Tuesday, March 06, 2018

My daughter

With the birth of Beni came a deep sadness that took me half a year to throw off. (Perhaps I love him more fiercely because I was sad at his birth. The heart does strange things.)

I was sad because finally, after two decades of waiting for my daughter, I knew she would never come to me. There would be no more children and my sons were all I was getting. For all that I acknowledged that I was lucky to have such beautiful, healthy, loving babies, I could not stop myself crying almost daily as I remembered that I would never have a daughter. Till then I had not realised how much of my very being had been built around the daughter that I would have one day. I had taught myself things, built my little library, carefully saved my favourite clothes, monitored my thinking, my politics, my feminism, all for a daughter I will never have. I had little boxes of buttons set aside for little dresses that I would never make. Ribbons for little ponytails I will not tie. All around me were reminders that life followed its own wishes, not mine.

Even after Rahul was born the pain had not been so deep. Somewhere deep inside me there remained a defiant little hope, completely without foundation, that whispered at the world, 'Just wait till my daughter comes. Then you'll all see.' It gave me the strength to keep picking myself up because I needed to show my daughter that she must be strong too, so I could not afford to fall myself.

Nor did all the stories my friends and family told me make me feel any different. Their stories of daughters who were anything but dutiful, daughters who did not live up to their mother's wishes (which daughter does, though), daughters who were little tomboys, daughters who loathed cutesy buttons and ribbons, all these washed over me without the slightest lifting of the pain.

Part of the deep sadness was the thought that so much ends with me. Maybe there will be granddaughters one day who will want to learn what I have to teach, but it's not a thought that brings any real comfort. It's too ephemeral. It made me understand some of my father's frustration that neither my brother nor I share his interests and so much of what he has to teach will go with him. It startled me to realise my mother too felt a similar sadness at the thought of generations of daughters ending with me. We all mourned a child that never came to us even as we cuddled and adored the ones that did.

Three years have passed since then. I changed. As I accepted my reality, as Beni became more and more his fiery self, as thoughts of all that might have been were ousted through the sheer exhaustion of keeping up with all that is, I slowly moved away from the world of girls. Now I find myself an outsider looking in. In a gathering I am more likely to be found around the little boys than the girls, because I don't know how to talk to little girls any more. I don't know how they think and my awkwardness shows. Last week I started stitching little bits of cloth I'd hoarded into clothes for myself. I gave Beni the cute buttons to play with and break and lose. I no longer save clothes for anybody at all. Daily I remind myself and accept all over again that whatever makes up my life ends with me, that is how it is and that is how it should be. Somewhere there is perhaps a little girl relieved to have been spared the weight of my heavy expectations.


Shuktara said...

Not that I expect you to understand why, but I related on so many levels to this. I have thought, felt this too.

Mala said...

Hugs. I have 3 adorable little boys, and went through much of the same. I know exactly what you mean about a line of strong girls ending- from my remarkable nani to my mom to me.

Anonymous said...

Consider adoption

Sue said...

Shuki - I thought over your comment and yes, I can see why you'd relate. It's amusing how similar our very different lives are, sometimes. Also, thank you for adding that perspective.

Mala - We'll just have to bring up men we can be proud of sending out into the world, right? :)

Anon - Yeah, we did, it didn't work out. And now we're done with additions to the family. (As a gentle thought, maybe don't toss that out so casually without context to a stranger. It doesn't hurt me, but I know women who would grieve at your comment because their adoption plans failed.)

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile there are people like me who are trying very hard to have children and going through rounds of failed IVF cycles and worrying about if I am every going to have a child or not. I understand how much you love your boys and how strongly you think about raising them right. Enjoy what you have. Someday two daughters in law will walk into your life and there could be grand daughters. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Sorry didnt mean to hurt you.
As a person who is unable to bear any child, thats the last thing i would want to do. I am grieving myself for last couple of years. Decided myself not to go for IVF as i dont see that as the only means. i am in queue for adoption for last 6 months, dont even know when that will end (or will it).
anyways, Everyone has a context. i know all of us are battling our inner demons.
Have been reading your blog for sometime, the two words i wrote were straight from my heart.
Sorry again!

Sue said...

Anon 1 - I'll do better: I'll focus on the boys I do have and let the future take care of itself!

Anon 2 - Sorry for the late response. I know you didn't mean to hurt and I wasn't hurt for myself. I hope your baby reaches you soon too. All the best!