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Jessica Runck, Published May 30 2013

VIDEO: Homegrown Hollywood: Choice to be far from home sometimes hard

Everyone is pregnant but me.

At least that’s what it feels like.

One cousin, four friends, about 22 Facebook friends, and my old roommate’s dog have all given birth in the last month.

I’ve gotten used to the phone calls that begin with my friends asking, “How are you?” in a tone that says, “Hurry up and tell me because when you find out how I am you are going to freak out.”

After the excitement of the pregnancy announcement dies down I never quite know how to segue back to normal conversation.

“Congrats on creating a new life. Speaking of exciting news, I bought a new brand of milk yesterday.”

A few weeks ago my friend, Michelle had her baby shower. I had known the date months in advance yet there I was on the day of the shower, clutching her registry and staring at rows and rows of bottles, burp rags, and diaper-genie-warming-sterilized-magic-something-wipes.

My eyes zeroed in on an item called a “nipple brush” and I laughed to myself, grabbed it, and went to find a pastel bag in which to put it.

The shower was lovely, with the perfect amount of sweet (candy bar) and adult (free alcohol). When we reached the gift opening, Michelle pulled out my gift and thanked me. I smiled and, wanting to detract from the fact I had obviously purchased it an hour before, made a joke.

“Now every time you wash your nipples, you can think of me.”

I waited for the laughter to follow but all I heard was the confused and shocked intake of breath from the future grandmother.

After much confusion, Michelle explained that by “nipple” they meant the nipple on the bottle. Not the nipple on the mother.

(How many times can I say “nipple” in The Forum?)

These moments have become a normal part of my life. I have moved seamlessly from the years of bridesmaid’s dresses and bad floral arrangements to baby bottles and giving gifts I don’t really understand.

Most of the time, I don’t mind. I can laugh along with the mothers and then go meet my friends for a martini because I don’t have a diaper to change.

But then, last week, I got a call from my youngest cousin with some news about his wife.

“Hi, Dane! What’s up?”

“Well…I’m just calling to tell you that Alicia is pregnant.”

I took a breath.

Before getting excited, before doing the obligatory squealing and congratulating, I noticed that my heart constricted a little bit.

Here is another baby I won’t get to see grow up. Another family member who won’t consider me a part of the normal routine.

Even though technology lets me video chat and get instant photos of first steps, the fact is, it’s just not the same.

It’s not the same as holding a squirming, crying child in your arms and maybe crying a little yourself at how amazing life is. It’s not the same as looking at your friend who once danced on a table in the middle of a bar and who is now in charge of a human life.

I love my home here in Los Angeles. I am proud and happy I decided to follow this path – a path in which I know a lot about building a career and a lot less about raising a child. But there are a few times every year, during an excited phone call with a friend, that I’m reminded just how much I gave up to follow my dreams.

It’s always in the white space that I feel it most – the space that comes before my reaction, before my happiness has a chance to sink in. It’s always most clear, and most painful, what the decision to live far away from home really means in the breath I take before smiling.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum

Runck, who grew up in Wimbledon, N.D., and graduated from Concordia College, is a writer and actor living in Los Angeles