Dear New Parents: A Warning

I was one of the few people I knew who didn’t find out the sex of my child before she was born. My rationale: humans have had to wait for the moment of birth for thousands of years, why not me? What is the benefit of knowing against a mystery that connects you to the very earliest parents buying a crib for their cave? Having the room painted the right color from the spectrum? A closet full of tiny pink dresses on tiny pink hangars? So people would ask if I knew whether I was having a boy or a girl and I would say, “Nope.” It was funny to watch their faces droop for that split second while they tried to make sense of my answer. “Well then,” they all said every time, “All that matters is that it’s healthy!”

Through all the amnios, and sonograms, and blood tests, and examinations of the contents of my growing belly, the question was silently asked and answered. Was my baby healthy?

I remember thinking please just let this baby be delivered healthy, like it was a sailboat on a harrowing but exhilarating nine-month trip around the world with the hope it would drift safely back into port.

Waking up in my hotel room bed in an unexpected pool of blood: Was my baby healthy? In the ambulance ride to the hospital: Was my baby healthy? Lying in a hospital bed a few hundred miles from Atlanta after being told I may have to spend the next four months in a hospital in Washington D.C.: Was my baby healthy?

And then I was sitting on the bed in her room, holding her swaddled body in my forearms. Her head cradled in my hands, her face was red and chubby under the hospital beanie. “I waited so long for you,” I husked at her scrunchy little face. “And you are finally here.” And in that same moment, in that nursery with the deep blue painted walls, I looked at her and the horrible truth came upon me. The whole “healthy baby” thing was a scam, a crock of shit. Was every human who had ever had a child in on the joke? I imagined all the people who had mock-assuringly said “all that matters is that it’s healthy” waiting until my back was turned to give each other a yuk-yuk vaudeville wink.

I looked at her and realized that I would never take another breath without the specter and terror of her death hanging over me. I knew then that in every breath – in my last breath – I would be worried about her fucking health. This was no wavy sailboat navigation around the world, I had just been placed in the command module of a spaceship hurtling into space on its way to Planet OMG with absolutely no knowledge of any of the dials or instruments.

All right all you parents-to-be out there, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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