a pink onesie
Of all the new baby clothes I have for little Esme, only one item is pink. It also happens to be the very first article of clothing I acquired after finding out I was pregnant. It happened on an icy February day. I had done a home pregnancy test that showed a positive, and immediately called to inquire about getting free prenatal care from the good state of Indiana (i.e. prenatal care for poor folks). I was told I needed a more official proof of pregnancy and that the Women’s Care Center, a not-for-profit organization, offered a free test that was considered official. One of their locations happened to be right around the corner from our apartment, so I put on my coat and scarf and walked the two blocks to get the test.
I provided a urine sample, and while waiting for the results a very nice middle-aged man and young woman sat down with me in a small private room and went through a lot of questions. Then they left me alone in the room for some time. When they came back, they had lots of stuff in their hands to give me. I was pregnant, they said, and congratulated me and handed me brochures on nutrition and fetal development, coupons for baby stuff, and samples. They also handed me a sealed plastic bag with a tiny onesie, a pair of newborn socks, and a note from the nuns of a Catholic convent. I suppose these nuns donate onesies to all the pregnant women who pass through the Women’s Care Center, perhaps to remind them that it is a real human being growing in them, thus discouraging them from abortion. The middle-aged man picked a pink one for me, though at that point it was anyone’s guess whether I’d have a girl. He guessed it would be a girl.
As my pregnancy progressed I desperately wanted an ultrasound to find out the gender of our baby. I never got one. My doctor said the state program didn’t cover one unless there was a medical reason. As my pregnancy was consistently healthy and normal, there was never a reason. People kept asking Jeff and me whether we knew it was a boy or girl and we kept answering that we didn’t know…but that we wished we did.
Not knowing either way allowed my imagination to take over. I got it into my head that I was carrying a boy. I can’t answer how or why this is so. I probably told dozens of people that I “had a feeling” it was a boy, “not because I want a boy more than a girl,” I always tacked on. In any case, the boy of my imagination grew into an almost real boy, with a name and disposition. It seemed to be happening without my permission: the imaginary boy. As our newborn layette started filling out, I kept the onesie but left it in its plastic bag, fully expecting that I would have to give it away to someone else who was having a girl.
It wasn’t just gender that I was imagining. I was projecting all kinds of thoughts, fears, and expectations onto our unborn child. I knew it was useless, delusional, and just plain impossible, but my mind just kept doing it. I was eager to jump the gun, to know who this person was going to be, what he or she was going to be like. What would he or she look like? What would he or she be good at? Would he or she be left or right-handed? Have straight or curly hair? Green eyes or brown? In some ways I think choosing a phantom gender was just one way that my brain could narrow down and get a handle on assigning some kind of personhood to the fetus inside me. Did I really hope for a boy? I’m not so sure. In some ways I think that I was secretly hoping for a girl, and to protect myself from disappointment, just decided to accept that it would probably be a boy. Or maybe it was some freudian desire to propogate myself in male form. I honestly don’t know what lurks beneath the surface of my convoluted ego.
Nevertheless, in conclusion, hearing my doctor say calmly and firmly, “It’s a girl,” when Esme came out, thrilled me to the bones. It confirmed that all of this is beyond me, no matter how convincing the phantoms my mind creates. I can’t make one hair on my head black or white. My child is already throwing me curve balls and I hope she keeps doing so. I dressed Esme in the pink onesie yesterday, and now it lies in the bottom of her dirty laundry basket. It’s a symbol of everything that is beyond me. I thought of all of this when I read Amber’s (Lucy’s) recent blog entry that says, “I am reminded…that all my thoughts and mental maneuvers are of little worth. It is a reminder that my responsibility is to do the next best thing. And a reminder that more often than not the next best thing is prayer.”