Monday, July 4, 2011
Daughters and Sons
There was a time, after Charlotte died, where I felt sure that I would never, ever have another daughter. I steeled myself for a life of parenting rough-and-tumble boys, envisioning myself feeling wistful for a waif-like daughter with long blond hair, someone who would snuggle and read Anne of Green Gables with me...
Then, I had Liam. I had never had a boy in my life before for real, being one of only sisters, parented by a mother who was the same. I was amazed (silly me) to see how absolutely FUN it was to have a boy, and was humbled to realize that my son was full of more cuddles than I could ever imagine. Pregnant again for the third time, I imagined myself with another little boy: a pal for Liam, and his name was to be Owen Henry. Liam and Owen, my two boys... it seemed perfectly clear to me that this would happen. Occasionally the fear would flash before my eyes, but I would try to avoid it: maybe I will never have another girl, maybe she was it. But I would dismiss it, feeling defensive of Liam and how passionately I loved him. Boys would be fine, just fine. Perhaps I was not meant to have girls. I was building my walls of defense, just in case. Would it have been fine?
Three daughters later, I like to rationalize that the universe has a way of giving back to you somehow. Aoife gifted me a daughter and Liam a sister, Fiona gifted Aoife a sister. Maeve came close on the heels of Fiona to gift me the experience of two very close babies, as Charlotte and Liam would have been.
And when I look at Liam? I imagine this. The universe had a plan for me. A plan for daughters, a houseful of girls to run me ragged and keep me laughing and whip me into shape. But something happened, something awful, and that first baby girl couldn't stay. So Liam, sweet baby Liam, was a little special treat: the son I might never have had, the little boy I wouldn't have even known to miss if I'd never had him. I feel wistful, now, thinking that I won't have another little boy, ever, to visit construction sites and obsess over tractor models and farm equipment (although the last two rounds would have brought us Callum, not Owen...) It's funny to hold up the fear of not having another daughter with this near-sadness that I'll only have one son.
And my girls, my three living girls, they are a beautiful gift that follows, three little girls I can't say whether I would have had or not. But I'm sure glad I've got them. There was almost a sense of relief each time, like a catching up: somehow, with the birth of each daughter, we found ourselves with the number and ratio of sons to daughters we'd had in theory prior to her birth. Except that now we had one more. So we never caught up, of course...
I like to always tell the families I work with, although bereaved moms and dads often feel enraged at people who express a preference for the sex of a particular baby, it's also completely normal for those of us who are missing a child to have the (often very strong) desire to parent another child of the same sex. Why not? Wouldn't it simply make sense that we would want that experience? I hate the thought of parents feeling as if their worries are petty when they are grieving the loss of never having had the experience of parenting either a son or daughter. It's a real thing to grieve. And I'm saying this never having even really experienced it, as it was less than 3 years after Charlotte's death that my eldest living daughter was born.
It's the fourth of July. We went to a parade in a nearby town, patriotically dressing our 100% Canadian family in red, white and blue, waving little American flags. Our family looked tidy and complete and lovely walking down the street, bystanders sitting in folding chairs and on blankets waiting for the festivities to begin. Only I saw her, the ethereal mist following behind, the ghost of a daughter who began it all.