Wednesday, October 8, 2008

In Anticipation

Tomorrow I'm going to be Aunt Tiffany, for the third time over.

I like babies, but I wasn't really the babydoll-rocking sort of child who named all of her children before turning twelve. I've never really been 'maternal' in the sense that I feel calm and prepared when a child sticks an eraser cap up his nose. Also, I'm not one of those 'child whisperers' that draws children with a wink and a smile. If I ever wanted to steal a child, he wouldn't go with me anyways, so there isn't much to worry about on that front.

But I do like children, and more specifically, babies. They have a very quiet way of reminding me that life goes on, love goes on, and sleep does not.

I was terrified when pregnant with Moira, and then oddly disconnected when she arrived. I thought I would be more prepared the next time, but I felt similarly with Sabra. It might be that your own body saves and protects your soon-to-be feeble mind by not hitting you with the intense realness of the moment. Or it might be the drugs. Either way...I didn't feel that instant bonding that I had always heard about. I woke up a few weeks later, realizing that the bond was indeed there. But I didn't notice it walk into the room as the baby was born. Oddly enough, I did notice it at another time.

I became an aunt for the first time just over four years ago. My big sister let me be in the room if we promised to never discuss which of her personal parts I was looking at, which was fine with me. I almost fainted anyways. My cousin Janel had to take over the role of videographer because my cinematography was slightly off center. It still haunts my nightmares.

And then...Kendall arrived. It felt magnificent and victorious.

All nausea aside at seeing a gaping hole in someone I loved, I felt so very strongly for that little red screaming baby. It wasn't simply because she was a baby, though. I like babies enough to smile at them and be happy that they are safely delivered into the world. But I have never suffered from baby fever just because a tiny person is in my viscinity. No, Kendall stole my heart because she was, in a way, mine.

All my love for my sister and all my inside jokes with Tyson collided and met within this little angry baby. She had soft light hair that, viewed atop skin still red from birth, looked almost pink. She was funny and unique from the first moment, and I felt so strongly connected to my family that day.

A short year later, my sister (in law) found out she was expecting a child. Delighted for Ashley and Robert, I secretly harbored some feelings. I worried that I wouldn't feel close to their child, because neither parent shares my bond of blood. I didn't want to feel this way,you understand. I just worried that it would be so. I only had my experience with Kendall to glean from, and well, she is the product of my most beloved sister.

Added to this fear was that I too was expecting a child. As my own world was wrapped up in hating pregnancy and loathing panel-front pants, I thought little of the baby that would soon make me an aunt for the second time.

And then I was delightfully surprised. Marcus' birth was expected on November 11th, and we awaited the day with joy. When the call came that he was healthy, chubby and looked like his Dad/Mom/Dad (still can't decide) I felt a surge of emotion for this, my 'new' family. I became angry to the point of swearing when nobody sent us pictures of him in what I felt was a timely manner. I looked at his pretty head (c-section) and marveled at his delightfully fluffy cheeks.

It is interesting, really. As I think about it, it relates to the way I feel about the babies' parents. Talitha is my only sibling, married to someone who feels like a sibling. They are close, familiar, and utterly ingrained into my being. Ashley is the sibling of my husband, and her own husband has been part of their family for many years. I've always felt a bit like the outsider. But in a different and yet wonderful way, they are close, familiar, and with each year becoming more and more ingrained into my being.

There isn't a way to go back and involve yourself in someone's life. I'll never know what Austin looked like with braces (thank the heavens above) though I do recall that image on my sister. I wasn't at Ash and Rob's wedding, witnessing a monumental family event. No, I came later.

But somewhere in the middle of hot tub visits and hearing how much they hated their brother's facial hair and eating all the cinnamon rolls we could steal from Nana's baking pan, my sisters (in law) became my 'new' family. Not new as in 'off with the old...' but as in newly acquired, added to, and fresh.

I was surprised at how much it hurt that I couldn't hold Marcus the day he was born. He was mine as much as Kendall was, and I wanted to be there to hug the mom and give the dad a smile. I wanted the future chance to tell my nephew that I held him when he was just two hours old. Though it hurt, it also healed, in a strange way. I learned that family ties are as different as the people they represent, and it isn't often that you can call one 'stronger' than another. They just are.

So tomorrow I am an aunt times three. This time it is another niece, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about October 9th, when baby Evelyn will enter the world. I can't be there to hold her either, but of course I am there in spirit. And one day, when she is older, I'll be able to tell her that Aunt Tiffany was on the phone, listening to her cry in the background. I'll show her a picture of her naked bottom as she was being cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket.

And hopefully, she'll be ok with that.

After all, we're family.

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