“Do you want to know what it is?” the doctor asked, gliding the sonogram wand over my belly.
“It’s a girl,” he said, smiling.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want a girl. I didn’t know what I wanted. But I had assumed she was a he. I felt shaken, psychically blindsided. I didn’t see it coming. It was good news. I was having a baby; the baby was healthy; the baby was a girl. Double X. XXX OOO, hugs and kisses – mom. It took me weeks to get used to the idea. I wasn’t even sure what exactly the problem was – and then I realized. My mother. I was afraid that I wasn’t just giving birth to a baby girl, but that the baby girl would be my biological mother. I pictured my daughter being born: fifty years old, her hair in a beehive, smoking some sort of extra-long, mentholated lady cigarette and clutching a glass of Harvey’s Bristol Creme. I was having flashbacks of the day my recently discovered biological mother implored me, “You should adopt me and take care of me.”
My answer was, “No. That’s not possible.” What if the baby was like my mother? What if she was crazy, wild, impossible to please? What if I hated her?
I was a wreck – imagining an infant Linda Blair in my belly, imagining something akin to a gremlin with a vague physical resemblance to myself. A girl. I thought of all the girls I hated growing up, girls who were mean to me, girls who were catty, bitchy, who made a point of not including me and letting me know, girls who were too cool, girls who were too perfect, girls who everyone liked. The fact was, I kind of hated girls.
I thought of myself as a former girl child. I was awful. I screamed at my (adoptive) mother. I swore at her, railing day and night against everything and anything. “I will not wear this, I will not go to school, you can’t make me and I’m going to prove it.” Punk rock may well have been named after me. “I am an anarcaster . . .” My mother would try and wrestle me into clothes and out the door and would finally give up crying. “I hope one day you have a little girl who is just like you,” she would say. “I hope I do,” I’d spit back, defiantly. I was not a good girl, was not a pleasant girl and often would have sworn I wasn’t even a girl.
When I told my mother I was pregnant, she was horrified. “It’s very difficult raising children, ” she said, as though somehow, in retrospect, she thought we hadn’t turned out okay. And still defiant, I said, “I’m not worried. ” I was lying.
As my belly grew bigger and the idea more familiar, I got more comfortable with the fact that my baby was a girl. After all, if I played my cards right, maybe my apartment wouldn’t really end up filled with pink toys and Barbie dolls.
Before she was born, I had another odd moment, thinking, What if she’s bald? I couldn’t imagine having a bald child. I had been born with a full head of hair – thick hair that stood straight up, like a rocket ship launching. I couldn’t imagine bonding with a bald baby. Just thinking about it, I had visions of Dancing Baby Cha-Cha, the animated internet infant in a diaper who wiggled in weird ways. I said nothing, but a few weeks later the obstetrician, with his sono wand again in hand, pointed to something on the screen: “See that circle around her head?” “Yes,” I said, worried. Was he was going to tell me something was wrong? “That’s hair,” he said, “She’s got hair.” I sighed, priorities corrected, glad that nothing was wrong and secondarily that she wasn’t bald.