Three days ago, thanks to my amazing sister and brother-in-law, I became an aunt for the first time.
I was reminded of the newness of it all– the careful cradling of the neck, the tiny arms through tinier sleeves and seemingly endless snaps and swaddles. The newborn latch, (is he getting enough milk? do I have enough milk? should it hurt like this?) The minuscule nose– is it being squished by my swaddle, by my elbow, by my boob? When did he poop last? Which side did I nurse last? Yikes- his nails are small and those clippers are sharp. Should he have a pacifier this early? Is nipple confusion a thing? He only wants to sleep in my arms….
There will be countless more questions– some of the questions will have clear answers, most won’t, and some will even have different clear answers depending on the time and place.
When we visited today, there was a moment when the gaggle of cousins was corralled downstairs bouncing on couches and chucking remotes when I found a time to join my sister as she fed her new baby boy in the nursery. She sat in the rocker and sunlight seeped gently into the room behind her through closed blinds. I watched her nurse her baby and noticed how she was enamored, absolutely captivated; I sat in the nursery at her feet watching and there was no one in the room but them. I saw how the previous questions hung lightly in the air, almost like floating words– until they evaporated gently into a mist and finally were gone. And all that was left was my beautiful sister staring at her baby with a love so strong you could scoop it up in your hands. And the questions didn’t matter anymore.
I still remember what someone wrote in a card after Cohen was born: “remember,” the mother of four grown boys wrote to me, “just when it becomes overwhelming, it will become fleeting.” My sister has been ushered into an existence in which she will be utterly and irrevocably needed. Just as we all are needed– to hold one another up and bear witness to the beauty that surrounds us.
And in this vocation, in this call to fulfill Need, you will likely find yourself empty, completely exhaled; you will have spent everything in this great exhaling, to find that the only next possible step is to breathe in again, to be filled, by the air that will be so thick with love you will taste it.