Not My Child

By Beck

Almost a year ago exactly, she was born. And that is the way with other people’s babies, who grow up in sudden startling lurches – one minute, someone is a sleepy little baby, and the next finds them shoving exuberant handfuls of birthday cake into their mouths.

She was born after a hard, scary pregnancy, and the first photographs of her were wrenching. She was so small, so new, with tubes going into her nose, doll-sized in people’s arms. The pictures showed my brother (suddenly changed into a father), tenderly cradling her, tenderly holding his tiny child. And I worried and worried over my brother, my sister-in-law, their tiny, unknown child.

I met her a month and a half later. She was home and safe and sound and was placed in my arms and she was so small – far smaller than my big, big babies – and I looked into her smoky grey eyes and instantly loved her. And I was shocked. I am not a baby person, really, and I’m not someone who normally gushes over other people’s children, but there was an instant family feeling, this instant place for her. I can’t articulate how moving I found this, this uncomplicated love, free of responsibilies. I had thought that my three children were my stopping point, were my finish line, and I had felt for some time a grim finality about this. But it turns out there are miles left to go, still.

My youngest child – who I call The Baby on my blog, for lack of a better nickname – is having a mighty growing streak this summer. She woke up this morning and strode lankily into the living room, visibly taller than she was when we put her to bed last night. The babyish contours of her face are disappearing, becoming cheekbones and knowledge. And it’s funny for me, funny how this far-away love for her wee cousin helps with the wistfullness that washes over me at times like this: there will be more babies, always. They won’t be mine, anymore.

My niece – my first niece – is turning one this weekend. She is someone else’s child, lives several hours away from me, and I will pretty much always be just a visiting aunt, someone who brings presents and loud older cousins and then will be gone again from her day to day life. I will see her on holidays and summer trips, just one of many people who love her. There will always be people to love, it turns out, old people and brand new people and people just about to taste the sweetness of birthday cake for the very first time.

14 Responses to Not My Child
  1. christine
    July 22, 2010 | 4:10 pm

    it is powerful, the love one can have for a sibling’s child. i am thousands of miles away from my sweet nephew but i am so much in love with him.

  2. Louise
    July 22, 2010 | 4:25 pm

    I am amazed at how much more I love babies now, now that I am done having my own. Before, they always induced this vague feeling of panic in me, the knowledge that someday, I was going to have to take care of one of these for MYSELF. Now, though, I cuddle them and kiss their cheeks and breathe in their scents, and then hand them back to their parents and go love on my own two, who are growing older and will never be babies again.

  3. Omaha Mama
    July 22, 2010 | 4:51 pm

    Oh I love my nieces and nephews! Oddly enough, especially those born by my own brother and sister. Somehow closer to my heart because of the familiarity. The family-ness. I’d never admit it anywhere but here, but it’s very true.

    The love you speak of here, can you just imagine how that will translate to grandchildren? It will be something to look forward to as our children just keep right on growing and growing.

  4. Alyssa Goodnight
    July 22, 2010 | 6:01 pm

    I miss babies too. My brother is having his first in December and while I’m excited, I fear that I won’t get to see this new baby as much as I’d like. And it will feel like a void.

  5. Chantal
    July 22, 2010 | 6:21 pm

    My goodness, I remember your tweets about her birth like they were yesterday! I can’t wait to have a new neice or nephew to dote upon! Now if my brother would just get a move on and marry that girlfriend of his…

  6. Jennifer
    July 22, 2010 | 7:17 pm

    I know. I’m not a baby-person, anymore, either…
    but then there are my nieces and nephews. They make my heart melt! I walk in the door feeling all wound up with my to-do lists and feelings of practicality, the feelings that come with parenting teenagers. And then I see these little hands and fat cheeks and bare toes and it’s all out the window. 🙂

  7. Nicole
    July 22, 2010 | 9:22 pm

    Oh, happy birthday! I’m glad she is doing well after her rough start. What a lovely, happy post.

  8. Anita Jo
    July 22, 2010 | 9:55 pm

    There will always be people to love. Such a comforting, beautiful thought. And there is definitely something special about a sibling’s kids. I was never a “baby person,” but then my sister had her first. It was before I had my own kids, before I knew what being a mother was, before I even noticed most people’s babies. But my niece? I was completely captivated, head over heels in love.

  9. PastormacsAnn
    July 22, 2010 | 10:03 pm

    Lovely, Beck. And Happy Birthday to your precious little niece. Many many more returns of the day!

    Someday, and I know the thought is almost too big to comprehend Beck, someday you will have more babies who will be yours again in some sense – grandbabies! Oh my!

  10. John Ross
    July 23, 2010 | 8:44 pm

    A post worth waiting for, good, solid, real stuff.

    I know that feeling you’re expressing here.

    I never could have said it that well, or would have even thought to try.

  11. erin
    July 23, 2010 | 10:21 pm

    I wish I got to see my niece more often, but she lives in New Orleans. I love how close she is in age to my girls (6 weeks younger), so it’s a hoot when the cousins get together. I hope they will be close friends when they get older. But I remember the first time I held her—she was about 8 months old….and I wept. I saw my own little brother Markie (his name is Mark) in her eyes and all these memories passed over her face.

    Family. Nothing like it.

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