I met my soulmate the day I was born. Well, maybe not the exact day, but soon. The only thing I know for sure is that as soon as I was aware of my surroundings, I was aware of my sister.
She came into being 26 whole months before I did and thus had the necessary wisdom and knowledge to show me the ways of the world. She was my teacher, my mentor, my roommate, and my friend. It was always that way, though our roles shifted slightly as we got older. See I got married before she did and had two children before she got pregnant the first time. So sometimes it felt a little like I was the older sibling, the one with the advice. Long-distance advice–I lived in North Carolina and she in Maryland–but still.
Anyway, when she began to experience pregnancy itching, I knew just what she should do. “Lanolin,” I told her. “Or cocoa butter. Both are great for itchy skin.” But I was wrong; and it wasn’t itchy skin. (How we would later wish for something so easy to fix as pregnancy-related dermatitis!) Not even the doctors knew what the problem was, but they eventually settled on a diagnosis of an allergy to the amniotic fluid.*
Whatever it was, it was maddening. My sister itched from the inside out. And oh what a tease that itch was. My sister could never resolve it: not by lotions or medications and certainly not by scratching. She itched nearly everywhere. “Sometimes,” she told me, “I try to think about my teeth. I concentrate on that one part of my body that doesn’t itch.”
But the itch always won. It snuck in along her gum line and around her lips, up to her scalp and down in her ears. It was merciless, unrelenting, and just plain mean. She begged her doctors for some relief from the madness. They only had one thing to offer.
“Once the baby is here,” they told her, “the itching will be greatly reduced if not gone altogether.” Childbirth: my sister’s only hope for pain relief.
Finally, early one morning I got the call: she was in labor. It was wonderful, and terrifying, news. The doctors knew so little about what was going on with her. All we really knew was that things could easily go tragically wrong.
That day was February 3, 1997, one of the longest days of my life, and the day my niece, Emma Mitchell Weiss was born. A week later, I wrapped my arms around my sister, Emma snuggled in her mama’s arms between us.
That moment that I held them both . . . it is one of the High Holy Moments of my life. In the midst of that multigenerational embrace, God’s love overwhelmed me. I felt such divine mercy and grace, such unfathomable love . . . well, it felt like the Kingdom of God right here on earth. Thanks be to God.
“Happy 18th Birthday Beloved Emma. Your birth gave me a beautiful image of the love of God. Your life is one of God’s greatest gifts to me. So go be miraculous My Emma. Be you.”
*When my sister’s symptoms returned during her second pregnancy, she discovered (thanks to a brand new computer application called Google™ which led her to knowledgeable doctors across the world and right in her own town) what she really had was a disease called obstetric cholestasis. This rare disorder causes liver malfunction during pregnancy and a resulting incessant itchiness.
Interestingly enough, it turned out that even with the wrong diagnosis, the doctors gave my sister the right prognosis. Indeed, delivery brought the beginning of the end of her symptoms. Today, my sister and her two children Emma and Mitch are healthy and strong, showing no signs that liver disease threatened their well-being. To God be the glory.