When your baby sister has a baby
I was sitting wedged in a hospital chair, listening to the nurse relay to me the story of my nephew’s very difficult birth. I had rushed home as soon as possible, but made it when he was about 15 hours old. “It’s a miracle,” she said. “Giving birth is actually a miracle.” She was standing in front of an inspirational plaque that read “A baby is stardust blown from the hand above.”
“I mean, yeah. It’s amazing. It’s not a miracle though…it’s science. You’re a nurse so, you know that it’s actually science.” I was being a jaded jerk and my mom pinched me. The nurse rolled her eyes and left the room.
And then my sister asked if I wanted to hold him. As soon as he was placed into my paralyzed arms and we locked eyes, I burst into tears.
My nephew is about a month old now, and is equal parts unicorn, glitter, hopes, and dreams. The top of his head smells like marshmallows and every tiny flick of his hand or bat of an eyelash turns me into a puddle of neon pink Kool-Aid. The time-honored baby Kool-Aid that I have drunk a large batch of.
Being a living-in-sin almost-30-year-old living in Brooklyn, my exposure to babies and children is minimal. It mostly involves amusement at cute kid comments on the train, or when I accidentally find myself in the kids’ section of J.Crew. I think about being a mom, but in a mystical, far away kind of way, like as a thing I’ll do when I’m exhausted from my world-wide book tour and I’ve finally achieved Michelle Obama arms. My life now is pretty selfish and I like it that way. My boyfriend and I have a large print of Lil Wayne above our TV, we never buy napkins, and our rug is white. We have in-depth conversations with our cat. Sometimes, on a Tuesday, we stay out until 3 am. I’ve been known to run with scissors, or bleed all over the place from cutting an avocado improperly.
My sister having a baby made me want to be less selfish. I saw this almost tangible transformation in her; it immediately changed her face and demeanor and the way she carries herself now. My sister went from being a 25-year-old girl who straightens her hair with religious precision to a mother. I saw the tectonic shift of priority, from herself to this helpless little alien who very much needed her help with everything immediately. I have always admired my sister in general, her strength with overcoming serious losses and struggles, but this. This was a historical badge of female awesomeness that thousands of women have gone through before but when it happens in front of you, it feels like this entirely new thing. Because of her, our family got a little bigger that day and I wanted to make the world a little better for him.
I’ve seen him grow and change over the past month and it’s amazing. I know he’s already the coolest kid that ever existed, because his mom has three separate dinosaur outfits for him and he makes these little T-Rex arms without even realizing how brilliant and epic that is. When he stops crying in your arms, it feels like the greatest accomplishment in the world.
Carter, I promise to be the best aunt ever. I will not stop ordering things off Etsy for you, even when your dinosaur onesie becomes a heavy metal tee, or some emo punk band tee, or maybe you’ll love Star Wars. I promise to take you to your first R-rated movie, something like 8 Mile starring some rapper you’ll like and we’ll both be uncomfortable during the scenes that make it R-rated. If you like football, I’ll try my hardest to like (tolerate) it too. I’ll buy you the softest stuffed animals until you tell me you’re too old, and anything you draw me I will hang front and center on the refrigerator. I promise to be wholly unselfish to you.
When I looked at that little baby that my sister made there in the hospital room, he did seem amazing. He looks like my sister and her husband, like my mom, and my dad, and someone entirely new and growing and his own. For something that happens every single day across the world, it really does seem like a miracle.
[Image via author]