A few days ago, I went to a birthday party for my great niece. She was turning 1.
She’s the younger daughter of my 26-year-old nephew, Ricky. I call him my first born. My sister gave birth to him when I was just 5, so my whole life I’ve been an aunt. It’s always been part of who I am, and it’s something I love about my life.
Since then, I’ve acquired six more nieces and nephews from my sisters and one more when I married my husband. When the children of my nephew and niece are in the mix, there are a grand total of 11. I’m literally surrounded by children.
There was chaos during the birthday party for my niece as Ricky and his wife hosted it at a bowling alley. They placed little bumpers in the gutters to make sure the kids had fun knocking down pins.
While her cousins and the adults had a blast, the bowling wasn’t much fun for the birthday girl. As she would toddle up to the lane to roll the ball, an aunt, cousin, grandma or someone would always snatch her up.
I was there with my dad, my sister, her kids and their kids. There were also cousins from my brother-in-law’s side of the family. It was a motley crew of family and friends. My husband works in the evenings, so he couldn’t be there.
At celebrations like this, when I’m without my husband, I have a tendency to be on the outside of the crowd. I like to observe other folks and really talk only to those who I know well. Even then, you can usually find me on the outside of the conversation watching, listening and observing.
After the kids were worn out rolling a ball that weighed nearly as much as they did, it was time for the birthday cake. I ventured out of my observation mode and joined the crowd to watch the birthday girl dive into her princess cake.
One of the women from the other side of the family came over to talk with me while we watched.
We exchanged the normal pleasantries.
Yes, work is great. Marriage life is blissful. Yes, I’m excited about my niece’s upcoming wedding. Then the bomb came.
“So, have you thought about kids yet?” the woman asked.
Cringe. I hate this question.
I’ve thought about having kids since I was one myself. My husband and I are going through infertility treatments.
There are many things about infertility that suck. As much as I love birthday parties for kids, not having a child of my own makes celebrating another year of life for someone else’s child painful. I wonder when it’ll be my turn.
“We’re having too much fun trying!” I lied when I answered the woman’s question — letting a fake, too-bright smile pass over my features.
“Too much fun” consists of medicines that aren’t covered by my insurance. These tiny little pills bring on all sorts of exciting side effects.
I can be a bit chilly in the room and, the next thing I know, I feel like the furnace has been turned up and is blasting me directly. My poor husband has been on the receiving end of many mood changes from the hormones in those pills.
After the joy of one of the medicines, we get to schedule appointments with our fertility specialist, an amazing reproductive endocrinologist. Based on what he sees during an ultrasound we decide when I should give myself shots to trigger ovulation.
There’s more “too much fun” when we schedule the artificial insemination. My husband and I make an appointment to go into an exam room to collect his sample. About an hour later, we have some high tech sex.
The mood lighting is bright exam room lights. We spice things up by bringing in a doctor and a nurse.
Foreplay is my husband holding my hand, a speculum and some sort of contraption that transports my husband’s “sample” into my uterus.
After this, we get to wait for two weeks. The wait is the worst part of baby-making.
Over the next two weeks, it doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do. My husband’s sperm has either met my egg and a baby is in the process of being made, or it’s not. I spend this time analyzing and overanalyzing everything that happens to me.
At the end of the two weeks we start a new cycle or I start peeing on sticks. Only women who go through any sort of infertility treatment can understand how habit-forming those little sticks can become. I swear I’ve gone cross-eyed trying to see a second line that so far has never formed.
For now, I get to sit on the sidelines at the birthday parties. I’ve heard of always being the bridesmaid but never the bride. Is there a similar saying that applies to always being the aunt and never the mom?
Until we can have a child of our own, I’ll try to content myself with spoiling my nieces and nephews and now their children. When people ask why we don’t have kids yet, I’ll keep saying we’re having too much fun trying.
Too much fun. Too much fun. Maybe this time the smile will hide the hurt.
CONTACT SAMANTHA GIBSON: firstname.lastname@example.org