna and Josh began the process of adopting, I was planning my wedding. When things didn’t work out with Kate, Kenna was still the good sister and was always by my side to help me with anything wedding. She put on the most brave face during a time of absolute heartache.
About 4 months after I got married, I found out I was pregnant. I was excited, scared, shocked, nervous, and worried all at the same time. The first thought that came to my head was, “How am I going to tell my sister?” I immediately called my mom for advice. I think the conversation went something like this, “Mom, I’m pregnant. How do I tell Kenna?” At this time, Kenna had been talking to a birthmother in Texas and were planning on meeting them around Thanksgiving. My mom advised me to wait until after her meeting to give her the news. The knot in my stomach grew bigger every day that went by without telling her. I ended up not waiting until after their meeting and called her one night in tears. I told her that what I was going to say was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I wanted her to be the first to know and not to hate me for it. By the end of our conversation, we were both in tears. She assured me that her tears were tears of joy and that she couldn’t be more excited. I feel so lucky to have such an understanding sister.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, Kenna was the one who wanted to help with anything and everything. I was so scared that she would be distant and not want anything to do with me during that time. It was completely the opposite. She called almost daily to see how I was feeling, stocked me up on every anti-nausea medication known to man, helped plan my baby shower, and bought many gifts, diapers, and toys for the little guy. During this time, Harley was placed with my wonderful sister and brother-in-law and I couldn’t have been happier for them.
The day Harley was sealed to Josh and Kenna was the same day my sweet baby entered the world. I think he came three weeks early just to be able to share in all the joy that day encompassed. I knew my sister was nothing less than elated on that day. She was happy for me as I was for her. Ever since then, my baby has been fortunate enough to get to spend a lot of time with his auntie Kenna. She graciously allows him into her home every day while I am at school. I used to worry that it may be too hard on her, but I don’t anymore. Infertility may be a big part of Kenna’s life, but she is so much more than just that. She is a role model and a superstar. Infertility doesn’t define her, it just happens to be a part of who she is. I can see how much joy Harley brings to her life, and I know that he is where he is supposed to be.
Having a sister who is infertile has been a learning experience. It hasn’t always been easy, and I have to stop and think about some of the things I say, but it has opened our hearts and has brought our family closer together. I am more than grateful that she is my sister. She is an example to me and someone who I will always admire.
kirsten, ernie, and adorable little man nesto. photo by jenny wheeler.
now let's hear from kori...
I remember telling my sister one day that I would give her one of my kidneys. And I still would. And through the last few years, there have been days that I would have given her my uterus gladly if I could. Fact. Apparently having different blood-types poses a problem, or so I have been told.
When Kenna asked me to write a little about having a sister who is infertile I was in the car with my husband on the way back to St. George and I started tearing up. (Usually I am pretty tough….or pretend to be. But I can’t help it when it comes to this lady) Who am I to talk about infertility?! I’ll try, though.
When my sister first started having troubles, I was sorta left out of the loop. I don’t think this was on purpose. I think I was young and did not fully understand and it was just a hard subject all around to talk about. After a little while it clicked and I was…..stunned…..confused…..and um…..terrified. I did not know what was going to happen next. I didn’t understand my sister’s pain and I couldn’t help fix it. Time went on and I realized that it was something that was not supposed to be fixed, because infertility did not mean she was broken.
Having a sister who is infertile has made me more sensitive to stupid people and the topic of child-bearing in general. A girl at work once asked me when I was going to start having kids and I wanted to punt her across the room. I learned that is just a question you don’t ask, no matter what. Well, I guess you ask yourself. But that’s another lesson I have learned. You can’t really “plan” your family. God already planned it and He’s a whole heck of a lot smarter than you’ll ever be. (no offense).
When I was engaged my bishop asked me to meet with him periodically so he could give me copies of talks from general authorities about the sanctity of marriage in the LDS temple, family, etc. He asked me what I was most nervous about, and I told him the truth. Starting a family. I am kinda caught in limbo. I am scared of having kids and starting a family, but I am also terrified of not being able to conceive or carry kids too. Then I feel guilty for not wanting to have kids right away because there are so many people who are begging God to give them a child (this is the point where my bishop gives me the “what the?” look). I know that just because my sister had troubles doesn’t automatically mean that I will too, but having so many people around you that have gone through still-births, miscarriages and infertility, your eyes are opened. It’s not easy for everyone. And for Kenna and Josh it has been anything but easy. It’s been worth it though. How could our little ginger-kid not be worth it?
Every time an adoption fell through I bawled. I bawled because someone had hurt my sister, and she’d already been hurt enough. The birth-parents have this gift that she would do anything for! And they take it for granted. I cry for my sister, and I cry for my brother. I cry for their pain. Of course this is all in the privacy of my car or shower. Then I feel stupid for crying because I should be doing something to help. Like getting Kenna a coke! (I feel stupid a lot. Just part of the whole dynamic)
When I met Harley for the first time, I was again stunned, but not confused or terrified. He was PERFECT! He still is perfect. He belongs in our family. He IS Kenna and Josh’s son. Period. He is my nephew, he makes my heart melt, and gives me hope.
My mother-in-law, who also has dealt with infertility, has the most amazing saying that goes something like “God knows where each kid belongs, it’s just sometimes they get sent down the wrong chute! But he always fixes it in the end”. And he does.
I have got proof.
kori and her ginger husband, tyson.