One year ago, I sat in the back of our white diamond extended pick-up truck, smashed in between my mom, my sister, and my brother-in-law, when an unfamiliar, fearful question entered my mind. What if I don’t want to have kids?
This trip, with 6 adults jammed into a 5-passenger vehicle on a desperate quest to find ice cream bars, was the cap to an epic, spontaneous fun-filled day up north. With laughter filling my ears, and a heart full of joy from the unmatchable dynamic of the six of us, I thought, why on earth would we want to add a baby to the mix? [Read more about that here]
And then, one month later, my sister announced that they were pregnant.
This was not a planned pregnancy, so my initial reaction to the white stick with two pink lines was shock; I was completely blindsided. Honestly, so were they. I was so excited for them. I knew they were planning on venturing down this road in a couple months, but I can’t deny that there were also a slew of other feelings bubbling up inside me.
After a few days of, is this really happening, my emotions shifted to sadness. Everything that I had just been questioning was happening. Not to me, but my sister and I are so close that there was no way I could escape the change. I mourned the loss of “just us” and prepared for things to shift. Fears like, what if my sister time disappears or what if our relationship completely changes ravaged my thinking. After a few pity parties, and a couple hard cries, I bucked up. This transition was happening whether I was ready for it or not, so I entered full on support mode.
The role of supporter comes easily to me – especially in supporting my sister. I planned the baby shower, helped organize the baby’s room, took maternity photos, stood by her side as doula and photographer as Lola entered the world (coolest experience ever, read about that here), and I was even happy to change Lola’s diaper or swoop in to give my sister and brother-in-law a screaming baby break when they’d reached their limit.
Much to my surprise, the transition happened so naturally. I was really loving and embracing my role as auntie. But there was still one looming question that remained unanswered. Would adding Lola change the overall dynamic?
A week up north
Over the past couple years, my family has started a tradition – spend a week up north together over the 4th of July. This week is often a highlight of the summer, but this year I had a little apprehension.
What if Lola hates boat rides? Then we’d have to say goodbye to our much-loved trips to the Harbor Bar. What if Lola doesn’t sleep well in her pack ‘n play? Steph and Matt might have to go home. What if she never naps? How would we play games or have any adult time?
Side note: I recognize the selfishness laced in these statements, but I believe there’s value to being honest about the fears and apprehensions involved with change. Allowing ourselves freedom to admit what we’re feeling, as selfish and ugly as it may be, keeps bitterness from taking root and helps us make a healthy and honest adjustment to change.
Here’s what happened during that week. Each of my fears was obliterated. Lola loved the boat. She slept perfectly. She had solid naps providing plenty of adult time. She even loved the water. The week together was full of spontaneous fun (including a game Olympic extravaganza on the 4th of July), lots of laughter, trips to the Harbor Bar, a welcomed, slower pace, and a new joy of watching my niece experience and begin to love a place so dear to my heart.
The new dynamic
Spending this successful week up north together felt like the final affirmation I didn’t know I needed. I think I thought having a new baby in the family would make me feel isolated; thus negatively impacting our dynamic of togetherness. They have their family now – it’s the 3 of them, and we’re not a part of it. It’ll be us and them. The new normal. But it has been quite the opposite.
Instead of feeling like I’m not a part of this step in their lives, they’ve tenderly welcomed me in as a support, like an adopted part of their new family. I don’t know why this surprised me when they had already invited me so lovingly to be a part of the delicate place of childbirth.
Has the dynamic changed? Yes, of course. Some change is inevitable. But it’s changed for the better. Adding Lola to the mix has sweetly enhanced our family dynamic.
Since she was born we’ve had:
- more family time
- more communication – supporting my sister and her new family increased our awareness of each other, helped us ask more questions about how we were doing and how we could best help one another
- more connection with my sister – not working has given us more time to connect, and I’m over there often to visit
Living so close, a mere 10 houses away, I’ve had the unique opportunity of seeing my niece often and being involved – so much so that we’ve built a special bond. And for that, I am so so grateful.
Do you still not want kids?
The question people often ask me is, “How does having a niece impact your thoughts about having kids?” And the answer is – I still don’t know. I don’t know if I want to have kids. I don’t know what our future holds. But what I do know now is that if or when we decide to have kids of our own, I don’t need to be afraid changing my precious family dynamic – I’ve witnessed that adding a kiddo only draws us closer.
In the last four months I went from being the girl who says “cute baby” from a distance while thinking but I don’t need to hold her – to committing to taking care of my niece once a week while my sister goes back to work part time. That’s a lot of growth for this girl.
I have a feeling taking care of Lola on the regular might push me one way or another. Perhaps I’ll have another update in a couple months, who knows. Until then, I’m asking the Lord to make it clear in His timing, and I’m trusting that He will.