My sister-in-law is having a baby–her first baby– in May. Of course, we’re giddy with delight over here. Miss D. and Miss M. have been demanding cousins since, well, birth. We also just found out that this new cousin is going to be of the girl variety. Miss D. pouted a bit over that bit of news; she much prefers the company of boys.
Girls are, as D. puts it, “boring to play with.” Now, this comes from the mouth of a child who has never played with a doll or a Barbie for more than five minutes. But hey, if there’s a stray stick in the yard, she’s all over it. Sticks! Poking stuff! Awesome!
My sister-in-law has been on my mind lately. I’m thrilled that she’s having a girl. I can tell, though, that she is a little frightened by that prospect, and I completely understand.
I wanted a girl desperately. Shamelessly. And of course, when you’re that selfish, it comes back to bite you. Karma’s a bitch.
The complete elation I felt when I learned that D. was, indeed, a girl, lasted about 24 hours. After the initial frenzy of Think Pink! e-mails and plundering the store shelves for the frilliest clothes I could find, the romance was over. Not only was it over, it was replaced by the Anvil of Despair.
I was having a girl.
You know what happens to girls, don’t you?
Their mothers fuck them up.
Panicked, I called my mother. “I’m having a girl. A daughter.” I almost couldn’t breathe. “Jesus. I’m going to fuck her up.”
“You’re not fucked up, and you’re a girl,” she said.
“That’s because you slapped me into therapy in the 7th grade and I’ve gone every week of my life ever since,” I said. “That’ll never happen with this one. We totally don’t have that kind of money.”
“We did have excellent insurance,” my mother concurred.
“How do you do it?” I said.
I was having a nervous episode and my mother was ironing, I could tell.
“How do you not fuck up your daughter?”
“If you recall, your sister’s gotten 6 DUI’s and hasn’t had a job in four years.”
“That’s what I mean!” I hissed. “What the Hell did you do to her?”
Now this is completely absurd. My mother was one of those mothers who cooked dinner every night and never ran out of Band-Aids or emergency lollipops and never, not even once, made me eat the hot lunch at school.
“I can’t really tell you anything,” she said. “They either just turn out or…they don’t.”
I sulked for a minute. “That’s completely inadequate. There’s got to be a way to fix things.”
“I don’t believe God takes bribes. Actually, thinking back on your sister, I can tell you that he definitely doesn’t.”
“Mom. You should know this stuff. All mothers should know this stuff; it should be a rule or something.”
There was a long pause. Wench was still ironing. “Do you remember that old joke about what makes a successful marriage?”
“Is this relevant or should I just cut my losses and hang up now?”
My mother ignored me. “The joke was, in order for a marriage to work, immediately after the honeymoon, the wife has to become blind and the husband has to become deaf.”
“I guess there’s sort of another part to that,” she said. “If you become a mother, the only way to do it successfully is to rip your heart out and throw it into oncoming traffic, because that’s what your child is going to do to you anyways.”
“I did that to you?”
“Every day since birth.”
That little tidbit necessitated a call to the InShrinkerator. “Um, hi. I’mgoingtofuckmydaughterupreallyreallybad!”
At this point I was actually foaming at the mouth. “She’s not even born yet but I’m going to destroy her by inches, and I won’t even know it. I’ll think I’m doing a good job but really I suck! And everything is going to be my fault.”
“Have you been taking your Prozac with margaritas again?” he said.
After ten minutes of listening to the Doomsday speech, he cut me off mid-rant. “Dana, you might not want to hear this,” he said, “but some things are better left to faith. Just take it a day at a time. It will be okay.”
As if I’d fall for that crock of garbage.
I called my friend Bette, who has the dubious distinction of being the Only Person Who Tells Me the Truth. Which means that most of the time I completely loathe her, but she’s usually right.
“Yep, you’re gonna fuck her up,” she said. “But there’s really nothing you can do about it. Just shoot for minimal damage. If she grows up and she’s not a serial killer, ya done good, kid.”
“How does this not make you completely insane?”
“You know, once you’re in the mommy zone, there’s so much other stuff going on that you sort of forget about it. You just don’t have the time to worry about that crap when there’s seven feet of laundry on the floor and someone just peed in the kitchen.”
That next week, I made it my mission to ask every woman with offspring for advice. I accosted complete strangers in the drugstore and the dry cleaners. I even asked the Hungarian lady who has the distasteful job of handling my monthly bikini wax. And these women, being generous creatures, happily gave advice.
“Never give up hope or alcoholic beverages.”
“Relax. It only lasts for eighteen years.”
Maybe Ika said it best. “Bah!” she said, ripping a strip of prime real estate from my nether regions. “Why you even bother thinking about this?”
I gripped the table, eyes watering.
“People—they never know nothing. We all full of shit.”
“You just do good job growing that baby girl,” she said, pointing to my belly. She gave another ruthless pull. “The rest up to her.”
Maybe I will fuck her up, or maybe I’ll really be able to have faith, or maybe I’ll just self-medicate until she’s grown so I don’t have to witness it all.
But my mother is right about one thing—somewhere, out on a freeway, there’s a heart with my daughter’s name written all over it.