I've heard it dozens of times and said it myself at least that many:
"I don't care whether it's a boy or girl. All that matters is that it's healthy."
It is an answer that really has nothing to do with pink or blue. It's something we say in an effort to show that we will love our child unconditionally.
Since Collin came into my life, though, these words have taken on new meaning to me. For a while, they hurt my feelings (My son isn't healthy. Does he not matter?). Then, they made me angry (Would you say 'All that matters is that it's smart?!). But finally, I think I see this statement for what it is: a way to block ourselves from thinking about the worst possibilities. It is a hopeful assumption that all will be well. Which, in a way, is perfectly natural. Who doesn't wish for the best for themselves and their child? But I've come to think that in closing our eyes to potential complications or hardships, we actually do ourselves a disservice in preparing for parenthood.
Because what if something is wrong? What if, in counting the proverbial 10 perfect fingers and toes, something doesn't add up? What if an examination of your precious one brings worried looks to the doctor's face? What if the uttering of a diagnosis causes your imagined experience of motherhood or fatherhood to fall away and leaves you stranded in a world no parent would choose? That would be terrifying, wouldn't it?
Yes. It would.
To you, expecting parent, I say: Don't be afraid to be me.
I -- my life, my son -- am the thing you are hoping won't happen. Many of the 'what if's came true for me. You think you wouldn't be able to bear the impossible decisions, the heartbreak, the crushing uncertainty. But you would. You would do whatever you had to do.
And the thing is that my life is good. Really good. Not make-the-most-of-what-we-ended-up-with good. More like so-much-better-than-I-could-have-thought-to-ask-for good. It is rich and full of beauty because of Collin. Your life will hold love and happiness, too, regardless of the physical or developmental characteristics that come along with your precious little one.
Yes, we've endured horrors; but I can't help but think that they wouldn't have been quite so horrific if I hadn't denied all outcomes other than health and perfection before Collin came. Of course, there is no sense in dwelling on everything that might go wrong. That will drive you crazy and steal your joy. But ignoring those possibilities will do the very same thing by creating a false security that hinges on a completely uncontrollable factor.
So, the next time someone asks you about your preferences regarding your child, take heart. Take it as an opportunity to step out of the whirlwind of showers and registries and nursery planning and remind yourself of the magnitude of what's happening. See your coming parenthood in all of its scary and wonderful possibility. Remember that all that matters about this child is that it's yours. And answer with confidence that you will love this little one, no matter what.