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When my sister-in-law had her first baby, feelings of jealousy and anger rose to the surface and caught me off guard. As a mother of four, I expected to feel only happiness for her as she became a mother. But, while I did feel happy for her, I didn’t expect the raw emotions of a year prior, when we welcomed our twins, to bubble to the surface. 

I felt jealous her husband had four months of paid leave. My husband had none with any of our four children.

I felt jealous that she had a village. Her parents, my in-laws, retired as soon as they knew she was pregnant. Her two sisters were also nearby and excited to provide help. 

She had support and family nearby she could lean on.

I had lived a three-hour drive away from family when we had our children. With all grandparents working full time, it was impractical for them to provide regular support.

When we decided to try for our third and final baby, we got two. During an ultrasound halfway through the pregnancy, the technician went silent. Panicked, I thought something had to be wrong until I looked at the screen. Two babies. Identical twin boys. 

I did the math in my head. We would have four children, all under four years old, amid a pandemic, with no family nearby to help. Mentally, I braced myself and told myself I could do this. 

RELATED: It’s Not Easy Raising Kids Without Family Nearby

My in-laws were healthcare workers, and my father-in-law worked overtime as a medical technologist running COVID-19 tests. They were our usual go-tos, but we needed to rely on someone else for delivery because of the circumstances. 

We relied on my mother. We have a tense relationship. So letting her into our home during such a vulnerable time made me anxious. Thankfully she came, and we were grateful she stayed with our girls through delivery.

But the day I came home from the hospital with the boys, she said she needed to leave early.

I cried. I begged.

She relented and stayed a couple more days. We had been discharged, but twin A faced possible readmission. 

I felt exhausted, both emotionally and physically. I had birthed twins and almost lost a baby. He was born blue, not breathing, and needed support. I needed help and my mom, but she left.

And then I started bleeding more than I should have. After an ultrasound to rule out a retained placenta, it was determined I was doing too much. The doctor told me to rest. 

My husband had no more PTO. Our pediatrician said we had to be extra cautious about COVID with our premature boys. Nearby friends offered meals and help in our home. But they all had school-age kids who were in and out of class due to quarantines. The risk was too great to allow them in our home. We graciously accepted the food they brought to our doorstep. 

I put on Depends to handle the bleeding and took my iron.

There would be no rest. 

We made it through our first year with the twins. We have a rhythm, and there is both rest and a schedule. My husband and I survived and are thriving. 

But that first year was the hardest challenge my husband and I have faced in our marriage. Seeing my sister-in-law go through pregnancy and deliver her first baby, just one short year after we delivered our twins, with a village surrounding her, opened up a raw wound I didn’t expect.

RELATED: Don’t Wait For the Tired Mom To Ask For Help

I didn’t expect the anger or jealousy I felt towards her. I expected only to feel excited that my kids would finally have a cousin and that I would now have a sister-in-law I could talk motherhood with. Instead, the negative emotions blindsided me. 

Despite my uncomfortable feelings of jealousy toward my sister-in-law, I am thrilled for her. I am also acutely aware of what mothers without a built-in family village go through. 

I believe we all bear a responsibility to fill in the gap for these mothers.

I am grateful for our friends who brought by meals during those early weeks. As winter turned into spring, we became close with a neighboring family. The mom started just showing up at my doorstep to help. She stepped up and stepped in without judgment. She saw another mother in need, and she filled the gap. I am forever grateful and hope to continue to pay forward her unselfish love and generosity of time.

I no longer casually say to other moms: “Let me know if you need anything. I’m happy to help.” I just help. Instead, I say, “I’ll bring you a meal. Any food allergies or preferences I should know? What else can I get for you while I’m at the store?” 

We can fill the gaps and build the village all mothers need by stepping up and stepping into each others’ chaos. So, let’s avoid the small talk and extend ourselves the grace to be vulnerable. We all deserve help and supporta village. And that village is built with each of us stepping up to the call.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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