Monday, March 02, 2009

The boy business. Or, heavy baggage.

I don't think about my brother much anymore.

Or at least, I don't think I do.

But I will tell you very candidly that when they told me all the initial amnio results were fine, I was elated. And when they told me it was a boy, I started to cry.

The crying turned into sobbing, turned into hysteria, turned into rage. It wasn't pretty.

I had a preference, sure. But I was entirely unprepared for my overwhelmingly negative reaction.

And because I recognized that I should be thankful that the human I'm creating is healthy, I felt so ashamed.

I came home the night of the news and headed straight for a shower. I discovered this in college: if you cry in the shower, it's not so obvious. You can cry a lot and nobody will know.

But Nick wandered in to ask about dinner. And found me soaking wet, sobbing, choking, completely and utterly disconsolate. And I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't even want to be crying.

What kind of a terrible, horrible, vile, ungrateful person is this upset over a healthy baby?

But you can't shower forever - another thing I learned in college.

So, once dried, fleece-outfitted, and ensconced in Nick's lap and arms, I proceeded to sob some more.

Here's the thing. Not only was I sad, I was angry. Not just angry. Furious. Enraged. Hateful.

"Why?" I finally wailed. "Why the fuck would I go through all this hassle just to raise some selfish, cruel asshole who is going to abandon me? I'm not going to. I'm just not."

And I meant it. I just wouldn't. This sense of betrayal and rage, it consumed me.

And this, this is where I thank god for a husband who just listened and for incredibly astute friends who know me - and my family - really well.

Because a friend of mine sat me down and said the following.

That boys don't categorically turn into selfish assholes that treat their mothers terribly.

That just because he's a boy, doesn't mean he's going to behave like my brother. Doesn't mean he's going to go out of his way to hurt me.

That how my brother behaves is his own selfish, cruel shit.

This little avocado-sized human, he's his own boy. With his own path. One that I'm going to help shape.

The words sunk in. That was exactly the issue.

Of course it's about something bigger. Something else. Something family. It just about always fucking is, isn't it?

I couldn't have gotten there on my own. And I am so thankful for getting there. Now I can actually start looking forward to The Boy.

And so my brother. While I mostly try not to think of him, because it makes me really hurt and angry, sometimes I just plain miss him.

In this picture he was 11. It was taken right before my 15th birthday party. He and I were friends by that point. We'd just started having a good relationship the year prior.

I loved that Teenage Torpor t-shirt; I got it in London on the trip to Delhi. And look how cute he is, rocking the 80s in the skinny leather tie.


  1. I have known some awful and cruel women as well. It is a crap shoot.

    I can relate to this on some level. For a very long time I was scared to have kids because I have an awful, terrible father. I was convinced I would be a bad parent as well, that I was doomed to recreate the patterns around me. Also, I looked at his as evidence that having kids doesn't mean you have to love 'em. I was terrified I wouldn't love my own kids if I had them...nothing is guaranteed, right?

    And sure I am far away from this...I don't even have a boyfriend, but I truly believe that these fears we have--fears of being bad parents or fears of being abandoned by our children--are natural and normal. We choose our own paths and we raise good, decent people. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.

  2. You have some good friends-and a good husband.
    It's so weird, these new little creatures bring up so much of the past. And I'm sure you'll work this out before he's here- hurray for therapy!

  3. Every human has a different path... and unfortunately some are more tortured than others.

    Your son will be what you and Nick and all those who you surround him with will make of him. And he will be who his own temperament will make of him... Nature vs Nurture and all that. Look to all of the other examples around you. I'm sure Nick loves his mother. I love mine. Countless other sons you know love and care for their mothers and treat them well... and so will your son.

    love ya,

  4. if i decide to have kids some day, and i have a boy, i'm going to be in the same boat you're in. my brother was the biggest asshole (i don't know the story of your brother, so i'm just talking from my experience), would always pick fights and then make me feel like it was all my fault, and was just hateful to my whole family (he then killed himself july 2007). my mom's brother (i refuse to refer to him as my uncle) was abusive to my mom, both physically and verbally, fathered 5 kids with an alcoholic woman and then left her for a younger woman. he's also an alcoholic, has been in and out of prison and may have more illegitimate children. my grandpa on my mom's side is also alcoholic.

    i am so worried that any children i may have will turn out like one of these men, simply because of genetics. there is that 50/50 chance though, because my dad's side of the family is relatively healthy in comparison to my mom's side.

    it sucks, but what your friend said is true. you get to help shape this child, teach him to be a caring, respectful, and kind person. and of course it's going to be hard, and you might be triggered by certain things he does as he grows up, but you have to learn to distinguish whether or not those triggers are because of your past, your experiences, your memories. just make sure you don't project your fears onto him like a lot of parents do.

  5. I consider my younger brothers as two of my closest friends. We talk all the time. I know that they are always there for me and that they are fiercly protective of me. And they love my mom and are very, very sweet towards her. Now that they are in their mid twenties, they treat her as a friend too. Thats what you have to look forward to with yor little boy.

  6. I agree with what everyone else said...your baby is a separate new being. He's half YOU and half Nick - and zero of your brother. He will be his own Lemon! And what do they say about lemons falling far from trees and all that?? =-)

  7. Wow, that's a lot that came up. I'm sure your son will be more like Nick than your brother.
    I'm sorry for whatever happened in your family. Reading your archives, your love for your nephew is obvious. I hope your brother and SIL will eventually see past whatever's going on with them.

  8. Lisa,
    I am sure that this will come as very little consolation, if any at all, but every time and I mean every single time you write about your brother I call my big sister. I thank her for all of the things she has been for me, and for the knowledge that she will forever answer my 3am phone call.

    Like Lexa and VVK wrote, your son will be a product of the environment you and Nick create (in conjunction with the other people you choose to be a part of his life.) That you are cognizant of and willing to face these challenges is testimony to the self awareness that is to your credit. That Nick has the patience and the understanding to explore these issues with you are testimony to the fact that you married one of the good ones. I have a hard time believing that you two will be anything but loving parents who will raise a wonderful son (who will still break your heart sometimes because that's what children do) with terrific odds in the genetic lottery.

  9. Lemm - Thank you for sharing this. I agree that it's terrifying to think you might recreate patterns. And it is scary to think who knows what kind of a parent any of us will be - nothing is guaranteed. I believe the fact that we think and talk about these things means that more of the negative stuff will be sorted out and put to some kind of peace before it can affect our kids. I do believe that. And yes, there's that scary scary leap of faith business. Hugs to you.

    Mary - I really, really do. I feel incredibly lucky in so many ways. And I am so glad we found out so I have time to wrestle with these out-of-the-blue demons before the little dude arrives.

    VVK - Huge hugs to you. Yes, there are a lot of fine examples of loving sons and truly good human beings. I lose sight of things like that when I get into my hysterical irrational place. I am so lucky to have amazing people in my life to help pull me out of it.

    lucklys - Oh, goodness, I'm so sorry about that. That's a lot of trauma for you and your mom to live through. Of course there's a genetic component - and we all have genetic pieces of things to worry about, so I certainly empathize with you there. But I do believe, as I said to Lemm, that the fact that we think and talk about these things puts us ahead of our parents. I feel bad for them, honestly, because you weren't allowed to talk about anything like this in that generation. And how do you work on or heal any of these things without talking about them?

    You make a good point with triggers and projecting - the fears I can name aren't the ones I worry so much about. It's the ones I get blindsided by that are the most dangerous, I think.

    Jennifer - I LOVE hearing this. I really, really do. Thank you.

    Ryane - Oh, hugs hugs hugs to you! Hahaha - lemons not falling far from the tree! :)

    J - It's astounding how much can come out of seemingly nowhere. Thank you. I really hope they can.

    restaurant refugee - It makes me feel tremendously good to know that, it really does.

    I really and truly appreciate the kind words. I know we are people who are determined to do our best, and to be very supportive and loving. I hope we can do a great job and that he turns out to be a fantastic little human.

  10. Just... hugs. And lots of them.

    Also, I've been discovering, recently, that there are lots of people I miss, but wouldn't want to spend time with as they are now.

    It makes me more grateful for the ones I've always wanted to be around, no matter what.

  11. Something family. It just about always fucking is, isn't it?

    Yes, yes, yes, YES!

    But you have a very good, very wise friend who knows that all boys do not turn out the same. I have a jerk of a brother, too (as you know), but your Nick and my Brian and lots of other boys I know turned out to be great men. Keep the faith.

  12. If it's any consolation, I get along wonderfully with my brother, and he also gets along great with my mom (he's 26). I'm sure that my situation is the rule, not the exception.

    You have a chance to bring a wonderful boy into this world, who will learn to appreciate his family, friends and the people around him.

    I think you can handle it just fine :)

  13. I second what the others have said -- he's going to be you and your husband's son, not your brother's son. My husband is also worried that the crazies and evil genes from his side of the family (in our case, his sister) will get passed down to our baby. But I tell him all the time, it's we who are raising him, not her. He will be a product of our love, our values, and our teachings. So don't forget that!

    Also, if you're ever feeling down about having a girl, head to the girl's section of Toys R Us. All the pink Barbie, Bratz, High School Musical, and Hannah Montana crap makes me thank GOD every day that we're having a boy.

  14. My friend had the exact same reaction when she got her amnio results. It's okay to be disappointed when you find out you aren't getting exactly what you think you want. It's normal.

    If we were to follow up with you on this a few years from now, I'm certain that you'd tell us that you can't imagine it having gone any other way, that you cannot fathom raising any child but this one.

    And, if not, we can always dress him in drag.

  15. Dagny - Thanks. Hugs to you, too. And what a good reminder - the people you want in your life are the people you always want there, no matter what.

    Kate - Yes, you are so right. We have good ones, and there are lots of other wonderful men in the world. I'll keep the faith.:)

    Luna - I so understand where he's coming from. It's so hard to push those fears out. He's lucky he has you and your confidence - because of course you are right - He will be a product of your love, values, and teachings.

    I was so not into dolls as a kid, so you just gave me a good reminder about the over the top sparkly world of girl crap there is out there today.

    FreckledK - I am sure this is true, and once he's here, I wouldn't be able to imagine it any other way. And thanks for the reminder...there's always drag.

  16. And Beach Bum - I accidentally skipped you! I am so glad to hear that your brother gets along great with you and your mom. And I appreciate your vote of confidence. :)

  17. Of course your fall back position is obvious: Blame Nick. It was his genetic material responsible for making it a boy.

    But, the simple fact is this: The two of you together will raise a wonderful little boy and he will be the apple of his momma's eye. In this case, though, you'll have to give Nick credit since the boy will obviously take after dad. He'll probably even like the gold jacket and horrify your future daughter-in-law with plans to wear it at their wedding.

  18. Oh darling... I know everyone "has to tell themselves" that "theirs will be different"...

    But yours really WILL be. Of that I am confident.

    Luff and kisses.

  19. glad you worked through this . . . i only wish there was some way your brother could come to his senses.

  20. *hugs*

    And yes, he is and will be his own person, capable of choosing a very different path for his life.

  21. I can completely relate! My brother and I have had a very rocky road as well. But as you can see in your husband, and I can in mine, not all men turn out bad. And that's why you can be sure your little boy will turn out to be a gentleman who is kind and loving!! There are good ones out there who don't do things to hurt others!!

  22. I'm happy that your other readers have had such amazing stories to share. I'll just echo that you and Nick are going to be amazing parents, and that knowing and talking about what you're afraid of is a good start to protecting against it. And is this a bad time for me to squeal that, teehee, you are growing a tiny penis inside of you!? Because you are. Growing a tiny penis inside of you. :)

  23. FoggyDew - I did consider blaming him, but he was just so heartbreakingly sweet to me throughout the whole thing.

    And yes, hopefully he will take after my sweet, even-keeled husband. But will get my fashion sense.

    LiLu - Ha - one can hope, and we do! Luff and kisses to you, too!

    LJ - Thanks. I do, too, and it's so hard to imagine.

    Sarah - Thank you, sweetie. Hugs back to you.

    mysterygirl - The commenters are so lovely - you all really are. And I do hope that all this helps us be better, I really do.

    And! Hahahaha! Yes, you can absolutely squeal about that. I find it kind of hilarious. It's just so bizarre.

  24. Your friend sounds very wise.

    Your boy is going to grow up and be who he is going to be - maybe he will be the sweetest momma's boy and maybe he'll be a bitchcake. I don't think it's dependent on his gender, though. I understand that your experience with your brother colours how you view the males and your feelings are completely valid. Families fuck with our minds. It's a scientific fact :)
    I have no advice to give (because I am an utter FAILURE when it comes to dealing with family shite) but I will say this: Nick, your friends, people who care about - they will want to help you. They don't want to see you fret. Let them be there for you. Solo fretting is much less effective than group fretting.

  25. You've received some very good advice from your friend and from previous commenters. I don't really have much more to add. But I wanted to say that I find it so interesting how family can mess with us so. When I found out I was having a boy, I was elated. If it had turned out I was having a girl I would have reacted the same way as you did. I just did not want to be a mother to a daughter based on my experience as a daughter with my mother. It was not awesome. It's good now, but for almost a decade? not so much.

  26. Hillary - It is true, families fuck with our minds - more so than just about anyone else, really. Thank you for the reminder that there will be so many kind, loving people around who will want to be involved. And group fretting, yes, so much more effective.

    SM - I know - it's quite extraordinary, isn't it? I feel very, very lucky. And I appreciate that you can totally understand how the family baggage can push you in one way or another. If it'd been a girl, I'd have been dancing along, nary a (baby gender) crisis in sight. But I think it's good I got this out now.

  27. What's going on with your brother is likely a bit of a mystery. Your commenters are right - each person is a new one, fresh, ready to absorb and reflect what we give them.

    And from my own experience, I can tell you that there are many days when we're not full tilt ready to kill each other, The Actor is my favorite.

    Also - he's the quickest to forgive me my failures and come back to me for a hug, a punch on the arm, a pinch of the butt, an exchange of some inane saying and a smile.

    Your little guy is going to give you so much. Good and bad. You take both because it's worth it.

    Some day your brother may come back. My uncle did after thirty plus years. I just hope your brother doesn't waste that much time.

  28. Wow, that's so weird! I've been busy of late and came to catch up on your blog today after a few days' absence. Upon reading your post on food cravings and the food items listed, the random thought popped into my head: "Seems like she's having a boy." Don't know why those food makes me think of that. Maybe the extreme flavors?

    And then I read this post, and appreciate you sharing a vulnerable part of your memories. And want to add a voice to the wiser and more astute reminder of friends that your baby will become your son, an altogether separate individual, wholly different from your brother--or anyone else, male or female, no matter what.

    P.S. Agreed: Michael Ondaatje writes oh so eloquently.

  29. Lisa - every time I read about your brother I find a bit of comfort that I'm not the only one dealing with the plethura of contradictory emotions that arise from trying to balance love and hurt against the total irrationality of another. My sister cut off our family a year and a half ago (I know we've emailed about this) and we haven't seen my niece and nephew since. A few weeks ago my niece contacted me on facebook, told me how much she missed me, filled me in on her life. It was amazing - I cried with happiness of having her back in my life - even in such a small way. Then one day she "un-friended" me - no doubt at the behest of her mom. It is so pointless and cruel it's hard to imagine being willing to put a feud (of which I played no part - it was with my parents) before your daughter and letting her have a relationship with someone she loves and who loves her. I don't totally know how to find peace with any of this, but hearing you work through it always helps. As I've said in a previous comment - I think a lot of your worries and apprehensions about who you are or experiences that have shaped you will fly out the window when he's actually here and in front of you. Either way - I'm confident that your honesty about what it means to be human will give him all the tools he needs to avoid becoming a jackass later in life :)


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