Loco Parentis: In All Possible Worlds -The Toast

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I’m currently pregnant with my second child and I thought I’d heard every pregnancy comment and fielded every pregnancy question that existed. But I was wrong. This will be our last baby and when people learn that, they sometimes say something like, “I hope it’s a girl.”

We don’t actually know the sex of this baby yet, but my first child is a son. He’s healthy and perfect, a dreamy, easy-going toddler. But people seem to think that without a girl my family would be incomplete. Their level of concern suggests that I’d be missing something big and important, something I really, really don’t want to miss.

When they say this, I don’t know how to respond. It’s not usually phrased as a question, so no answer is necessary. If it was, how would I respond? Do I want a girl? Yes. I do. But it’s more complicated than that.

The truth is, I want all my possible children. I want a daughter, yes. But I also want a little brother for my son. I want the version of my child that plays piano like my mother and guitar like my husband.

I want the child that has my father’s wit and my grandfather’s artistic eye. I want the son who will become a writer. The daughter who will be an airline pilot. I want the one who will have five children and bring them to our house for Thanksgiving every year. I want the one who moves away and sends us postcards from places we’ve never been.

I want one with her father’s sense of direction and one who’s always lost, like me. I know they’re all out there, living in the hypothetical multiverse of potential genetic recombinance. My sons. My daughters. I want them all.

For me, it doesn’t break down so smoothly along gender lines. I don’t think there are just two kinds of kid and that once you have one of each you somehow “have it all.” I think the variations are endless and that they really don’t have much to do with gender at all. Would it be sad not to have a daughter? Sure. But no sadder than not having a child who likes Star Trek or shares my passion for cheesecake or reads or rollerblades or plays ping pong on the weekends. Every possibility seems amazing.

Of course, I’ll be okay with just one more happy, healthy child. Whoever he or she is, that will be enough. But in my fantasy, I would live in all possible worlds. I would know them all. I would stroke their curly hair, their straight hair, their brown hair, their red hair. I’d touch their freckles and scars. They’d be tall and short and thin and thick. They’d be funny and charming and athletic and sensitive and careful and careless and carefree.

There would be so many, I couldn’t possibly name them all, but I’d love them anyway. Sometimes I can feel them, already living inside my heart. It makes me sad to know that most of them are children I’ll never get to meet.

But I am grateful for the opportunity to meet this one more. And whether it’s a girl or a boy doesn’t matter. It’s mine. And I already can’t wait to find out who it is.

Aubrey Hirsch is the author of Why We Never Talk About Sugar. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Rumpus, Brain, Child Magazine and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter: @aubreyhirsch.

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