Rockabye Hope

Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That’s what little girls are made of!

Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of!

What the heck are “snips”? Sounds like what’s leftover after the barber cuts hair.  Snails?  Ew!  And the dog’s tails?  As a child, this poem made me squirm.  When I grew older, I heard another one:

A son is a son until he takes a wife.  But a daughter is your daughter for the rest of her life.

Really?  Sons equal desertion?  And there’s the famous “Boys will be boys.”  Often said to justify inappropriate or violent behavior.

All these unfortunate rhymes (prophecies?) disturbed and saddened me.  You see, I was already blessed with a son, whom I adored.  But back in my twenties, I watched my mother lament that I was the only sibling who ever kept in touch with her.  My brothers gave her the equivalent of an over-the-shoulder nonchalant wave, “See ya! It’s been fun!” after college and poof…..were gone.  I vowed to maintain a close relationship with my own little guy so history would not repeat itself.

Three years later I was pregnant again and (not admitting to anyone how much I was hoping for a girl this time) was ecstatic to be told that I was carrying twins.  A boy and a girl!  The doctors were certain. How wonderful!  Another boy so my son would have a brother (and a playmate!) and now a daughter so I could experience motherhood from the other side of the coin.  Like any mother, I began to fantasize and make preparations.

Fast-forward to delivery day.  “Congratulations!  It’s a boy!”  Long pause.  And finally one brave nurse ventured,  “And…it’s another boy.”  The silence was as sterile as the droning of the metal hospital equipment.  Nobody understood the loss I felt.  She had been real in my head and heart.  Her name was Cassandra.  And now she was gone. It felt like a death. The death of a long-time dream.  What was wrong with me?  Why couldn’t I be happy with what I had?

“We are done having children,” my husband said adamantly.  That was that.  No more chances. His words sucked oxygen from air.  And then to seal his decision, he promptly made an appointment for a vasectomy the day of the twin births.  I heard a door slowly close with a creak, then slam itself shut, and finally deadbolt, echoing the finality of the verdict.

After that I was deemed “severely postpartum” and promptly drugged out of my mind with Prozac.

My mother came over to our home while I was still in the maternity ward to systematically dismantle the pink parts of the decorated nursery.  She returned all the delicate, lacy dresses and hair bows to the boutiques and discreetly replaced them with yet more overalls and Lil’ Slugger pants.  Welcome Home! Friends preached that I should just be happy that my sons were healthy.  “You ungrateful bitch,” I thought I heard them whisper when I turned around.  “Some people cannot have any children at all.”  This was true.

I did everything a new mother does (nursed, sang lullabies, cuddled them) but still I couldn’t shake it.  I was judged and condemned for not loving my little boys. Which was not it, not at all.  Nobody got it.  Nobody got me.  I was alone with my thoughts and the pictures in my head of how things were supposed to be.  Expectations.  Expectations kill reality.  I would rid myself of them all.  Never look forward to the future, lest I be disappointed.  Stay in the present moment.  That’s the only thing they say we have, right?

Five years passed.  And then it came to me.  I had a little girl.  I really did!  She was already here, just waiting for me.  All I had to do was locate her. I would adopt.  International adoption gave me back my hope.  Adoption held the tiny silver key that just might open a window of opportunity where that door had been shut.  A door that I thought had come completely off its hinges, along with my sanity, a long time ago.

And finally there could be some acceptance, compassion and understanding. But it had to come from me as I bestowed it on all four of my little blessings – three sons and a daughter.

Little Miss Menopause at Once Upon Your Prime