My little sister Christa brought her first child into the world last night. Hundreds of miles away, and having only seen her in person during her pregnancy when her baby-bump was hardly that, it wasn’t entirely real to me until I was sent the first picture of baby Anya. It’s still incredible to me. I remember, months ago, when Christa texted me: “I dreamt of Anya last night. And she was beautiful! I can’t wait to meet her!” Now, she is in her arms.
Among the reasons I haven’t mentioned, until now, that I was soon be an aunt is that I haven’t been as thrilled as I’m supposed to be. I know that Christa and her husband Jon will love their daughter deeply. They will be the best possible parents. Even just seeing her in photos, my heart swells with love for little Anya. (How could I not love my niece?) My apprehension has had nothing to do with that. It’s been much more selfish. I’ve been worried about Christa and my relationship once she’s a mother.
Christa is incredibly dear to me. Last summer, when I was helping she and her husband prepare their house to be put on the market, she remarked how lucky we are to be both best friends and sisters. I agreed. No matter how much we can and have hurt each other over the years, there are few people I love or know so well. Blessed as we are to be so close, our relationship isn’t entirely easy.
We’ve always been pretty different. She’s mathematically minded, I’m romantically minded. She’s naturally thin, I’m naturally inclined to be larger. She’s more conservative, I lean towards the liberal/libertarian side. Etc. Since she got married, after her first year of college, our lives have been moving in different directions. We never seem to be at the same stage of life (excepting the closeness of our ages -we’re only 14 months apart so once I’m done with an age she’s moving into it).
For her first couple years of marriage, we had a hard time relating to each other. What could I know about how lonely and awkward it was to have gotten married so young? How could she understand my frustration being perpetually single and stuck in a cycle of pseudo-relationships?
Though we’ve learned how to connect despite all that separates us, could it be the same when she’s a mother? Parenthood is kind of a big deal.
Okay. Lumped in with that was the fear that she won’t have any time for me now. That we won’t ever get enough time to catch up on the phone and, when we see each other, we won’t be able to have real conversations because her baby will absorb all of the attention (like babies do). No matter how cute a baby is, I can only fawn for so long. To gain a niece but, practically, lose my sister seemed like an awful exchange.
What has helped to allay these fears has been becoming friends with a mom who lives in my neighborhood. My parents have known her for the last couple of years because they go to the same church group. We only met last year. Our friendship didn’t begin until I moved into my new house.
One afternoon, as I was laying in my front yard reading and sunning, she came by with her kids. She said, “You know, Lindsey, you could tan beside our pool instead of awkwardly on your lawn?”
To which I replied, “You know, I don’t know exactly where you live.”
“You don’t? We can fix that.” She convinced me to walk back with them to their house. We sat beside her pool talking for hours. Our friendship has continued to grow since then.
Her children aren’t babies but one is pretty young. The fact that she’s a mother and I’m not hasn’t hindered our friendship at all. (Though I have to watch what I say more because even words like crap are “bad” words right now for her kids). Watching her kids and talking to her about them has reminded me both how much I enjoy kids and how quickly they grow up. That has set me much more at ease (I’ll be honest, I’m not great with babies. Once my niece and first godchild can talk, I’m sure we’ll both enjoy each other more).
Now that Anya is here, I’m not worried about Christa and my relationship. I believe it will continue to deepen and grow as it has through the last six years.
Still, becoming an aunt is bittersweet. Just as it was bittersweet when Christa got married.
Being so close in age, I unconsciously assumed Christa and I would get married and raise our children around the same time. She is now six years into marriage and I’m no closer to being married myself. If I have children, they will most likely be much younger than hers. For that reason, it is impossible not to feel a little grief mixed in with my joy today.