My husband and I are a doting Aunt and Uncle to our nieces and nephews. They are the light of our life and we are very proud of them. We are blessed to have them in our lives. And though they are in high school and college now with social schedules that would rival most presidents–I see their activity reports on their Facebook pages, Ha!–we love when we can get together with them. They are lovely young people whom we nurtured and watched grow up. We would take them to the zoo, bowling, miniature golf, movies, etc. I had so many Disney kid vhs tapes and games for them to play with at our home that when our former neighbor from our growing up years had her grandchildren to visit, I let her borrow what she needed to keep them occupied. Toys R Grati–Ha! And I was also the ‘good’ aunt. I would send my niece and nephew home–who lived in our same city two blocks away from our house the first ten years of their life–tired from soccer drills and other games that they gleefully played at our house and with the neighbor kids next door, rather than loading them up with sugar to detox on my sister’s watch. Ha!
We had dearly wanted our ‘own’ children [(1) right], but it was not meant to be. A combination of infertility–including all of the physically and emotional painful medical procedures and operations I endured that go along with that journey–and then timing interfered. You see, just when we thought they we were finally on the track for adoption 13 years ago after giving up on getting pregnant ourselves–we had attended the 30 hours of parenting/fostering classes over ten weeks and had our first home safety inspection by a caseworker–my father became ill with strokes and needed my attention. Since I was the “childless” one among my siblings, it fell to me to shoulder the lion’s share of seeing to his care. The irony of my tending to his financial morass of him not paying his bills for six months even though he had plenty of money (because he had probably had small strokes prior to this that left him able to ‘cover’ in front of we his kids, but he could not function capably we realized later when I had to stop him from being evicted, etc.) and his medical and personal care needs–bathing, feeding, taking him to the doctor’s office, etc.–rather than to a child’s needs–was not lost on me. But my Dad needed me and I was glad to do it. He died in my and my sister’s arms two years later. The nurses said it was the most peaceful and loving passing they had ever witnessed. It still makes me tear up to think about it.
I had done so much babysitting growing up–the standard teen girl job–that I was then and I am now a nurturer. Apart from my work as a graduate teaching assistant and research assistant, I was a mother’s helper during graduate school for a friend’s kid and that little boy and I used to take walks through a local museum and the zoo. I also spent a Summer in graduate school being a mother’s helper for one of my professors wives and I ended up teaching their kids to swim. Oodles of fun! When the eldest girl was about 7 years old, I let her borrow my pink satin and tulle ballet dress that I had worn as a child, for her Halloween costume one year. Then, years later when she was an adult, I gave her that dress to keep for her own little girl to wear, since I had no little girls of my own. Whenever I run into those kids (now young adults) these days, the gleaming smiles on their faces at seeing me makes my heart sing.
I also taught 1st & 2nd Grade Sunday School and Summer Vacation Bible School for 8 years. I’ll say that again 8 years! I loved it! I think I learned and grew as much as the kids did as we shared bible stories and what they mean for our lives today. And since I love crafts, we would always have some craft or art project associated with our lessons. However, I learned my ‘lesson’ and stopped using glitter after the kids tracked gold glitter [(2) right] into the church on their ark of the covenant art projects. Ha! I had even baby sat one little girl when she was an infant and then she was in my class five years later. And these delightful children were my solace as my husband and I went through our many years of infertility travails. And one time, we were within ten minutes of my husband coming home and injecting me with fertility drugs when I got the call saying that I had to go back on my uterine medication because of ‘suspicious cells’. I am the lady who has had 8 D & C operations and countless other in office medical procedures (mostly without anesthetic)–super painful, the most awful of which was an hysterosalpingogram–over a seven year period because of endometrial issues, with ‘suspicious cells’ that had to be biopsied and then removed time and again. But we could never get my womb hospitable enough to make a baby–despite my having ‘good’ eggs. If I hadn’t had these sweet children to see every week in Sunday School, it would have been a much more bleak time for me. It has been about 10 years since I taught Sunday School–my having started my doctoral studies in the interim. My 8 years of Sunday School students are almost all grown up and out of college now. And I am now starting to attend these young people’s college graduations and weddings–as in my essay “Dancing at Jordan’s Wedding” from last November.
And I gently joke to my hubby these days about ‘the breeders’ of the world when I see unruly children and even less pulled together parents in public or at church. Ha! I never understood that 3-2-1 Magic parenting technique–wherein you let the kid get away with misbehaving the first two times and then you admonish them to behave the third time they hit their sibling, say a bad word, or whine like kids do. The 3-2-1 Magic approach seemed to me to be telling the kid that they could misbehave twice before being required to behave. I think a kid must have come up with that parenting technique. Ha! From my viewpoint, I always liked ‘psyching’ out the kids in my charge. I would thank them for picking up their toys before we moved on to the next game–even though they hadn’t agreed to pick up their toys. My thanking them made them think they had agreed to pick up their toys, so they did pick up their toys. Snap! My parents were always unfailingly polite and I am that way with children and others. I find that if you treat a child well, that child learns to behave well. And behaving well goes for any adults out there with a potty mouth. Put a sock in it and don’t say questionable words around kids. “Little pitchers have big ears” as the saying goes. Otherwise, I have a bar of soap that we can stick in your mouth. Ha!
And then, there are our students at the university where I serve as an advisor and such. During my 26 years, I have seen a lot of students come and go as our majors and now our alumni. We bring alumni back to talk to current students throughout the year. And I stay in touch with them via social media these days. A few weeks ago, I mentioned in a post on our alumni affinity group social media page that we had a new group of international students joining us and I made them brownies to welcome them. You must understand that my moist and fudgy brownies with a powdered sugar topping [(3) right] are legendary in our department. Ha! I can’t count the number of batches of them that I have made over the years for our department wide picnics and holiday parties, special events, and such. So when I mentioned the brownies online, not one hour later one of our alums commented back asking how she could get some of my yummy brownies. I replied that she should just give me a few days heads up if she was coming into town and I would make her some brownies. Then I thought that since we have over 600 living alumni, I might get overwhelmed with brownie requests. Ha! So, I posted that I was good for one extra batch of brownies a month and that our alums should ‘carpool’ and come visit on the same date. Ha! However, it was my 5 dozen batch of sugar cookies emblazoned with the 2005 World Year of Physics logo on them [(4) right] that I made for our Physics Enlightens the World event April 18, 2005–we were one of many institutional participants for this light relay around the world–where my cookies made the ‘big’ science headlines, even making it into the national professional organizations newsletter. Ha!
And you would think that at my age–if you have read some of my posts, you can do the math on your own, Ha!–that I would be immune to the pangs of still wanting to nurture a child of my own–whether grown below my heart, or in it (as some adoption mottos go). But I’m not. Every time the doctors have to give me a pregnancy test before they do a different kind of procedure, I hold my breath–hoping that the test might come back positive. And I feel regret when they tell me that the pregnancy test is negative–even though the nurse says it gleefully. And technically, I am still within a five year age range where I could feasibly–if not likely to–become pregnant. And, they cleared up my hubby’s prostate infection that the doctors belatedly discovered was killing his sperm–after the doctors not bothering for years to test for why his sperm seemed to be ‘sparse’. So now my hubby is up to 20 million ‘soldiers’. Snap! Well, it makes him feel good. Ha! So, I continue to have a very small hope. Afterall, at my ultra sound last year they told me that I had the uterus of a young woman. Snap! So, at least ‘something’ is ‘young’ about me. Ha!
Besides, babies and little ones are precious and I rejoice with them when my friends and colleagues are thus blessed. Actually, I’m usually the one co-hosting the baby shower, as I will again this Spring for one of my colleagues and his wife who adopted a child–though I will never have that happy event (a baby shower) myself. I’m very well adjusted about it most of the time–only tearing up occasionally these days. I find that it is better to count my blessings and focus on the positive, rather than to dwell on the negative. It’s not that I’m ‘not’ reflective of my journey–I am, as this post reveals. It’s just that I know well enough not to beat myself up about something that I’ve long since learned is not in my power to control. The Serenity Prayer [(5)] comes to mind [(6) image right and text below]:
“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.”
For the longest time, I thought that my–our–being ‘childless’ meant for me that I was not fulfilling the love I had to give. I also felt that something was missing from my life. However, in these twenty two years of my so far childless odyssey, I have gone from saying we weren’t blessed with children–my code for letting people know that we had dearly wanted children, but hoping that they wouldn’t ask me for the details about our struggles to have them–to now saying that we are blessed with nieces and nephews. Which we are. We are also blessed with the church kids and our university students, etc. So, I may not be anyone’s ‘official’ Mother, but I am a very nice Aunt, Wife, Sister, Daughter [(7) right], Colleague, Advisor, Mentor, and Friend. And those roles or hats that I wear are relationships that I am very grateful for and I cherish them. Cheers! ;->
P.S. And why did I tell you this? Because I had shared some of the above with a friend of mine recently–who bravely shares her thoughts about her own journey with us via her blog. And she said that when I felt ready, others might welcome hearing about my journey–in case they were also on a similar path. So, though I’m nowhere near as brave as my friend, this essay is ‘part’ of my story.
(1) A framed full size print of this mother and child painting titled “At the Concert (Dans la loge; In the Box; A Private Box, 1880) by Pierre Auguste Renoir hangs in my piano room. This print was given to me as a gift from my then retiring Chairperson and his wife who knew I loved music. The graphic here was found at http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/art/19th/painting/renoir001.jpg ,
photo by J. Howe.
(2) Gold glitter image was found at http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_dqB_506AljE/R3SHkGMGK7I/AAAAAAAABL0/pPdiWMoswYg/s400/4+gold+glitter.jpg
(3) Example of someone’s moist brownies was found at http://www.foodbuzz.com/custom/photo/257/200/1418451-photo-from-post-intense-chocolate-brownies-with-powdered-sugar-and-freshly-grated-nutmeg.jpg
(4) 5 dozen sugar cookies with the World Year of Physics Logo on them for Physics Enlightens the World at our university on April 18, 2005 http://www.wyp2005.at/images/usa12.jpg
(5) Link for information about the Serenity Prayer was found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer
(6) Serenity Prayer text and image was found at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_lOUhYnCg2cU/S5MmRNtyhLI/AAAAAAAABFk/C8RUj39hpYI/s400/serenity+prayer.jpg
(7) Grati at 20 months old, my father is behind me. I like to think that if I had had a little girl, she might look a little like me as I did here.