I have a little boy. He is three and a half years old, a tornado stuck in a toddler's body. When I was pregnant with him, I knew he was a boy before the ultrasound technician told me. My pregnancy with him was my first and this led everyone -- family, friends, strangers -- to insist that I wanted a girl. No, that I needed a girl. When I revealed that he was a boy, there were some jokes of "are you sure?" and the supposed reassurance that I could always "try again for a girl." I was somehow supposed to feel disappointed that on June 22nd, 2011, a screaming, chunky, dark-haired healthy baby boy was placed into my arms. I didn't feel disappointed. It was as if I had won the lottery, only better. Here was this amazing little human being who I had given birth to, a child who I was fortunate enough to watch grow up. Each time he surpassed a milestone -- rolling over, sleeping for a three hour stretch, his first solid foods, his first steps, his first sentences, the first time he urinated in a toilet -- it was as if my pride alone was lighting up the sky in lieu of the sun. Still, I was supposed to feel disappointed or incomplete in some way. At least this is what everyone told me. "Just the boy?" The well-meaning Target associate would ask. "Don't you want to try again for a girl?" Or the old high school classmate who I hadn't seen in years but managed to pass by in the grocery store aisle. "Oh, he's so cute! You should try again. Maybe this time you'll get the girl!"
I had announced my second pregnancy when I was around seven weeks along and within three days I was already drenched in annoyance. I was inundated with "maybe it's finally the girl" remarks, promises of tutus and tulle and sparkles and princesses from Disney movies I'd never heard of. In my gut, I knew the baby I was carrying was a girl and I took to my blog, to social media, to publicly announce my disgust towards Princess Culture in hopes it would get everyone off my back. It didn't. Eventually it was confirmed I was carrying a little girl. "Finally!" The Target associate would celebrate as if the sex of my child somehow impacted her life. "Yes! Now you're complete!" I would feel anger thump in my temples as I tried to bite my tongue and let it be known that all that mattered was a healthy baby and that one sex was not more valuable than the other. I would feel hot tears sting at my eyes with the assumption that someone felt my son was in some way less valuable, that he mattered less, that he was inferior or unwanted or a reason to feel disappointed.
Weeks later, my daughter was given a terminal diagnosis in utero. Almost two weeks later, she passed away inside my body and was born sleeping. She was tiny and dainty with big round eyes like her brother and kinky-curly hair like her father. She had a wide nose like my sister -- a nod to my mother's side of the family -- and was perfectly perfect, except that she wasn't alive.
One of the hardest parts following her death was having to venture out into public again and explain to people who last saw me hugely pregnant why I was no longer pregnant and why I didn't have a newborn. As the initial shock wore off (to everyone except me, it would seem), people began getting bolder. They began saying things like "well, you're young. Try again! Maybe you'll get that girl." "You know, you already have the clothes anyway! A girl would be easy." "Oh, how terrible to lose a girl. You almost had the perfect family!"
I sit here idly trying to prepare myself for the first holiday season without the second child we anticipated having, the second child to occupy Santa's other knee in Christmas photos. I am met with "well, you only have a boy" remarks regularly that make me feel sick inside because I have a girl. I have a little girl who sits atop my mantle in an urn -- a blue urn -- who I will never be able to watch grow up. I will never know what she looks like with her eyes open or what her voice would have sounded like. I will never be able to lay next to her until she falls asleep at night and linger in her room for just a few more minutes of running my fingers through her hair. She will be an infant forever, captured as such in the one set of photographs we have that are supposed to hold us over for our lifetimes. I have only my memories of her traumatic birth and my imagination to wonder what if and if only.
But I also have a little boy. I have a little boy with golden hair that sticks up all over his head. A little boy with piercing blue eyes and a heart of honey and sweetness that melts you with it's purity. I have a little boy who asks us to lay in his bed until he falls asleep and asks me to sing him Natalie Imbruglia and Ben Folds songs until he reaches Dreamland, a little boy who befriends ants on the sidewalk and squirrels chasing one another up the trees. He climbs in my lap and asks me to snuggle with him, to cook with him, to color with him, to play with him, to live with him and sometimes all I can think as my mind tries to soak up all of the love that I feel within my heart is how I'm supposed to feel disappointed in him. Somehow, for some reason, I am supposed to feel disappointed by him.
Contrary to the effortless way people make it seem -- as if "trying again" is another roll of the dice in a board game -- I don't know if we will have a third child. While mourning my daughter I also let myself mourn the naive fantasy-filled dream of a house filled with children and a big family and even bigger chaos that I held onto before I realized things weren't that simple. I've had to accept that I may solely be a parent to my two children: the precocious little boy I spend my days with and the little girl who will spend her life in her tiny blue urn. And if I'm ever fortunate enough to have another child, to bring home another baby who is awake and who I can watch grow up? What matters, what has always mattered, will be that he or she is healthy and alive. I can't think of anything more trivial than whether or not a child is a boy or a girl. I can't think of anything more distasteful than basing a child's worth on their sex.
And if I don't ever get the opportunity to swaddle a newborn, change little diapers or rock an infant to sleep again? Well, I have my little boy to spend the rest of my life with. And there aren't even words to express how lucky that makes me.