Monday, August 5, 2013

One Boy and One Girl: The Perfect 21st Century Family

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Psalm 127:3

            Two children; one of each: a boy and a girl. Preferably the boy first, (gotta pass on that family name), two to three years apart. Society’s definition of the perfect family. Even the old, near-retirement doctor who made the initial diagnosis of my pregnancy with Parker stated: “Well, congratulations. Your first child. It’s best to have two, ideally a boy and a girl. Two years apart. And if you’re going to have more, then have four and not three; an odd number doesn’t work out as well.” Hmm, I hadn’t even gotten through the first pregnancy, and he was already laying out a blueprint for the perfect family. What if Chris and I couldn’t produce it? Were we then doomed to be failing parents, suffering eternal family disharmony?
            I filed his fatherly, authoritative advice in the back of my mind and splurged on a bundle of edible delicacies for a special picnic lunch during which I’d announce my jubilant news to Chris.
            For a variety of personal reasons, Chris and I wanted a boy first, but we refused to learn the sex of our baby before its arrival. We were determined to be surprised at birth. During every pregnancy ultrasound, with all of my children, I reiterated my request that the baby’s sex be excluded from my charts. I didn’t want a well-meaning nurse or office staff member to squeal, “Oh, congratulations on having a girl!” and ruin God’s surprise.
            Throughout my pregnancy with Parker, I suspected my baby was a boy. My husband thought we’d have a boy. My mother thought we’d have a boy. Everyone thought we’d have a boy, except for Chris’s mother. (Maybe having seven children didn’t provide her special sensory powers.)
            Parker’s future godfather—our former pastor—carefully observed my carriage and posture from a posterior view (he politely asked me to walk down the hall, away from him) and jovially boasted that he’d been right nine-out-of-ten times in determining an unborn baby’s sex simply by the way the mother carried it in pregnancy. “You,” he confidently pronounced, “are having a male child!” (At Parker’s birth he was able to brag more about his baby’s sex prediction rate since, upon his birth, it increased to ten out of eleven for him.)
            When the doctor delivered Parker, thrusting him aloft for my better viewing, he proclaimed triumphantly, like a prophetic oracle, “You have a son!” I smiled happily, nodded my head knowingly, and then reclined comfortably to savor the relief of labor pain termination. He seemed horribly offended that I didn’t utter wild surprise and joy exclamations over his proclamation. (I don’t know why he was so irked, since Chris did enough jubilant crying and exclaiming for both us.)
            Throughout the next pregnancy Chris and I felt certain we’d be blessed with a girl. I don’t remember everyone else’s opinions. We would have our “perfect” family. Yet, even though we were right in our prediction, it wasn’t to be. We’d remain a little family of three, with a small heritage, for who knew how long. Maybe forever.

            And it seemed everywhere I looked that spring baby girls were the norm. I couldn’t escape them. “Isn’t anyone having boys?” I cried inwardly. “I already have one of those!”
            It blind-sided me in what used to be the most innocuous places. At the bank one day a teller urged me to gaze into the eyes of a newborn girl she was preoccupied with admiring. “Isn’t she adorable?” she squealed. The other women, swarming around the infant and proud new mother, giggled and cooed. Yes, she is, I thought. Then my mind swam with images of what Victoria might have been doing her first month of life. My breath quickened.  Sweat beads accumulated on my forehead in the air-conditioned room. I offered the teller a lame smile, kept my distance, brusquely finished my business, and then bolted through the bank’s glass doors. My eyes searched frantically for a place to hide, a secluded bench on which to collapse, unclench my cramping chest, will my gasping breath to slow, and to stuff the strangled scream lodged in my throat. I sat on that blessed bench for I-don’t-know-how-long, suffering the frightening symptoms of my first-ever panic attack. When I recovered enough to stand up without weaving precariously, my feet shuffled my stooped body back to my car.
            Why can’t I just stay home, hiding in my quiet, cavernous house, avoiding the world…


NEXT WEEK: The Perfect Family, Part 2

Until next week.

Thanks for joining me!