A year ago today, I became an aunt for the second time.
The first time, I was a 16 year old kid. I had just graduated high school and just about to leave for college in another country. I would turn 17 in ten days. I had never witnessed my mother going through pregnancy or giving birth, because my sisters are both adopted. The one thing I knew was from home ec where once we had to watch videos of live birth and another time we had to carry around dolls that basically you just had to be sure not to shake. Like. Who shakes a doll when there’s a grade involved?
I remember it being dark when my first niece was born. We arrived at the hospital when there was still light outside, but by the time C was ready to come out to the world it was dark. I remember the lights being off in the room, but, honestly, I’m not sure if that’s true.
I was in the room for all the contractions. My big sister was in a lot of pain. Her hair was cut short and my mom held her hand and helped her through her breathing. My mom is great in times of hardship. You want her on your team when you need to bite on a bullet and have a leg amputated.
When it came time to push, I left for the waiting room, but mostly because I didn’t know where I should be or what I should do. I didn’t understand my place or the process. I just remember that I kissed my sister on the cheek and left. I remember that the room was dark.
Three pushes later (that’s right…THREE!), niece #1 started her journey. I had just sat down in the waiting room when the nurse came and grabbed us. C was here. She was the most peaceful little thing.
Three pushes. Beautiful, peaceful, sleepy baby. Dream scenario.
And, yet, that was the first time I ever thought to myself that I might not be able to do this having a baby thing.
Watching your older sister who turned 20 less than a month ago give birth to a baby that she didn’t plan is a fucking terrifying experience…for both of you. And, yet, a tiny, beautiful little queen began her life and my older sister led her own on an early June 13th morning.
A year ago today, my second niece was born.
I took an overnight MegaBus in the middle of a snowstorm directly to the hospital. I thought I would miss her delivery, but when I got there, she still had several hours to go. My older sister, mom and her husband were in the private room with my little sister, who looked more calm and collected than I do on my best vacation day. She just has that personality.
My mom, older sister and I took turns stroking her hair, holding her hand and holding back her leg as my little sister pushed through contractions. When she had anxiety about situations, we worked as a team to distract her and eliminate the issue. It was a sisterhood on that deeper level where all women reside.
Hours later, my older sister and I held onto my little sister and cheered her on as she pushed my second niece into the world. She had to be pulled out. And, if you’ve never seen this, the baby’s head comes out like soft serve ice cream. Then, the doctor just pops the malleable skull back into place and puts a little cap on top like nothing ever happened.
You remember that visual. You remember seeing your sister being sewn back up too. But, then you remember seeing a smile that won’t quit on your sister’s face. You remember crying, because you are so proud of the woman that your little sister has become and so in love with this tiny person whose first seconds on earth you are there to share. You remember your niece being told her name for the very first time. Being given her identity. You remember the light in the room. You remember thinking, “okay, maybe this is something you can do.” And you DEFINITELY remember your mom, who usually doesn’t even ask who you are dating because she knows you’re a bit uncatchable, saying, “I can’t wait another 13 years for my next grandchild!!”
You remember thinking that you don’t want to wait that long either.
I was supposed to stay for another day, but my MegaBus home was cancelled due to the snowstorm. The best option was to leave on another bus back home to Chicago that night. I think I was in Des Moines for a total of 18 hours. Something about the drama of the storm and the super quick stop off seemed right. Like the added details created a memory that I was supposed to keep.
With my first niece, I would return home to Iowa every few months and stay for a couple months on my college breaks. I didn’t get to spend as much time with her as everyone else, but I got to see her a lot and for extended periods. When I’d come home, she would always want to spend time with me and show off. And when I left to go back to Scotland, she’d scream my name down the terminal. It was so hard. She, like me, has always had an innate understanding of the finality of good byes. Hellos are way less guaranteed.
With my second niece, I’m an adult with an adult life. Since she was born, I’ve seen her twice, but she seems to remember me. We FaceTime and I look very similar to my mother, which helps. I have pictures up of both of my nieces, which reminds me of visiting my grandparents who kept photos of us in their dining room. It’s weird to relate to your grandparents.
On the first birthday of my second niece, I’m raising a toast to the story that began in the middle of a snowstorm. To the communion of women that surrounded her as she arrived. And to the way our stories interact and collide as we realize our own stories within those of others.