Dear Babies –
I have dreamt about you for years. I imagined what it would feel like to carry you in my belly, to secretly curse you for the bouts of morning sickness and weight gain you brought on, and to publicly revel in your (messy and awesome) entrance into this world. I toyed around with your names, adding this literary reference and that family member until I settled on the right mathematical equation that could properly identify you for the rest of your life. I thought about your grubby hands digging into your first birthday cake and your face when you saw the ocean for the first time. I played out troubling scenarios and how I would handle them: chicken pox, your first broken bone, your first broken heart. I visualized you moving away, getting married, having children… How you and the family you will make would surround me as I took my last breath. How after I left this world, you’d be there to carry on my story: those silly faces your Nonie made, the way she would sing out of key, the birthday cake she baked every year, how she surrounded herself with books and printed paper. How she smelled like vanilla and pen ink.
I’ve pictured you, hoped for you, waited for you. And now, selfishly, I pray that you don’t come.
There are some things I don’t know how to explain to you; some ways that people act that are beyond my comprehension. I don’t know if I can handle bringing you into a world filled with violence, fear, and pain.
I don’t think there’s any way to prepare for the day you ask me, “Why?” Because, my sweet babies, I won’t know how to answer and I believe you deserve a better response than “I don’t know.”
You see, my loves, when you are born, the world has already stacked its cards against you.
If you are a man you’ll be told to “man up,” “suck it up,” “crying is for girls,” and “don’t be a pussy.” You will see images of how men should look and behave, what their accomplishments should be, how you should rate success. If you’re gay, they’ll tell you that you are going to burn in hell. If you’re straight, you’ll be inundated with images of masculinity that often demoralize and objectify the female gender.
If you’re a woman you’ll be told to close your legs so people don’t think you’re a slut, close your mouth so people don’t think you’re bossy, and cover yourself because your body makes men lose their concentration. You’ll be flooded with images of the ideal body type, whatever happens to be in vogue at the time. By the time you are born, you will still not be considered equal to a man. The truth is, even if you are paid the same, even if you are awarded similar opportunities, you will still have to work harder for them.
And, children, these “real life scenarios” are going to be in complete contrast to what I will teach you on a daily basis. As your mother, I am going to teach you that it’s okay to cry and it’s more than okay to speak your mind. Whatever skin color you may end up being, whatever sexual orientation, whatever gender, whatever disability you may or may not have, I will teach you that you are equal to other people. You are no better, no more special, but you are also not worth abuse, improper treatment, or discrimination. If the words “fat” or “wrong” or “ugly” ever enter your body vocabulary, I will teach you to unlearn them, because there is no ugly way to build a human, so long as we have hearts for loving.
And still, when you look at the world I’ve brought you into and you ask me “Why?”, I will not know how to respond.
At first we “remembered” 9/11, then we “prayed” for San Bernadino, Sandy Hook, Charleston. We changed our images on social media to reflect the lives lost in Belgium and Paris. We wept at the news coverage (or lack of news coverage, as the case may be) of Iraq, Kenya, Turkey, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. And then we got angry.
Our leaders and our people began pointing fingers. They talked big talk about deportation, alienation, segregation. They screamed “you you you!” and failed to look at “us us us.” People who needed our help, refugees from war-torn countries like Syria were turned away or blamed for radical violence. Instead of welcoming victims who suffered from war crimes and Ground Zero-level devastation into our homes and our hearts, we accused them of being the problem. We shut our doors to our neighbors, many times because their religion or skin color differed from ours. Many times because we were scared.
This hatred ignited the hatred that was already deeply rooted within some factions of not-so-good people. This made them even angrier and so they continued to bring violence and terror to a world already bereft of security. Tens of people, hundreds of people, thousands of people killed in the name of God and country. ISIS, Al Queda, Boko Haram… these are names you will learn alongside Johnny Appleseed and Yankee Doodle, though these names are devastatingly more real. You will not know a life without them.
And all of this will seem crazy to you, because I will spend my whole life telling you that people are inherently good. My first and last lesson to you will always be that you are meant to love and be loved. That is all. That is what life is. I will tell you of a God that is good and kind, a God that asks you to accept the person next to you as someone worth loving, no matter what his or her differences may be, no matter if he or she serves a different God or no God at all.
I will teach you that violence is the result of misplaced fear and anger and that fear and anger are misplaced love.
Like the great Neil Young says, only love can break your heart. My children, a broken heart is some of the worst pain you will ever know. That being said, the type of pain that stems from a broken heart is a reminder that you did something worth doing. No matter how much it hurts, no matter how much you want to scream and kick and cry and curse and drink and spit and slug someone in the face, a broken heart is a sign that you are good. You loved. You felt something worth feeling, you gave life’s most precious gift, and that pain should be a reminder that you felt and shared and gave because you were strong and right and beautiful. As much as it may hurt your heart now, as much as you want to run away from the discomfort, know that I celebrate your ability to love. I know you will one day do the same.
My darlings, you with your big hearts and your open minds may be in the minority. You may very well be different, strange even. You may be surrounded by images of violence and destruction. You may be in a war with the climate that, yes, was our problem to fix and I’m not sure that we have or will. You may be saturated with images of ego and superficial braggadocio. You may have to wait years for the right partner and you may even go through several best friends before finding the right fit. You may feel that you are entirely, utterly alone with your feelings, with your thoughts, with your moral compass. But know this, my loves, that you choose the people who surround you and you can choose to sift through the sand until you find the pearls. And those pearls, oh my darlings, those pearls are worth every breath in your miraculous body. They will be the people who know you for the size of your heart and not the size of your wallet. They will create beautiful, lasting memories with you. They will challenge you to be a better self, a more genuine, wholehearted self. They will be your crutch when I can’t be there for you and they are worth their weight in gold (or whatever mineral has the most value in your time).
I fear the day you ask me “Why?” I fear the day you look at me and look at the world I left you and demand to know how we all let it get so bad. I don’t know how to answer the whys and hows and buts, because I am asking them too. You see, I was taught to love too. I was taught to sift through the darkness and find the light. I was taught that when no light could be found, that I must then be the light.
And, yes, my babies, being the light does make you feel lonely at times.
It’s scary for the sun to be out there in the sky, all by himself. But if you look closely, when the sun has laid down his head to rest, when the world seems its darkest, that’s when we see the stars. And how can we ever call ourselves lonely with a sky full of wishes to be made and light to be shared?
Your Future Mom