It was a very normal Tuesday morning at our house. Life with a vivacious one year old was anything but boring. She spent her waking hours running around the house giggling as she emptied shelves, removed contents from drawers and left her toy basket largely untouched. It was imperative to keep a close eye on bathroom doors, as the toilet is currently a huge temptation. I rarely sit down when she is awake, and if I do it is because she has toddled up to me with a book in hand. She loves to read and I couldn’t be happier about it.
On this particular morning, somewhere between the breakfast dishes, the morning load of laundry, and the third reading of “Fifteen Animals” I received a text I had been anxiously waiting for. It was news of the birth of a new niece. Attached was a photo of an absolutely perfect baby girl, born that morning to my brother and his wife. My elation was immediate! I was relieved and overjoyed that she was healthy and that all went smoothly with her birth. I immediately texted back, offering my congratulations and commenting on how absolutely adorable she was. My own one year old continued to buzz about the room as I looked more closely at the photo, zooming in for a closer look at this newborn’s perfect little features.
It didn’t take long before silent tears began to run down my cheeks. Elation and relief gave way to a grief buried deep inside me. This grief is a longtime friend that follows me wherever I go, but mostly stays out of sight and out of mind. Every so often an event or experience will occur that brings this grief to the surface quickly and quietly. I believe it has visited me each time one of my many nieces and nephews has been born. Through great effort I made peace with this grief long ago. It has become an oddly comfortable visitor! It reminds me that I am human, that my motherly instincts are intact, and that the pain of infertility will never numb my innate desire to bear children. Though childbirth will not be something I personally experience, I truly find great joy in sharing the happiness of others as they welcome new little ones into their arms and families.
I was in the hospital eight years ago when my first daughter was born, graciously invited there by her birth mother. I held her moments after her birth and felt it a great privilege to take part in such a sacred event. There was something extraordinary about the first moments following the birth of our daughter; the peace was tangible and the love that filled the room was unmistakable. The memories of my daughter’s birth, and the appearance of my old friend grief made me wish that I were in the hospital, having just experienced the events of bringing a child into the world. I was overjoyed for my brother, and so grateful for the experiences I knew he and his wife were at that moment enjoying with their new little one.
Tears continued to quietly run down my cheeks and my thoughts were a jumbled mixture of excitement, grief, gratitude, and reflection. I suddenly looked up to find my one year old rushing over to me. I picked her up and she immediately buried her little head on my shoulder and sighed the most contented, happy sigh. In the midst of emptying the kitchen drawer of all my dishtowels, she had sensed momentary sadness and brought comfort in the best way she knew how; with a hug and sweet sounds. Through my tears I chuckled, and then cried even more as I realized for the thousandth time what a blessing it is to be her mother.
At times I long for the experiences of pregnancy and birth. My good friend grief poignantly reminds me of that which I will ever experience. However, in the midst of my quiet tears my daughter continually reminds me of the honor it is to be her mother. I did not give birth to her. I wasn’t even present for her birth like I was for her older sister, but I am her mom. There is an undeniable connection between our hearts and our spirits. She laid her head on my shoulder again, this time patting me gently on the back with her tiny hand. My friend grief dissipated quickly, almost as quickly as it had come. My tears were now only tears of joy; joy for my brother and his wife, and joy for the miracle that I held in my arms.
In the middle of scattered towels, strewn books, an emptied drawer of plastic lids, and a still untouched basket of toys I felt the love of a little girl. Soon she wriggled out of my arms to continue her creative exploration and I was once again left with my thoughts. I couldn’t help but feel immensely grateful for the birth of my niece, for a visit from my old friend grief, and especially for the tenderness I received from that giggly little one year old who miraculously found her way into our home and family. Our daughters were born to another and placed with great love into our family. I can truthfully say I wouldn’t have it any other way.