on kinship.

This entry was written as part of the Sakura Bloom: Sling Diaries, Volume VII.

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I remember the day my sister arrived in the world. With the exception of maybe my daughters, few relationships have made such a memorable entrance into my life. My 7-months pregnant mother and my sick, 3-year old self were on the way to the doctor. It was an icy December day and before we knew it we were sliding head-on into a tree. We rushed to the hospital and my sister was born emergently that same night, almost 2 months before we expected her. You’d never guess it from our whirlwind introduction, but my sister has since been one of the most calming and steadfast things in my life.

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Ever since I was little, being a mother was the one thing that I knew I wanted to be when I grew up. My husband, Anthony, and I both come from big families so growing our own family was something that we looked forward to doing together, God-willing. Even so, when I found out I was pregnant a couple months into our marriage, it caught me by surprise. It was something I wanted, but not something I expected just yet.  At the time, my husband and I were both in medical residency on opposite coasts of the country, working long hours training and roughly 3,000 miles apart. I called him with the news and he mirrored my sentiments of excitement and trepidation. Shortly after I got off the phone with him, my sister came home. My sister and I were living together in a one-bedroom basement apartment in Washington, DC at the time. I don’t think I waited even a minute before sharing the news with her — the first person I told face-to-face; she hugged me when I told her. In that embrace I could feel some of my apprehension leaving me.

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Over the next few months, it was my sister who supported me day-to-day through my pregnancy. We cooked and ate together, hosted a church community group in our tiny apartment, went on weekend adventures, and stayed up late laughing about our own shared childhood and how crazy it was that I was soon going to have a child of my own. Anthony and I worked out our schedules so that we got to see each other at least one weekend a month and we made the most of the few short, sweet months we had left as husband and wife without any children. We hired a doula to support me during birth in case he was in California and didn’t make it in time. In between visits, my sister helped me practice the exercises our doula taught us.

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For Christmas that year our home was full of family who were visiting and we were up late recapping our night to Anthony over FaceTime when I went into labor early in the morning on December 26th. As I labored at home, it was my sister who rubbed my back and brought me glasses of chocolate milk while we waited for my doula to arrive. When we got to the hospital, Anthony was still in transit to me from California. He watched over FaceTime on his layover as our daughter was born, and it was my sister who was in the room and cut her cord — we always joke how this moment bonded her to my daughter for life.  Over the next year, with Anthony still in California, it was my sister who I lived with, along with our dad who came to stay with us a while, who helped me to care for and raise our daughter, Noelani.

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Flash forward to a couple months ago when we were expecting our second child. This time Anthony and I were together under one roof and it was my sister who was roughly 3,000 miles away working on a Fulbright in Morocco. This time around Anthony and I got to do together all the things we missed out on the first time: daily shared meals, doctor’s visits, birth classes, nightly belly rubs and baby kicks. My sister finished her fellowship and moved back stateside just a few weeks before my due date, so, naturally, she temporarily moved in with our little family. In the days leading up to my due date, I envisioned the birth of my second daughter with Anthony, Noelani, and my sister there with me. When the time came, everything happened exactly as I hoped it would, and I later realized that it was my sister who was the one constant physically by my side through the births of both my daughters.

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After my second daughter, Niara, was born, people would ask me, “So what did you end up having?” When I replied, “A girl!” I was mostly greeted with “Congratulations!” but a surprising number of times I got a well-intentioned: “I guess you’ll just have to try for a boy next time.”  As much as I’m excited to someday raise a future young man, to be a mother to a boy, to see my husband interact with a son… I wouldn’t trade this adventure as a mom to two little girls for anything. My life has taught me that nothing quite comes close to the blessing of a sister: Someone to share meals and clothes and advice with. Someone to navigate middle school, high school, and even college with and then years later reminisce about those days. Someone to journey with you through life’s regular ebbs and flows: breakups, moves, and new jobs. And also the big moments: the loss of a grandparent or the births of your children. Someone to love, raise and care for those children like her own. Someone who, no matter where in the world she might be, would hop on the next plane, train or bus to be with you if you needed her.

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I am so excited to see how my girls will grow over time and am already amazed by their affection, the care and protectiveness Noelani already has for Niara. I can’t wait to continue to witness their interactions over the years and be reminded of my own sisterhood, and also surprised by how unique and different their journey and dynamic will be from ours. I know that if they get from their relationship even a fraction of what I have in mine with my sister, then they will be abundantly blessed. But my hope for them will always, always be to have even more than what I’ve had– more love, more memories, more laughter, more sisterhood.

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