It’s unfortunate (understatement) to have the joyous (long-expected, much anticipated, lalala) birth of a baby so muddled up with despair. I hate that my baby, my second son, third child, my only sweet Ulysses, came into the world already holding such a heavy burden. He is burdened by the circumstances of his birth. His mother refused to look at him straight away, for crying out loud! He is burdened by the very basics of his body. He will have to work hard to accomplish the simple automatic things most people don’t even think about. That’s just the way it is. And I don’t like it. And I am still grieving for the loss of what I imagined having a new person in our family would look like.
I was honestly concerned throughout my pregnancy that I’d be disappointed if Scrappy came out a boy. I sort of had my heart set on a girl. Not because I like girls better or because I didn’t want another boy. It’s silly, really, but it was hard for me to picture my big boy, mister just turned six, not being the only boy. My daughter is so far from little now, she’s savvy and smart and well-read and can hold her own in political debates. I guess I was just feeling like our house could use a small sister. And what am I supposed to do with so many plastic bins full of a carefully curated collection of fabulous girl clothes? I have saved just about everything my daughter has ever worn and do you know how much time I spent in thrift stores when she was little? Think piles of vintage Hanna Andersson and various and sundry other well-made, well-designed impossible-to-replace little girl clothes.
So I was hoping for a girl. I won’t deny it. And the day this baby was due, the day I found out everything was not at all what I was expecting, I felt like the world’s biggest chump for ever caring about sex at all.
I irrationally blamed myself. Like had I made that chirpily insipid “as long as it’s healthy” caveat, I wouldn’t have teased the gods to show me what’s what. Of course that’s not how it works.
You want to know how it works? Babies with birth defects deserve to be loved and adored and wanted. Babies have been born with abnormalities as long as babies have been born. It could happen to anyone. Why not my baby? Why not me? Why not you? (just lucky, I guess.)
I can tell you that I sure wasn’t thinking of all those old stripey, cotton dresses when we had our first appointment at the pediatric orthopedic hospital last week.
I can tell you that I had to bite my tongue to keep from crying when the occupational therapist there practically shrugged with disinterest over his deformed hands. From an orthopedic point of view, apparently, if you have a thumb, you’re golden. One thumb! What the heck are most people doing with all those extra digits?
I can tell you that I am so jaded and disgusted with my former self for not realizing how easy we had it. Too many times I’ve been cranky and impatient about dumb stuff (and when you’re tentatively scheduling your son’s leg amputations, suddenly everything else is pretty stupid).
I can tell you that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to join in on birth story conversations again, don’t think I’ll ever give a fig about any of that anymore.
I can tell you that a whole body is a remarkable gift. Use yours wisely.