Monday, July 26, 2010

Letter to My Unborn Child

I have wanted, at different times and stages in my life and marriage, to meet you when you were born, watch the very beginning of a brand new personality that I would help create, whose wit and charm and stupidity and clumsiness and potential and spirit and laziness and compassion I would all be responsible for.

I imagined it would happen in the morning, at my favorite time of day, when the dawn is sure coming, but still imperfect, a fuzz of blue. I imagined you would be a winter baby.

I thought of your face, soft under my hand, and how your first laugh would sound through my ribs and get caught in my heart. I've felt you, small but heavy in my arms, holding your head because you're so fragile, because it could break at any moment, and have dressed you for school a thousand times or more in a fantasy. I have imagined, in fault, the strength of my love for you, how it would demolish and refresh me, how it would awaken me, how it would open up a door in my heart I never knew was there before.

I thought about the things that I would tell you - that your aunt Tiffany was wonder woman, that she was fearless and powerful and the role model I wish I'd noticed more growing up, that your uncle Nathan had a good, loyal heart above everything else he tried to show you of himself, that your grandmother was crazy and had done things you would never experience, but that she always loved her children even when it wasn't obvious, and that she had never grown out of being one herself (sometimes to amazing, special, hilarious results; the young at heart make fascinating parents). I would tell you about your grandfather's worst habits with care, avoiding, at least until you were older, the ones I wouldn't want to darken your outlook forever. I would caution you around his mistakes, use them to introduce you to the charisma in him that makes an entire room orbit around even his oldest jokes and stories. Somehow, no wrong he has ever committed against me or my mother has stood up to the power of his presence, the warmth of his humor.

These are beautiful people, I would promise you, but in family, like in every other part of life, you would have to take the bad with the good and decide if your heart was big enough to love someone that you didn't always like. Sometimes it isn't possible. Sometimes we can't even love a member of our own bloodline, I would tell you, and point to a great Uncle in Wisconsin or whomever else had sacrificed their family for their impulses.

I would tell you that love is not something you give to everyone, not a word you say because you're supposed to, that it's a gift from each person to the next and if you give it, you should expect it to be cherished and respected, and that you would be justified in your anger and refusal to forgive if it was ever betrayed. I would tell you never to be afraid of love, afraid to use it, more importantly, afraid to -accept- it.

I always knew how I'd talk about your father and our love. I would want it to be the inspiration in you when you had your heart broken, and the thing that you resented when you gave in to the bitterness we would both have inadvertently passed on to you. I saw him holding you when you were hurt, chasing you from room to room, dissecting his clever electronic inventions and explaining to you, regardless of your gender, how they worked inside. I thought more often than I can express how, if you could take the -best- parts of the both of us and become yourself with them, no one in the world would be more creative, caring, understanding, loyal, witty, strong, capable, dependable or noble. And if you got the worst of us, we'd know that we had put it there, and try to coax it out of you.

I wanted to be an example for you, of things to do and not to do, of things not to avoid, of things not to pursue. And I wanted to be there with you, wrapping you in a blanket and inhaling your clean hair on cozy, idealistic Christmas mornings to watch your face put the lights on the tree to shame, the tree we'd decorated together as a family, likely after an argument over where it should go and how to move the furniture without breaking anything.

I wanted to instill in you my love for fantasy, for daydreaming, for removing yourself from harmful situations into a happier thought for just long enough to rebuild and come back out and deal with things. I wanted to know you were down the hall from me every night, night after night, night after night after night. It wasn't always about the big situations. It wasn't always your first date or holiday dinners or attending your graduation. Most of the time, when I thought of you, it was an absent injection of you into my regular routine. When I cooked, I made enough for you. When I shopped, I thought about your vitamin intake. When I relaxed on the couch at the end of the day, you were next to me, playing with the toys I'd re-collected from my childhood to give to you. You sang with me in the car, dipped your finger in the cookie dough, lay against me with your hair wet while I watched reruns of Reba.

Because of all of this, how real you were to me, how much I know I would have loved you, I thought that you deserved to get a letter, informing you after all these years of happy, frustrated daydreams, after hours spent agonizing over how I'd get my body back, how much labor would hurt, how frightened I would be that you wouldn't make it through the delicate months of infancy, that I have decided not to have you.

I have also decided not to have your brothers, nor your sisters. I have made the decision, this is the best way I can put it, that I do not have room for you in my life or in my heart. I have other dreams, and other fantasies, and things I've looked forward to all my own childhood, and I can't give them up for you, not for the idea of you, certainly not for the reality of you. There's nothing about the way I live my life today that I would be willing to change just so I could say I experienced a new kind of love.

I don't want to love my husband less than anyone else. I don't want to spend every dime I ever make on keeping you alive. And perhaps it needs to be said above everything else: the reason I can't have you is that I know I would love you so much that you would ruin my life. That's how you should look at it. That's how everyone should look at it. I know that you would matter to me more than anything ever has, more than myself, more than him. You would matter more than money. More than my body. More than my health. More than the health of my marriage. My dreams, my plans, my ambitions, my future. My career, his career. I would not care what I lost for myself as long as I could react by giving something to you in its place.

You would overtake me, and that's how I think it should be.

But I'm just not willing to do it. I don't want to remember that the happiest days of my life were not as happy as the day you were born.
I love them too much.
I don't want wake up one day and realize that you aren't coming home after loving you and nurturing you and putting everything on hold for you for 18 years, and just beginning to realize how much of it I will now not be able to do because of my age, an age I reached in waste on your upbringing, unaware that it was a waste.

I am not that big of a person.

I think, if I'd had you, that you would have been.

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