I peeked over the incubator at the tiny bundle of cloth and stared at your peaceful, angelic face lying peacefully in it. Beautiful lashes fluttered in your sleep. Your rosy cheeks were a lovely contrast to your pale skin. Your head was full of gorgeous, dark, fluffy hair –a great deal for a preemie. I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the heavenly being before me. From the moment I looked at you, I knew only one thing.
“I’ll be the best big sister ever,” I whispered.
I wanted to pair my words with a gentle kiss, but you looked so fragile and serene in your sleep, I didn’t want to disturb you.
I always wanted a sister. My whole life I had been stuck with two obnoxious brothers. I used to cry and beg our parents, even to the point where I asked them to opt for adoption. One summer night, I was given the news of a special, blessed gift entering my life: a baby sister! Finally, after 15 years! I couldn’t wait to meet you. For the first time in forever, I stopped being lazy and cleaned the house and decorated it as a “welcome back” surprise for Mama and you. Baba came back first to check on us. Our conversation went something like this:
“Where’s Mama?” I asked.
“Look, I decorated the house!”
He looked up from tying his shoe, and for the first time in my life, I watched a tear run down his cheek.
“Pray for your baby sister, Ariana,” is all he left me with, along with a ton of questions.
I knew then that my parents were hiding something from me. I didn’t know how much worry I should allow myself, or about what, for that matter. With what scant information I possessed, I considered the optimistic standpoint, but I was still curious. I had overheard one thing when listening to our parents talk in the hospital: Down syndrome. I Googled it. I clicked on “symptoms,” and my heart shattered. There was a huge list, some of the conditions listed I couldn’t even read. I anxiously skimmed through the chunk of mushy words. I stopped. It was there, in the midst of black and white. Heart disease. I didn’t need to be a doctor to know anything with the word “heart” is life-threatening. I stared at this word, watching as it became blurry.
Although I still didn’t know much, I could understand a little now why our parents were so quiet. They were scared, too. It was a difficult truth to accept, and what made them even more nerve-wracked was the scale of conditions was immense, and no one knew where you were on that scale. But to me it didn’t matter. I would still love you and care for you no matter what.
You weren’t the only one going through a journey to a new life. Before, I was used to sitting around and leaving chores to our parents. I was a typical girl entering my teenage years, wasting time on electronics and staying in my messy room all day. I can’t say I was the most respectful daughter. But you prompted me to change.
At first, it was just the little things, such as helping around the house to adjust to the new changes you brought. Then I started cooking meals. My relationship with Mama and Baba grew friendlier. I cared about my studies more.
Later when your speech was heavily delayed, I started learning American Sign Language to better communicate with you.
You brought out the best in me, and I am eternally grateful to you for that. Now, I want to be that change in your life. I love myself more because of you, and with that, I can love you more. Thank you, Amina.