Butterfly Effect: Phantom Limb

“You don’t want a sibling. They’re tedious, annoy the shit out of you and honestly if they’re younger than you, you might just end up taking care of them instead of your parents.” 

A lot of people have told me how fortunate I am, having been born the only child, allowing myself to be the sole receiver of my parents’ affections (and punishments). Despite that, I’ve always wanted a sibling regardless of their age – older brother, younger sister-  I don’t care, I’ve just always wanted one. 

I guess it’s more for the feeling of solidarity and companionship than anything else. With two middle class working parents, I often found myself spending more time alone than with anyone else. After school it’s right back to four walls and a ringing silence in my ears that I’ve endured, but can slowly drive an individual mad. Sure, I had my extended family and my cousins, but being in a whole other state didn’t leave much room for interaction other than the usual family gatherings. 

But life goes on doesn’t it? I made friends, I grew my social circle and the silence didn’t seem as deafening anymore, but it was always there, a tiny kernel of hope and desperation that one day I wouldn’t have to come back to an empty house. 

Until one day, when I was around 15? 16? And my parents sat me down for a “talk”. My mom could barely look me in the eye and even my dad in all his stoicness seemed to crack a bit under the pressure of the words they were about to deliver to me. 

And a couple of minutes later I understood why. 

It was as if a pile of bricks had been dropped onto my head, leaving me dazed, confused and dumbfounded. 

I had had a sibling. An older sibling to be exact. 

Barely in the beginning of her second trimester, my mother had miscarried. The zygote hadn’t attached properly to the uterine lining resulting in what my dad described to be a “spontaneous abortion.” 

What do you do when you receive news like that? What do you think? My mind raced at all the possibilities, of all the things that could have been. 

An older sibling that could chauffeur me around, pay for my food, that I could fight with over the most trivial things. If it had been a girl, we could have gone cafe hopping whenever we wanted, I finally could have had someone that could take good Instagram pictures without having to rely on my parents and their horrendously bad angles. And if it had been a boy, well I would have had someone that could protect me and honestly that I wouldn’t mind beating the crap out of at whatever games we chose. 

Or maybe… I would have never been born at all. 

My parents had started life late… and looking at their financial situation at that time, I don’t think that they would have chosen to have another child (to be fair I’m already a handful). So… if my sibling had been born would that mean technically I wouldn’t have? 

Thinking of an older or even male version of me makes my head spin but then again they wouldn’t necessarily grow up to inherit all my wonderful (see here: annoying) qualities right? They’d just be this whole other person, a whole other individual with an amazing rich life that would mirror mine but with so many minute differences that they would basically be a stranger. 

Scientists say that amputees can experience phantom limb pain, a neurological condition wherein pain is still felt in the area where an arm or leg has been amputated despite it not being there. The nerve endings at the site of the amputation continue to send pain signals to the brain, making them think that the limb is still attached to their body. 

And maybe that’s what I experienced and am still experiencing: the ache of the possible sibling that I could have had. The ache for all the memories that never had the chance to be made. The gaping hole of loneliness for the other person whose life we will never know. 

Maybe it’s fate. Maybe I was chosen for a reason instead of my lost sibling, but I just hope (if you believe in the concept of the soul like I do), that they had your chance to be born again. 

So, dear sibling if you’re out there, thanks for giving me my chance. 

Written by Ashley Lim

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