I’ve spent the last two days in good-auntie mode, taking my two-year-old nephew to the zoo yesterday morning, and attending my niece’s first birthday party this afternoon.* Both were wonderful and intense experiences, but for vastly different reasons.
Yesterday, Doug, my brother Martin, and I loaded Andrew and his carseat into my car, and took off for the zoo, so that Dawn could go into full party-planning mode. She was nervous about leaving her firstborn with three childless adults (“I think this is going to be his first time outside with anyone other than us or my parents,” she explained), and I – admittedly not the most natural child-minder – was a little nervous, too. Fortunately, I had the boys with me.
(I swear sometimes I think my best reason for having kids will be to make Martin an actual uncle and give him more babies to play with.)
Andrew was a little shy at first, but remembered us enough to know he liked us, and off we went. The day went off without a single less-than-cute moment, with him alternately clinging to me by one finger, and running ahead of us, looking to be chased. He was obsessed with wearing Martin’s sunglasses and raiding the bag of potato chips Doug had in his messenger bag. We fed goats, rode the Skyfari tram, and saw polar bears, elephants, meerkats, and monkeys.
It occurred to me that the people around us must have thought the three of us were, in some combination, Andrew’s parents, even though Andrew has his mom’s Asian eyes. I tried the “parent” hat on for size, though, and decided maybe I’m not as clueless around children as I thought I was.
Today’s party was, as all Dawn’s parties are, beautiful and intensely organized. Being in a room with a whole bunch of kids, though, and their parents, and some of their grandparents, is a whole other ballgame from triple-teaming one toddler at the zoo. I do tend to shut down in large crowds, which is why a lot of Dawn’s friends seem to think they’ve never met me (this happens at every party), even though I’ve been in regular attendance since at least her bridal shower/bachelorette party, almost eight years ago. It’s awkward, and a little embarrassing, but the truth is that I have never been in the same place in life at the same time as any of these women, so even if I wasn’t shy, what would we have to talk about?
Tonight, though, one of Dawn’s friends, who reads my blog and sometimes comments, approached me to make sure I knew who she was. “Since we never really talk at parties,” she explained, then introduced her husband to me and to Doug. So that was nice.
And then I saw another of Dawn’s friends, who, last I heard, had been struggling with secondary infertility and had multiple miscarriages – and she’s pregnant. (Actually, I think I did know this, but Dawn had told me very early on, before she knew whether this pregnancy was going to stick, so I probably had just nodded and forgotten all about it.) And as she walked by me at one point during the evening, she too smiled in recognition and asked how I was doing.
I put my hand out – I don’t know if I was going to hug her or touch her belly or what, but I ended up just touching her arm. “Congratulations,” I said. And I meant it.
She thanked me, then continued to where her husband and daughter were sitting. I’m not sure whether she knows my story like I know hers – Dawn had told me, to comfort me on a day when I was feeling particularly alone, like no one in the world has miscarriages except for me. Or maybe she does know my story, and that’s how she knew who I was, to say hello in the first place.
And then I had this thought: there’s always at least one pregnant woman at Dawn’s parties. And one of these parties, one of these years, it’s going to be me.
*In case anybody’s new here: my “sister,” Dawn, is not really my sister. We were next-door neighbors as children, and adopted each other as such. My niece and nephew are her kids, but have no biological relation to me, Doug, or my actual siblings.