[Photo: Mayim (left), age 8 and her cousin, age 2]
My cousin had a baby. My closest cousin. Like, the closest thing I have to a sister. She’s 6 years younger than I am. We share a lot. I like to think we look alike, but she has more congruent features, and I always envied that. She is gorgeous. We are different in a lot of ways: she is more mellow than I am. She is a talented painter and a gifted teacher. She has tremendous discipline and confidence. I love her very much.
We grew up seeing each other a handful of times a year – she lived about 6 hours north of Los Angeles, where I grew up. We loved playing together. I loved wheeling her in a stroller when she was little; she was like my little doll. As we got older, we talked deeply. We laughed a lot and we also cried. We shared a love for R.E.M. and Elvis Costello and deep thoughts. We went to clubs and concerts together. We wrote dozens and dozens of letters back and forth. We catalogued our loves, our losses, our struggles and our joys. We complained about our mothers to each other, and marvelled at how their sisterhood felt so much more complicated than the one that we chose for ourselves. We used lots of stickers on our letters and envelopes and she helped me through so much; I suppose I helped her through a lot too.
I set her up with my best friend’s brother, and they married almost a decade ago. I love that someone I introduced her to has brought her so much joy. And now they have welcomed this child together. A true blessing. Every baby is a miracle..
I have a 9 and 12 year old. Such… old kids when I compare them to her baby, who is just a few months old.
As a lactation educator counselor, I get to talk to a lot of women about breastfeeding and babies. Just the way women did for me when I was a new mom and had no experience breastfeeding, since no one in my family did, and I rarely ever saw anyone breastfeeding.
Talking to my cousin about breastfeeding is so special. We have shared so much in our lives, and now we share this. We were sisters of a different sort, and now we are sisters of yet another sort: we are in the sisterhood of motherhood.
I feel so nostalgic watching her go through this. And not because I miss having a baby. No thank you. I was never really into babies before I had mine, and I don’t at all get a warm mushy feeling when I see babies now. I loved mine, and I devoted my life to their formative growth in ways I had not imagined I could. But I do not miss babies. What I do feel nostalgia for is that sense of newness and possibility that a baby brings you. And the hysterical hours of trying to get a baby to latch on to an engorged breast or trying to get them to fall asleep after 4 hours of rocking or the wondering what every gurgle means…I kind of miss that.
Because I am on the other side of it. And I know it will be okay. Because they turn out ok. We grow them and we nurse them and we worry about them and we love them. And then we get to tell other moms, “It will be ok.” “What you’re experiencing is normal.” “It’s ok.”
I remember when I couldn’t tell up from down or day from night. When I wanted to literally put the baby somehow back up inside of my body. Because I could not hold on one more night being woken up every 2 hours. I couldn’t stand one more tooth popping out and my breast being the thing that made it better. I could not manage one more 30 second shower or take one more poop with a baby on my lap. I could not go on; I felt that so many times.
But I did. We do.
My cousin is amazing. I keep telling her she is doing so great. But she is so tired. And it’s overwhelming. And it’s hard. Of course.
And she has to do it her own way. And have her own fears. And she will one day look back and miss it like I do. Not the sleeplessness. Not the fear. But we miss being young with our babies as we learn together. It’s the foundation for everything we do from then on.
It changes you as a person. It makes you new. This new person makes you new again.
And when I see someone I love become new again, it fills my heart with hope. Because she made something new. Something so perfect. A human. Made of her. And our moms.
That Oneness is staggering. It’s profound. It’s what women share. It’s what we share. We have this new bond now. Forever.