They Call Me "Auntie"
If you follow me at all on any of my personal social media accounts, you've probably seen them. My "auntie Jamie" posts. Selfies and videos of me and my favorite little humans. A few people have even sent me some confused messages, asking if any of them are mine, to which I laugh and quickly reply 'no', I'm just the shamelessly obsessed auntie who can't get enough of the love and snuggles.
People have asked me if it's hard, to be around my friends and family while they love on their babies and enjoy all the things I pray so fervently for. And the honest answer is 'yes', it is hard. Sometimes I feel that jealousy welling up and I can't push it back down hard enough. Sometimes I cry on the way home, my arms more noticeably empty after they've held and snuggled someone else's child.
But I would be lying if I said there was no silver lining wrapped around that cloud.
A few weeks ago, I had an acquaintance ask me if I had any children, after telling her that I'd spent that past two years as a preschool teacher. I smiled and felt that familiar stab of grief, and I told her no, that the Lord hadn't yet blessed us with any. And then a thought came to my mind, "But I have a niece." I quipped, pulling out my phone. "Do you want to see a picture?" The poor woman probably didn't know what she was agreeing to.
I pulled up my phone and proceeded to walk her through a miniature timeline of my niece's life, from her early arrival and stay in the NICU to her first birthday all the way to the part she played in her future baby brother's gender reveal. "She's just the best," I gushed. "I don't think I've ever loved a baby so much."
If you've ever asked me a question that could remotely be twisted into a short anecdote about my niece, you know what this lady went through. I will show picture after picture and video after video and talk endlessly about her latest milestones and funny noises. I'll talk forever if you let me.
Recently, another dear friend of mine had her baby, and I cried the first time they mentioned that I would be "auntie Jamie". I felt like my heart was going to burst. TWO baby girls to love on? Yes, please.
The funny thing, though, is that I had inwardly been dreading the day I met this new baby for the first time. I worried that that ugly cloud of jealousy would come rushing back, and holding a newborn would just remind me how far I was from holding my own babies. I prayed about it in tears days before she was born, and I prayed the whole drive over to see her for the first time.
But then I saw her. And I touched her tiny face, and felt that little bit of peach fuzz on her head. And I kissed her little nose. And suddenly the fear of bitter tears and jealous thoughts were gone, replaced by an overwhelming sense of love.
I recently read a sweet article written by a woman who is still waiting for her own children, and her words on loving other people's children struck a deep chord in me. The Lord gives us all an innate kind of maternal instinct, she said, and just because we're not biological mothers doesn't mean that instinct and nurturing should be kept tucked away.
What a concept. To let the love of Christ flow through us into the lives of His smallest creations, nurturing them and showing them how truly cherished they are.
I think about it every time I hold my niece. And every time I snuggle my friend's baby. And every time I see an ultrasound photo of my nephew. These precious babies will never know me as "mommy". But they'll know me as "Auntie Jamie". They'll know me as someone who will love them unconditionally and strive alongside their parents to instruct, protect and guide them. And in the midst of that kind of love, suddenly the heartache of infertility seems a bit easier to bear, and the loneliness of empty arms is filled by the squirms and hugs of my two precious girlies.
As we move forward into the holidays, a time that can carry so much weight for those of us without children, I know I'm looking forward to taking those girls to the pumpkin patch and seeing them snuggled up in tiny sweaters and hats. I'm already thinking about what to get them for Christmas, and what kind of goodies I can make. These thoughts slowly replace my sadness over just two stockings on our wall or the lack of baby sweaters hanging in the closet. And I realize what a joy it is to be an auntie, and what a privilege it is to play a part in the lives of children not my own.
If you have nieces and nephews nearby, or even stand as "auntie" to a friend's baby, revel in that unique and precious love this week. I know I don't thank God for it nearly as much as I should. Feel free to send me an email or a text with photos and a short novel about why they're so amazing. We can sit and chat and gush over the precious little people in our lives, and thank the Lord for them together!
I hope your week is full of all the best parts of auntie life,