On million dollar families
The house cleaner was dusting around the play kitchen and smiling at the kids. Polly, wearing a blue onesie, was chilling in her swing. “Boy?” she asked, motioning to Polly. “No, she’s a girl,” I responded. “Oh, two girls?” She shook her head with unreserved pity. “That’s too bad.”
“Too bad?” I thought to myself. “How could anyone look at that perfect child and think ‘too bad’ about any aspect of her? And yet this woman was, right to my face: Too bad she was born a girl, because you already have one of those. And who needs two of the same thing, right?
She went on:
“Your husband probably wants a boy. Now you can try for a third.” I bristled, but indulged her in conversation simply to speed it toward a conclusion. Yes. We will try for a third because we want a boy. We will keep having babies until that dream is fulfilled.
The thing is, I get this reaction a lot. Like, a lot. People find out that both kids are girls, rack their brains for some positive spin to cheer me up, and invariably come up with: “Well, at least they can share the same clothes!” (which, I’ll admit, is a bonus). Then they take pity on my husband with a wink and an elbow nudge and a “poor guy.” Because, you know, he’s surrounded by all these girls. He literally chokes on all our glitter and nail polish fumes. Plus he has no progeny with whom to share a hot dog at a sporting event. Obviously.
I knew I would be under pressure to produce male offspring subsequent to my female offpsring as soon as I was pregnant again.
“Do you know what you’re having?” people (literally everyone) would ask. “Let’s hope it’s a boy.” Not, “let’s hope it’s healthy”, or “let’s hope it isn’t born with a tail like my cousin’s kid” or “let’s hope it isn’t an asshole who pushes other kids around”. God forbid. No. Everyone was pulling for baby to be a boy and I had absolutely zero control over it. Nor did I want any. I was in the hospital gripping the wall through contractions and praying for it all to end when a nurse passed by and asked that dreaded question. You know the question: “Do you know what you’re having?” Then: “Here’s hoping it’s a boy!” On the goddamn maternity floor. While I’m standing there in a blue paper gown and slippers, in goddamn labour.
As soon as Polly was born – beautiful and perfect – I was immediately angry at everyone who had been rooting for her maleness. The implication being that – at minutes old – she was already somehow a just a little bit of a disappointment. That she came out just a little bit wrong. And that offends me as her proud mother.
I know I’m not alone. Friends would tell me that people were explicitly disappointment when finding out they were pregnant with their second boy or second girl. Think of it this way: we would never say “let’s hope it’s a (insert gender here)” to anyone carrying their first baby. We condemn cultures that place such a high value on one particular gender, and rightly so. So why is it okay when it’s baby #2 (or 3, 4 or 5)?
I know that we live in a world where perfection is idealized. And arbitrary. The perfect hair, the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect relationship. We’ve constructed a million different ideals and obsess over attaining them. In the family category, despite all of our health and happiness, I have fallen short. I failed to produce a million dollar family. Polly – that beautiful girl with the bright blue eyes and the stop-you-in-your-tracks smile, the girl who came after two crushing miscarriages – she would have made our family perfect if only she had been a he.
It’s funny to think that up until 100 years ago I would have won the lottery simply by virtue of my babies having been born alive and healthy. But that’s not good enough anymore. When did that change? When did one girl and one boy become perfection?
Having two girls or two boys is not like having two of the same pair of socks. It’s not a redundancy because children – regardless of gender and genetics – come with so much variability. Their personalities, their likes and dislikes, the little things that make them unique, are so different from child to child that gender almost has nothing to do with it.
My problem with celebrating million dollar families – and even the term itself – is that it places a value on gender. And that’s dangerous territory. The implication that my family is less than perfect because my two beautiful kids are both girls (or someone else’s family less perfect because their beautiful kids are both boys) is so douchey that I can’t believe the term or the sentiment even exist, let alone are uttered so freely by strangers toward strangers.
If we decide to try for a third baby, it won’t be in an attempt to improve upon what we already have. It will be because we love what we already have, and still have more love to give. It will be because we want another baby, full stop.
For the record, not a day goes by that I don’t feel I won the lottery with Isla and Polly. They aren’t perfect, and we’re not a perfect family (because that doesn’t exist) but not because of anyone’s X or Y chromosomes.
Every family filled with love is a million dollar family. End of story.
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