So today’s Day of Thanks was again, a little bit of a mixed blessing. When I first saw the penguin items in the Gymboree collection my friend Brooke had told me about, I was pretty disappointed that all they seemed to have were boy clothes. There were a few items that might work for a boy or a girl, but everything was pretty boyish.
And then I did a keyword search for “penguin,” and turned up a whole other collection of little girl penguin items. I was thrilled. It wasn’t until I saw those that I started thinking seriously about going ahead and buying the stuff (these storewide sales usually only last a day or two) and returning it later if it ended up not being for the right gender. I bought a few items from both the boys’ and the girls’ collections. I also bought several items in both 6-12 months size, which will hopefully fit the Penguin next winter, and 18-24 months size, which will hopefully fit the following winter.
After I’d clicked “Purchase,” I had to think really hard about who I was buying these clothes for. A friend of ours told us that when her aunt became pregnant again after having lost her daughter at the age of two, the aunt was convinced for a while that her daughter was in her belly again. Even though I don’t feel this way, I definitely understand the impulse. It’s easy to succumb to a sensation (for that’s what it is—just a vague, inexplicable impression) that having another baby will somehow reincarnate Hudson. I keep having to remind myself that this baby may not be a girl. That this baby will not be Hudson’s age for another two years. And most importantly, that I will love and cherish this baby in spite of those things. I remember thinking when Hudson was an infant that I really needed to cherish this time with her, to stop looking ahead to all the milestones that she would soon hit, to stop looking forward to when she would get more “fun” by interacting and playing—I knew I would never again have this kind of one-on-one time with an infant, because the next time I had an infant, I would also have a really busy toddler on my hands. I could not have known that would prove to be untrue. I imagine that I will have to be even more intentional about appreciating the early months with the Penguin, because I know I will be tempted to look ahead even more, now that I know how much fun things will really get, and now that I miss that fun so desperately.
This is one of the reasons that Ed and I have decided that we are going to find out the sex of this baby. We did not find out with Hudson, and if Hudson hadn’t died, we would not likely have found out with the Penguin, either. When I was pregnant with Hudson, I just felt strongly that the sex of the baby is one of the only real surprises we grown-ups get, one of the only things that can replicate the joy of Christmas morning that I loved so much as a child. But this time, things are so much more complicated. The delivery day is going to be so incredibly emotional, infinitely more so than with Hudson, and adding an additional surprise on top of that just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
But even more importantly, I am going to have to do some serious emotional preparation for either a boy or a girl. Ed and I have discussed that in many ways, it seems like it would be “easier,” on both us and the Penguin, if this baby is a boy. Having a boy would be so totally different than having a girl—boys grow differently, they develop differently, they dress differently. It just seems like it would be an easier emotional experience than having another girl right away—hopefully we’d be less inclined to compare the Penguin to Hudson.
But on the other hand, I loved mothering a daughter. I was so looking forward to all the mother-daughter things. And I guess part of me was hoping to do some healing for myself from my impaired relationship with my own mother by trying to do it “right” with my daughter (I know, I know—start a therapy fund for the kids now). So I really, really want to have another daughter. And each pregnancy that I don’t means one less chance. I certainly know from my friends who have all boys that it’s a joyous and unique experience in itself. And I know that if I ultimately end up having all boys, I will still love every minute of it. But if I never have another daughter with whom I can share those mother-daughter things, then the loss of Hudson will just be compounded so many times over, at so many points long down the road. It just seems like it would be adding insult to injury—I was able to get a small taste of that special mother-daughter bond, only to have it snatched away from me. Not that another daughter could ever replace Hudson. One of my grief books sort of baldly asserts that when a parent finds herself longing for a subsequent child of the same sex, then she may be looking to replace the dead child. Although that sentence has taken on a life of its own in the back of my mind, I pretty much think it is bullshit. No child could ever replace Hudson, and anyone who thinks differently has never lost a child. Another daughter hitting puberty will not change the fact that I will never get to help Hudson through puberty. Another daughter’s wedding will not change the fact that I will never get to help plan Hudson’s wedding. Another daughter’s pregnancy will not change the fact that I will never get to share Hudson’s pregnancy with her. But I guess my hope is that getting to share those experiences with another daughter will ultimately bring some healing, because the alternative is that I will never stop longing for a mother-daughter relationship for as long as I live—every time I see a mother and daughter together, I will think, “That should be me with Hudson.” And again, even though another daughter could never just take Hudson’s place in that equation, at least I wouldn’t forever feel even more cheated, doubly so, than I already feel having lost her.
I don’t know. As I’m sitting here writing, I’m thinking, “Well, maybe this does sound like I just want a replacement for Hudson.” Because the special relationship I have been denied is with Hudson, not with another child, be it a boy or a girl. It makes sense in my head, but when I write it, it sounds a lot like a rationalization.
In any event, you can see why it’s probably a good idea for us to find out in advance what we are having. If we are having a boy, then we can spend the rest of this pregnancy getting excited about that, buying boy stuff (which we have none of), and learning a little about what things might be different (and, though it fills me with dread to even think about, deciding whether or not to circumcise—argh). If we are having a girl, then we can spend the rest of the pregnancy preparing ourselves that this little girl will not be Hudson, and though she may be like Hudson (as may be a little boy), she will be her own little person, with her own personality and way of doing things (which, of course, is also true for a little boy). That may sound like it should be common sense, but when it comes down to it, I imagine it will be harder than I even anticipate it will.
Wow. This all does make sense in my head. Reading it, though, just makes me scratch my head.