When I was pregnant (long, long ago), people would ask me, “Do you want a boy or a girl?” I would say ‘Either’ and folks would inevitably respond, ‘As long as it is healthy!” To this response, I would shake my head no, and say, “As long as it is cute.”
My children were born from 1985 to 1993. Prenatal ultrasounds were available but not as pervasive as today so there was not yet an expectation that every pregnant woman would know the gender of their unborn yet. Today, the prenatal question “Do you want a boy or a girl?” has morphed into “Is is a boy or a girl?”. And still, “As long as it is healthy” is chimed as the chorus.
By the time I was pregnant, I had given a lot of thought to this verbal sing-song. Boy. Girl. Unknown. All three answers were culturally acceptable. But healthy, now that was something everyone wanted.
As a midwife assistant, a labor and delivery nurse, as a cognizant human being, I knew that healthy was not what everyone got.
It seemed to me that it was unfair for unhealthy babies to be gestated with the idea that they were not ok. I wanted my babies to feel loved, to feel that they were perfect, even if they were unhealthy, had extra chromosomes, or any deformity.
As a child myself, I spent time on playgrounds and in classrooms. I knew that children could be cruel. Heck, I knew that the world could be cruel. Especially to kids that were different or unhealthy.
As I child growing up in the Midwest in the 1960s, I won the genetic-cultural lottery: I had blond hair, blue eyes, full lips, just enough chub to be adorable (not enough to be deemed fat). I was cute.
As a thoughtful human being (beginning around age 4), I noticed that the world (grown-ups, kids, even shop clerks) were nicer to cute kids than not cute kids.
On the playground, I noticed that the children that were both ugly and unhealthy….Well, their life looked really, really hard.
I decided early on that I really wanted to be a mommy and that I would love my babies no matter what. I also knew that the world would be nicer to my babies more if they were cute.
As a young woman, I really did not prefer to have boys or girls. Nor did I want to know my baby’s gender born birth: I really loved the idea of having a mystery inside me.
And I really hoped that my babies would be cute, not for my sake, but for their own. Grownups, kids, even shop clerks all smile for cute babies.
Life is hard. But being cute makes it a lot easier.
May all babies be born into loving hands