January 30, 2019

By Sanda Rathamone

“Only an Aunt can give hugs like a mother, can keep secrets like a sister, and share love like a friend."

"Oneee, twooo, ssssixxx, aaatttee, mmiiiineeee, tennnn." This is how Jazmine counts her numbers. And it's beyond cute. It makes me giggle and count with her. It makes me want to clap and say, "Yaaayyyy!" while at the same time, roll and tumble on the floor and laugh.  Laugh because I am having a wonderful time listening to her tiny, grown up voice.

When I count with her, of course, I start with "one" and include the missing numbers, so that she remembers how counting to ten doesn't have only six numbers. Unfortunately, it's like she doesn't hear me and continues marching on with her own set of six numbers.

I love the way she counts her numbers, though. She counts in a way where each number is long and drawn-out; elongating the numbers, as if they were sounds. Unlike a short squeak of a dolphin, she counts like a whale: singing a song that floats miles and miles away. Her pace, slow, but deliberate, even though her "eight" sounds like "ate." I also love her "nine." She says, "mine."  I always wait for that part because her confidence in counting "mine" is so intentional.

According to Jazmine, nine is "mine" and that makes perfect sense. I don't want that to ever change, it's so... her. And she's perfect the way she is, even when she drives me insane.

I remember my husband telling me that he sided with "Jasmine" when his sister was thinking up names before Jazmine was born. Only, her mom decided to change the "s" to a "z." "Mine" is also in her name; it reminds me of "Child of Mine" (the brand name of the onesie that we got for Elijah). There was a time that I was afraid of wishing that she was mine...

I was afraid that spending too much time with her would take me away from loving/grieving Elijah. I don't know if this makes any sense. I guess, what I am trying to say is: I didn't want my love for her to replace my love for Elijah. I didn't want to grow to love her more than the baby I had lost and couldn't love. I didn't want to give away my "motherly love" to a child who was not mine. Yet, the more time we'd spend together: playing, eating, watching cartoons, running around the house, the more I find being an aunt is as rewarding as being a mother.

I am able to witness her magical and ever-changing growth and be a part of what she learns and who she becomes - to a point. That point is when it is time for her to go home and be with her mom. And I am never sad to see Jazmine waiting at the baby gate for her mom. It is always endearing, and a relief! For a small girl, she has an abundance of energy that takes a village to tire out and put her to sleep.

Although, on days when she is not here, the house is quiet and longing for her crazy squeals and heavy feet. Her running around the house makes our home come to life, since Elijah is not here to do so.

A month ago, I found out that my husband forgot Jazmine's birthday - he forgot his niece's birthday! I remember it because it was ingrained into my brain, since the day my husband and I saw her at the hospital, when he held her and I couldn't. February 10th, the day that I didn't think I could ever survive. Jazmine was the first baby who was born after Elijah died, the first baby I held after Elijah died, and the baby who became a rice-eating, ice cream-loving, cat-obsessed, clever-counting, curly-haired toddler who knows her animals, shapes, and colors right before my eyes.

She is now turning two... the age Elijah would have turned back in October...

Yesterday, I heard her call me, "Mommy," not in the way she calls for her mom, but in a way that "Mommy" meant a name. She didn't know what to call me, so she said, "Mommy." I think it is because I am the only female at home who babysits her, besides her grandparents, my husband, and her other uncles. She hasn't yet learned names besides calling for her parents and grandparents.

She was crying, asking us to open our bedroom door - she gets bored of grandpa sometimes. When my husband let her in, gave her some rice, and had the iPad on, she looked at me a couple of times (I was napping). Then, she got up, called me "Mommy," and pulled my hand, motioning for me to sit at the table - like a family - like how we eat in kitchen (with her in the middle or on one of our laps).

There are times where I feel as though we are her godparents or third in line to be her guardians (her grandparents would be second). She reminds me all of the time to eat as a family because that is what families do. It makes me sad that Elijah isn't here to eat with us. To enjoy food with people you love, that's something special that I will always look forward to.

With love,
Must Read:
Read Elijah's Story, "From Gender Reveal to a Spontaneous Delivery"

Photo: pinterest

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