When I was 11 years old, there was no part of me that thought I could even begin to love in the deepest form possible. I thought that love was reserved for the person you marry, or the children you might grow up to have. Looking back, I laugh at my naivety in believing that love is 'reserved' for people.
While yes, I love my parents and my family with my whole heart, it wasn't until I held my first niece in my arms that I loved with my entire being. I didn't know what to expect when my dad was driving me to meet my niece for the first time on December 23rd. I was only 11, being an aunt wasn't something I had ever truly thought about so young.
Holding my niece in my arms that day, I didn't care what being an aunt was supposed to entail, all I cared about was making sure that the little girl I was looking down at grew up knowing she is so immensely loved.
My second niece was born in 2013. I have to admit, and I feel that I can now, that I was scared to have a second niece. What if we didn't connect? What if it felt different watching her grow up, like we weren't as close? What if I couldn't love her the way I so immediately loved my first niece?
As I walked into the hospital room, I remember those being some of my last thoughts before I saw her. All of those completely idiotic thoughts melted away when I saw her. I thought my heart was going to feel like it was divided into sections for these two girls, but what I realized in that moment is that I had two hearts. However, unlike the one inside my body, these two little girls were the physical embodiment of what keeps me alive.
So here I was, for the third time, going to the hospital awaiting to see if my sister had given birth to another girl or maybe this time a boy. "It's a boy!" was the first exhilarating thought I had when I found out. "Oh no, it's a boy!" was the second. "I don't know a single thing about boys!" was the third. And then I held him. I don't know why I still had doubts, because the third times the charm right? But I was still terrified that I wouldn't be able to love more.
I remember the day distinctly that my sister and her kids were spending the night. My nephew was still only months old, and as my mom and sister were getting my nieces ready for bed, I was told to keep my nephew occupied. Up until this point, while I loved my nephew enormously, we hadn't connected, and I was terrified we never would. I took him into my room, and we sat down in front of my mirror, and as I made faces at him, he laughed at my reflection. It was in that exact moment, that I grew a third heart indefinitely, because my nephew and I had bonded in a way that we had been missing.
To this day, with a seven year old niece, five year old niece, and two year old nephew, I can honestly say that I have learned to love deeper than the deepest love imaginable. I have learned to love with my heart outside of my body, something I didn't even know was possible, but also something I would not change in another world.