Without dedicating careful thought to their words, some people have said to childless people, “You can’t experience true love until you have a child.” Or they say, “I didn’t know what love is until I had my son, daughter, etc.” Although I have not, and will never have a child, I don’t agree that only parents experience true love. Both my sister Sarah, and her son, my nephew Schaeffer showed me true love.
He’s four years old, with milk chocolate brown eyes, and light brown hair, this boy who belongs to my favorite sister and brother-in-law. He is convinced he is every superhero in every story, and I hope he always thinks so, because he will always be a superhero to me. His name is Schaeffer, and he remains my favorite nephew because of the love he has shown me. Of course, his parents have also shown me excessive love and compassion during my childless not by choice journey, so I count myself very blessed to be in their lives.
I’m his Aunt Carol, and I have been happily married for the past four and a half years, childless because of the set of genetics I inherited from my father’s side. At age 15, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, told I would never bear my own child, and prescribed a treatment plan of using birth control to ease the symptoms of my reproductive disability. My husband was sterile before I met him due to his genetics: the uncontrolled high blood pressure from his mother led to complete kidney failure which led to complete sterility. We are very happy together, a blessing not all couples have. My childless not by choice life contains some shattered dreams. I only wanted one son, with whom I could explore train sets and marble runs, and I felt intense sadness because I knew that would never happen, because my son would only exist in my heart.
Last year, my favorite sister Sarah began showing me a lot of love as I grieved over my fertility loss, and I began to consider whether I might achieve some of my shattered dreams differently than I had originally thought. I felt like I had so much love bottled up inside me, and I wanted to share it. I asked Sarah if I could buy her a marble run, and she said yes, even though her youngest child, Eleanor, nicknamed Nori, was a year old, and putting everything in her mouth at the time. She might choke on a marble if not watched closely. I did my part to avoid that with a lockbox to keep the marbles in, and Sarah did hers when she placed Nori in her highchair while Schaeffer, his older sister Anya, and I assembled the marble run together, and watched the marbles roll through. Sarah repaired one of my formerly shattered dreams, then offered it back to me as a precious memory.
Two months ago, I was visiting Sarah and her family not long after the arrival of Sarah’s fourth little one, an adorable redhead named Charlotte. I brought them a meal, and Schaeffer invited me to his bedroom so he could show me “something,” he said. I went, and he proudly showed me his new bunkbed, and turned a few somersaults in the air under the top bunk. Then he showed me his new train set, and I watched in fascination as the train, powered by a battery, slowly went around the track, and finally entered the roundhouse. Most little boys communicate using sound effects, but Schaeffer was telling me all about how the train works, and what the roundhouse is for, how long he had the train set, because unless he told me, I might not know. I loved hearing each word he said, and I returned to the living room knowing that like his mother, Schaeffer had repaired one of my shattered dreams and offered it back to me as a precious memory. I couldn’t help but feel loved, and very grateful.
Carol G., Texas, USA