In August 2007, I was exhausted. My then-husband and I had been trying to conceive for months, finally seeking the help of a specialist. As a result, I had ultrasounds and blood work, biopsies and exploratory surgery. All the while, I took increasingly complex medications to try and make my reproductive system respond as it should. The experience was draining, both financially and emotionally.
Nine months later, a healthy, chubby, beautiful baby girl was born. I held her and cried. As happy as this baby made me, my heart broke around her.
In the winter of 2007, after I had decided to “take a break,” my middle brother had called to tell me his girlfriend was pregnant. If he had told me in person, I probably would have hit him. As it was, I did what I did when anyone got pregnant – I cried. My oldest brother (still younger than me) had just had a baby boy, and now the next child in line was following suit. I was demoralized.
By the time she was three months old, Lillian Rose was staying overnight at my home. By her first birthday, her visits were frequent and long. We had adventures at the museum, fed giraffes at the zoo, and played with my friends’ kids. She helped me belong in a way I so badly wanted.
Lillie is seven now. Last weekend, we made a rocket from a box and explored space in a way I haven’t done since I was her age. We finger-painted on the grass, and I felt my creative side surge to life. Afterward, I got out my “adult” paints and she told me stories while I painted the sunset. Lillie loves to go on walks and hikes, and pick the flowers and chase the butterflies along the way. She keeps me moving, keeps me young.
I have suffered from depression since adolescence, and Lillie has and continues to brighten my life in ways I never thought imaginable. Even in the midst of an eating disordered rampage, a visit from Lillie could soothe me. I’ve said it before and it’s still true – this girl has probably saved my life.
Every night when I talk to her on the phone, her singsong voice raises my spirits, no matter how glum I had felt. Her “I love you”s remind me that I can love another child the same way I would have loved my own. And she tells me that one day, I’ll have a daughter, and she’ll babysit for her. This will be made easy, because she is going to move in next door to me so we can be best friends forever.
Every day, I am thankful for my niece, my “best friend.” No amount of flowery words will ever express what she means to me. I am glad that I didn’t hit my brother when he told me about her, or tell him the words going through my mind at the time, because that might have hindered my ability to know the baby and watch her grow into an amazing young girl. I look forward to watching her become a young woman.