The best gift I've ever been given

Coincidentally, my sister and I were due 3 weeks apart. It was an amazing miracle, to have your best friend also having a baby at the same time as you.  I remember when she told me when she was pregnant- (I had just told her weeks earlier)- we embraced and laughed and talked to our parents together about it.  We commiserated about how we both felt like garbage, as we laid on her couches and watched her two kids run around. We were so happy.

Then my pregnancy took a turn for the worse. Emergency surgery, bedrest, then, my daughter was born 16 weeks early.  Suddenly our kids were not so close together in age. Their new age gap of 5 months seemed like an eternity.

I was afraid I would be jealous of my sister’s pregnancy, that I would envy her and be mad for something she couldn’t control.

Instead, my sister showed up.  My sister, who lives 2.5 hours away, showed up every other week for the entire summer. Our entire NICU stay was peppered with visits from my best friend, who never again complained about her pregnancy symptoms.  Once Holly was able to be held by someone other than myself, I was so excited for my sister to hold her. Holly getting kicked by her cousin! Holly and my nephew, Alexander, bonding before he was even born.

The week Holly came home from the hospital, Alexander was born.  He is her third child, and the only one I couldn’t make it to see in the hospital.  

With the stress of the NICU, my milk never came in.  Even after months of pumping, I was still only making drops.  As soon as my sister’s milk came in- the first thing she did after feeding her own child was to pump for mine.  She fed my child when I couldn’t. For anyone who has ever pumped, you know what a sacrifice that is. For anyone who has ever pumped and taken care of three children, you know that it’s practically impossible.  It’s a truly selfless act.

How do you thank someone who gives you the gift of themselves? There’s no card for that, and there is no gift that feels appropriate. How do you thank someone for a gift that is priceless?  There is no thing to buy; the only thing feels right is to shout it from the mountaintop, to cry tears of joy.  All I can do is love her back.

Maybe one day she’ll need a kidney.