“Does your daughter have any siblings?” It’s an odd question, but one I’ve been asked frequently throughout the years. Why is it odd?
Well, because I’m very open about my daughter being an only child. I had to undergo several rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) before my daughter was born, and she came to be in our last round.
It was a very difficult time in my life as it was an emotionally and physically draining experience. The emotional effects persisted for a couple of years after our daughter was born, and my body took a permanent hit from the heavy doses of hormones.
I share my experiences with those who want to hear because it may help someone else going through a similar experience. So why am I often asked if my daughter has siblings by people who should know she’s an only child?
Because she tells people she has siblings.
My father-in-law passed away when my daughter was six. He usually said the blessing at Thanksgiving, and we were at a loss the first year we gathered without him. My daughter had made a turkey at school with things she was thankful for written on each of the paper feathers. My mother-in-law decided to read them as the blessing before dinner.
You can imagine the confusion when my mother-in-law announced that one of the feathers said, “My sister.”
“What sister?” I asked my daughter, but she just shrugged and didn’t answer my question. I didn’t press her further given we were already in a heightened emotional state.
In second grade, the first entry in her school journal was, “I’m an only child. I have two sisters, but they stay at my grandma’s a lot.” I didn’t see it until the journal came home at the end of the year, so I just laughed it off thinking it was her attempt at creative writing. (I will admit I was slightly worried about what her teacher thought of me.)
There were many other times she claimed having siblings, such as during a math lesson on bar charts when she raised her hand with the other kids who said they had brothers and/or sisters.
And then there were the parents of her friends who shared with me that my daughter told their kid(s) she had siblings.
It was happening often, and I was at a loss with what to do. She never talked to me or my husband about it—she just told other people she had siblings. I thought maybe this was an only child thing. That maybe she felt different than her friends, and so she invented siblings so she could fit in.
She already had an imaginary friend, who had an odd name and was a boy. She talked openly about him to us and said he wasn’t real, so we knew this wasn’t the same kind of situation.
After a lot of careful consideration, we decided to tell her some of her story. She was still young, so we only told her what we thought she could understand. We told her we had to have help from a doctor to have her. I even told her we had a picture of her as an embryo, which was something cool that her friends didn’t have because she was unique.
She asked to see the picture, and without hesitation, she asked why there were four. I told her it was because four embryos were transferred in her round, but she was the only one to survive and become a baby.
She looked me dead in the eyes and said, “So my siblings are in Heaven.”
At that moment I knew.
She hadn’t been inventing siblings. It was as if she had FELT her missing siblings.
She was connected to them in a way I never even thought could be possible. It was also the moment I could tell she had finally gained clarity. Her siblings weren’t missing—they were in Heaven and were waiting for her.
She’s 13 now, and she still tells friends she has siblings or that she’s a twin or a quad. When she answers any of those social media questions the kids pass around, she marks that she has siblings who have passed away.
Many who hear her story don’t understand. They think she’s making it up or just trying to get attention.
But she’s not. Deep down she has always known she had siblings.
Them not being in her life left a gap, and she copes by talking about it—even if those who hear it don’t understand.