A(nother) Farewell to the Daughter I’ll Never Have

Happy Halperts. And yes, I realize they're not actually my friends.

Happy Halperts. And yes, I realize they're not actually my friends.

OK, so Pam and Jim had their baby on The Office last night. (And if you’ve got it DVR’d and haven’t watched yet, go away now and come back later, because spoilers are ahead).

They had a girl.

I want a girl. I really, really do. And for all the ridiculous reasons — the clothes are cuter, the hair is more fun (if more work); and for all the selfish reasons, or the one major selfish reason. I want a MiniMe. Or a version of me with a big dose of my husband. Here’s an essay I wrote on the subject, for American Baby, published in their January, 2007 issue, but written probably in 2005, when my James was several months old:

Girl of My Dreams

My daughter was going to be named Margot Mary. The first name we loved for being feminine, not girly; familiar, not overused. The middle name was for my grandmother. As my belly grew, so did my desire to have a girl. Still, I had a feeling that my bump was all boy, and sure enough, when the time came, we greeted Daniel and tucked away Margot’s name for later.

The next go around—surprise!—out came James. I fell in love with him quickly, but I also mourned my Margot, the girl I’ll never have.

Okay, go ahead and say it: why not try for the girl I really want? While not technically “too old,” I’ll be past 40 if I wait even a bit after James’s infancy. I love my children, but I also love my body, my sanity, and my relationship with my husband. Mostly, I’m just so stunned and grateful for these robust boys that I don’t want to push my luck.

Besides, my family is lousy with girls. My sister has two daughters (and, okay, a son). One cousin has three little girls. And when James was 3 months old, my younger cousin gave birth to her first child: a girl.

I took James with me to shop for a gift for Isabella, but when I steered the stroller into the section festooned with infant girls’ clothing, I had to steer straight out again. I couldn’t bring myself to fondle the tiny pink bodysuits or to judge the size of the sweet summer dress with its matching poufy pantaloons. I love boys’ clothes for their rugged, little-man look, but let’s face it, baby girls’ clothes are just too darn cute. I had to hightail it out of the store before anyone could see the dopey mom crying into the layette sets.

Lots of women imagine having a daughter. I dreamed up my actual daughter: she would have a riot of auburn curls, like my mother’s, and her dad’s big blue eyes. I would pass on my stubborn streak; my appreciation for the color red (and why it beats pink); my love of Little House on the Prairie; and, eventually, her great-great grandmother’s blue satin and lace garter, which all of us girls wore on our wedding day. Plus, I’d give her the best kind of father a girl could have – the kind of man who should raise daughters, because he’s so even-tempered and uncomplicatedly loving.

I realize that I can give versions of these things to my sons. They may never wish that Laura Ingalls was their best friend, but they can have a red rug in their bedroom. They can hand the family garter to the women they marry. But best of all is what my sons are already giving me, as they help me rewrite my celluloid motherhood fantasy – Woman Wanting Girl – with themselves in the lead roles. Without that old film running in an endless loop, I’m free to have fun with the reality of boys, their hit-and-run hugs, their take-no-prisoners play. In return I hope I can show them, but what kind of woman I strive to be, that they can love strong women and remain strong men. I hope they’re a lot like their father.

I don’t suspect I’ll stop grieving for my Margot very soon, but someday, maybe, two very lucky girls will grow up to meet my sons. And I can always fantasize about granddaughters.

I am revisiting this now not so much because of that new little fictional daughter (but kudos to the producers for, first of all, actually having a real newborn and not a chubby 6 month old in the role of Cecelia Marie Halpert, and second of all, how hilarious was it when Pam accidentally nursed her roommate’s child instead of her own?!), but because it’s been a few years since I wrote that, and my feelings have not changed.

In fact, they’ve intensified. As I’ve written here, we’ve had a baby boom in the family, and it’s not gone unnoticed by my boys. When I had James, Daniel was not quite two; bringing the baby home was barely a blip in his toddler-centric world. And now, for both of them, there is no life without the other, no memory of time alone (for James it’s the truth, for Daniel it’s the perception, but there’s no practical difference).

But now? Now, both of them would be excellent big brothers. And now, argh! They’re asking for a baby.

Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s normal. There are all these babies in the family, they know babies come from mommies, and so they turn to their mommy and say some version of, “hey mom, got a baby in there, by any chance?”

Just makes it more bittersweet that, no, there are no babies in there.

And so — thanks for indulging me here — I’m left saying another fond, sad goodbye to the Margot who never was.