The clothes in the baby aisles call to me in their soft blues and pinks and I ask myself if this one particular sleeper is cute enough to buy, even though I might not use it. Even after momentary consideration this pregnancy, I've decided not to learn this baby's gender until birth.
I maintain my obvious reasons. After hearing at 21 weeks the most devastating news a parent could hear about their child, that he would die not long after birth, things like whether the unborn baby I am carrying is a boy or a girl just don't seem to matter much. What matters is that his or her head is whole and round, and he or she appears healthy. That is all I can ask for after Gabriel.
Not knowing the baby's gender is also an economically efficient decision. I lovingly stroke the set of onesies with the fireman print, telling myself if she's a girl I can just put a red bow in her hair, but ultimately leaving them on the shelf. Cute baby clothes will still be there when Part 2 is born. He or she doesn't need frilly pink or bold blue sleepers; Eden's yellow and green hand-me-downs will serve just fine until inevitably, a few gifts start rolling in, or we have an opportunity to do some shopping. We have a bassinet, a car seat, a stroller, a crib, and an initial stash of diapers. . . A baby starter kit. We have a house full of love that is prepared to welcome our new baby, even if my nesting instincts remind me daily of one more thing I'd like to have done before Part 2 arrives.
But the core reason that I've chosen not to learn this baby's gender until birth is simply for one more day to dream. I've seen this baby in my mind, a little boy playing in the mud; a little girl learning to ride a bicycle; my son on his first day of kindergarten; my daughter and I picking out her first tube of mascara; a young man pitching in Major League Baseball; a young woman arguing before the Supreme Court. I've seen him, I've seen her and I love this child, no matter who he or she is, but I want one more day for him or her to be anything.
From the minute my heart told me that Gabriel was the boy I had been anticipating for so long, my mind began crafting dreams for him. He might be President, cure cancer, run a world famous restaurant, or become an Olympic Gold Medalist. Those dreams were brought to a sudden, screaming halt by a doctor who wouldn't know me if she saw me on the street, but whose face is burned into my brain as the face of the woman who destroyed my world, and my dreams. Gabriel would never be President, never cure cancer, and would never win an Olympic Gold Medal. I would probably never bring him home from the hospital. There was a significant chance he wouldn't even be born alive.
Gabriel was born alive. The minutes and the hours ticked by, and then the days. I did take him home from the hospital. The dreams that I had re-shaped for him - dreams of a live birth, some hair on the parts of his head that did form, a Catholic baptism, a chance to bring him home to the yellow house - came to fruition.
I know that I got more than the mother of an anencephalic can ask for, and I am thankful. Then ten days that Gabriel lived will carry me for the rest of my life. I know that I've been blessed but I also know that there are children born the same day as Gabriel, and today they're four years old, and my son is dead, and that's a pain that can't always be assauged. I was given an opportunity to come to terms with the fact that my son would die moments after he was born, and he lived for much more than moments, but that doesn't fill the hole that was left when he died ten days after birth. I have those ten days to cling to, but I'd rather be holding my son. I want to be a mother who doesn't have to measure the time she had with her son in days.
The day that the doctor showed me Part 2's beautiful round skull, my guarded heart began to relax. Once you're naivete has been broken by the words "incompatible with life," you know that life is the only thing that really matters. Maybe Part 2 won't be a world-renowned scientist, or Grammy Award Winning singer, or even very good at tee-ball. But my dreams live on another day in the tiny life, whoever he or she is and will be, that grows inside of me.