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Is the Baby You Get the Baby You Deserve?

Writer Rachel Coyne wanted a girl. Really badly. Then she had a boy. And another boy. Now she’s mourning the loss of the girl she dreamed of on Salon.com. Coyne’s case is pretty extreme. She’d been actively fantasizing about having a daughter for most of her life, keeping lists of names and a rather elaborate fantasy about what life with her daughter was going to be like.

I’d say that’s a red flag right there, whether or not the baby happened to turn out to be the sex she’d hoped.

When you’re pregnant, it’s nearly impossible not to fantasize about what life with your kids will be like. I had ideas about my kids, dreams about doing things with them, how they might act, where we might live. Those things are fine in themselves. The problem is when you get so attached to those dreams that you feel deprived by the reality you end up with.

As in Coyne’s case: “The universe owes me a daughter.”

In some ways I think Coyne is really brave for coming out so baldly with her longing. But I’m also a little concerned about how she seems to be viewing parenting in general.

“As a parent, I’m not sure how to reconcile my deep wish that the boys bond through playing together and the reality that every game they invent is violent… I can’t help thinking that if my sons were girls they would be wearing the fairy wings I saw today in a catalog and pretending to fly.”

Now, my daughter loves her some fairy wings. But she also likes to wrestle, and her sibling games are as much about violence and manipulation as “bonding”. Kids act the way they act, not the way their parents imagine they will…before they even have kids.

Fantasizing about your future kids can be a fun way to try on parenthood- I would never discourage anyone from letting their imagination run.  But I would advise Rachel Coyne, and everyone, to keep the fantasy in perspective.  The loss she feels is real. But it’s also inevitable when you’ve got such a set idea of how things “should” be. I wouldn’t go so far as scolding Coyne for complaining when people have much tougher realities. I’m all for complaining if it makes you feel better.  I really feel for her, and anyone who suffers through this kind of deep longing.  But I do think she’d be a lot happier if she could learn to let go of what she imagined and try to appreciate what she’s got. Wouldn’t we all?

photo: Susan Averello/Flickr

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