I had the tremendous pleasure of becoming an Auntie a few months ago. My younger sister, Jill, had her first baby, a girl. This experience has been so special on so many levels and has really opened my mind and heart to experience motherhood with new eyes.
I’ve never been one to gush over babies, but I find that I can’t hold back around my brand new niece. At three months old, she is looking right at me and her sparkling eyes and toothless smile are so precious I can hardly stand it. Then when my girls jump in to make faces and get her to coo, it’s all over. Jill and I look at each other with an exchange that says, “This is as good as we thought it would be.”
The girls bonding as cousins is amazing and awesome to see. I’m sure we will continue to love their interactions and play, but the most striking and surprising of pleasures is the mutual bond that now exists between Jill and me. When the baby first arrived, Jill looked to me for words of wisdom on things like nursing and sleep patterns. She needed my help and I gave her the simplest advice that I could think of: Don’t stress about the details (We’re good at that). Watch her. Listen to her. Give her what she needs.
With seven years of motherhood under my belt, I used my lessons learned to guide her on her own path of meeting her baby’s individual needs. I held back from giving too many details or instructions and let her have the freedom to learn as a new mother while I eagerly watched and waited. And as I see her learning and knowing her baby like only she can, I feel like a teacher who has seen the brilliant lightbulb in my students’ eyes. I let go of the worry and stress that I have been feeling for her and watch in awe at the perfect, inseparable bond that exists between them. It’s so natural and pure and perfect that part of me aches to have it one more time for myself.
I look to the gifts that are my own children and wonder about the purity and innocence of our bond. It feels very much the same as the early days of infancy, but also so very different. Why? I initially dismiss it as kids growing up. I can’t smother them with love and tenderness all day like I did when they were babies. They must be independent of me, go to school, make friends, etc.
As I sit with these thoughts for a few days, I begin to think about how important the bond is and all of the influences that can get in the way. What our kids wear, how they perform, where they go to school, and certainly what they eat all bring input to the one who owns the job of Parent. It’s easy to become a rule follower and lose track of the needs of the child that were so crystal clear in the beginning.
All of the opinions and expectations of others can cloud the bond that is so naturally created. We become vulnerable and judged and can lose the beautiful gift of our intuition along the way. Accepting my vulnerability and trusting the natural bond when raising my kids gave me strength to face experiences that felt tough and were difficult to accept. Pushing the outside influences aside to make the best choices for my kids led me to a place where I can meet their needs without fear of judgement.
Through this experience of becoming an Auntie and welcoming this new baby I have learned how precious this bond is. I have also come to realize how blessed I am to be on a path that keeps me bonded to my kids in a way that allows them to grow and change while knowing that their needs will always be met.
I hope to teach Jill so many things about the journey that motherhood is. I want to protect her and baby from the influences that will interfere with the bond they both currently feel. I want to encourage her to be herself and to trust that precious intuition. But most importantly, I want her to understand, like I have, that the most natural thing we can do as mothers is meet our child’s needs, special or otherwise.