I smile at him. He lets go of my hand and pulls me back into bed. We lay there cuddling and kissing and giggling like two teenagers. I smile to myself and think that this is the way it’s supposed to be.
It’s Mother’s Day and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. Aunt Barbara, Maxim and I are at the park. Maxim loved swinging and now we’re having a picnic – although Maxim is only eating his normal diet of breastmilk and fruit pouches.
“Here, I brought you a gift,” Aunt Barbara says, taking a small box out of her purse.
“And I brought you a gift!” I laugh, reaching into Maxim’s diaper bag to find it.
We smile as we open each other’s gifts, only to find that we’d gotten each other pretty much the same thing – silver necklaces. The one I got her is in the shape of a heart, and the one she got me is in the shape of a bird, because Maxim loves a nursery song about a bird that goes, “tweet, tweet, tweet” until the baby falls asleep.
“This is perfect!” we both exclaim at once. Then, laughing, we add, “How did you know?”
I can’t believe how my Aunt Barbara and I have become so in sync so quickly. It’s like we’re sisters, instead of her and my mom.
As if reading my thoughts, she says, “I know it’s an important day for you – your first mother’s day – and I think it’s sad my sister isn’t participating, so I wanted to make sure it would be special.”
“It really is,” I tell her. “And I so appreciate all your help with Maxim. I know that you’re like a second mom to him, and we both really appreciate it.”
“It’s so sweet that you’d say that,” she says, tearing up. “I do view him as like a son to me, and it makes me mad that…”
She drifts off, until I look at her and say, “What? It’s okay; you can tell me.”
“…that I was never able to have kids of my own and my sister was, and yet she treats her own kid and grandkid like shit. Life doesn’t seem fair, sometimes.”
“I’m sorry, Aunt Barb,” I tell her, taking her hand in mine. “I didn’t know that. I just thought you hadn’t found the right guy to have a family with yet. You’re still young!”
She’s my mom’s younger sister by quite a bit – Uncle Bob is in between them, as well as another brother, Uncle Steve, who lives somewhere in Chicago or somewhere, and with whom no one keeps in touch. My mom had me young herself – a fact she never failed to bitterly remind me of – and so my Aunt Barbara has to be only somewhere between thirty-five to forty or so, if I had to guess.
I don’t want to be rude and ask. Part of her has always seemed very young to me – she looks young, for one thing, and is hard-working and inspired, running a crafting business from her own home, which is how she manages to be available to watch Maxim while I’m at the bakery. But another part of her is so responsible and caring that she seems older, if only because she’s so matronly.
“You’re mostly right,” she says. “I never tried to have a baby because I thought I should wait until I found the perfect guy. I’ve since realized that the perfect guy doesn’t exist. And, through you, I’ve learned that a mother’s love is all a baby really needs. But in the meantime, I’ve had issues with my periods and have been diagnosed with a condition that makes conceiving difficult. If I want to have a baby, I’m really running out of time, and I don’t know that it’s even possible.”
She sighs, then says, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be depressing on Mother’s Day! I really am so happy to have you and Maxim in my life!”
I’m not depressed, but I just feel bad for her, and I’m hoping that talking to me about it makes me her feel better, because she’s helped me so much.
“It’s no problem,” I tell Aunt Barbara, still feeling a little shocked, and fixated on this new information I’d just learned about her. “I’m sure there are treatments you could undergo, and even use, you know, sperm donors, on your own…”
“Yeah, I’ve thought about that,” she hastens to add, as I nestle Maxim against my breast for another nursing session.
This boy can eat, and he had started getting fussy, letting me know it was time again.
“I go back and forth, sometimes thinking that I should just wait and see if it’s what fate has in store for me… if I meet any kind of decent man, if we decide we want a baby, you know, the old-fashioned way… but other times, I see how you and I work it out together and I think, well, I could be a modern mother!” my aunt continues. “I could go choose a sperm donor and get IVF. Or I could even use a surrogate or adopt. Those options are expensive but I have savings. The business has done well with its online Etsy orders and there isn’t much for a single woman to spend a ton of money on… other than now that I have Maxim to spoil rotten, of course.”