It has become a Sunday ritual.
I’m usually at my parents' house on Sunday, solving the crossword, when they arrive home from lunch. My niece's small frame peers over the couch and greets me with a smile. There was a time when she wouldn’t acknowledge me, passing through the stages of toddler independence, but she has outgrown that. She smiles broadly, showing her teeth, raises her eyebrows, lifts her head, and with her red curly hair encasing her head like a beautiful halo, she exclaims, “Hi, Kwisti!”. That’s when I melt.
It’s naptime after Sunday lunch. One time, my niece approached me in the living room, holding a stuffed animal, and said, “Kwisti, come nap wif me.” I was sure Nana put her up to it, but it was still adorable. Of course, I obliged.
Again, I was happy to lie down with her this past Sunday afternoon. I had been milling over my choices on my own reproductive future. I hadn’t vocalized my concerns, but I had been running scenarios through my head. What if’s. Why me’s. If only’s.
I crawled into bed with my niece after she was already asleep. Being hot natured, she was shirtless with only a sheet as a cover. I slid up next to her, careful not to wake her, and absorbed her beauty. Her hair is similar to mine—color, texture, lack of control. Her skin is commonly compared to a China doll’s white, flawless tone. But what struck me was her frame. This angel is now 3. It seems an eternity ago that she came into this world. We had wondered at the time what she would look like, act like, sound like. And I have to tell you, I’m awestruck. She is creative, intelligent, and analytical. She is funny and manipulative. She is no longer a baby, but a little girl. The cries and noises, are now replaced by words, conversation, creativity, stories, and song. Lots and lots of songs—in tune, mind you.
I gazed at her neck and her frame. I wanted to touch her soft skin, and even reached out my hand, but stopped myself in fear of waking her. As the light entered through the window, highlighting her shoulders, I wondered how something so perfect could exist--something so innocent. I remember praying before she was born that she not inherit my depression, and be spared my low self esteem and fears. So far, so good.
As I pondered the magnificence of God's creation, I wondered if I had the strength and patience for a child, and if my chance for one was truly over. Surely if I had a daughter, she couldn’t match the beauty of the child next to me. I wondered why some people keep children they don’t want, with so many families waiting for a child. How can anyone intentionally hurt a child? How can God allow some children to be born into horrible homes, and allow good homes to remain childless?
Soon, I fell asleep. But even now, days later, my mind drifts back to those quiet moments of reflection. The song that comes to mind each time is one by Steve Nicks, Landslide:
“…Oh, mirror in the sky what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean’s tide? Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well I’ve been afraid of changing, ‘cause I’ve built my life around you. Time makes you bolder, and even children get older. I’m getting older too.”
Many of my expectations and hopes have included lying down with my own child. I am left wondering if this is the closest I will ever get—lying next to my niece. Is a child what I really want, or just what I’ve always expected? How could any child be more perfect than this? Am I really prepared for the dedication of motherhood? Am I really prepared for a life without any children? So many questions, so few answers.. . . . . . .