But what I began to learn to come to terms with then, is that feelings are seldom black or white. That day I began to accept my occasional fear and sadness as part of me, and to realize that those feelings do not diminish the love I have for my child. And that was an important lesson to learn.
A few days ago, driving in my car, switching radio stations to find songs that suit my mood, I heard a woman on the radio give her story of the day. I'd heard her stories a few times before. Always a little sappy, a little sweet, a little heartwarming. Sometimes you'd roll your eyes just a little.
She started telling a story of a little boy at a pet store looking at puppies. When the boy saw a puppy with a limp, he told the shopkeeper he wanted to buy that puppy. The shopkeeper tried to talk the boy out of it, and when the boy insisted, he then tried to give the puppy away free. But the boy wouldn't hear of it and insisted on paying full price. The man went on to tell the boy that the puppy would never learn to run and jump and play. Then the boy revealed the brace on his own leg. He told the man that he didn't run so well himself, and that the puppy would need someone to keep him company and love him as he is. The woman on the radio went on to talk about recognizing value in people, things and animals that may not seem, at first glance, to be perfect. (Her version was scripted much better than my own.)
And even though I wanted to roll my eyes, I found myself crying.
...crying because I so want my daughter to be recognized as valuable. And I know that it may be an uphill struggle. I know that many people wouldn't have chosen a child not viewed as perfect, and that ultimately, with modern prenatal testing, more and more people will be getting the opportunity to make that choice. And they'll likely be making that choice based on fear, without the benefit of witnessing the beauty, joy, love and value that can exist in that child. At that moment, alone in my car, the thought was so raw and so painful.
I turned off the radio and cried.
And then strangely, my emotions shifted, and out of nowhere I was struck with a glimmer of my initial grief: the grief that tore through me when Cora was born, but that I didn't allow to stay. Shocked, but unable to hold it back, I let myself cry, all the while feeling like I was somehow betraying my girl. Through my tears I questioned how I could be feeling grief over something I love so deeply. If I feel sadness, how can I expect others not to fear what I have, or not to have pity, let alone to recognize what a gift my daughter is? How could I reconcile this startling sadness with the overwhelming love I have for this child that I would walk through fire to choose again and again?
A few moments later a sense of peace came over me and I was struck with gratitude. Gratitude of course, for my beautiful girl and for the pure joy that she brings to my life. Grateful also that I was smart enough and humble enough to recognize something good when I delivered her on my living room floor.
But grateful too, for that small moment of sadness that I shared with myself alone at a stop light: for allowing my defenses to bend for an instant, to let in my own worries and fear and sadness, still recognizing that it doesn't negate my love. It doesn't counteract my fierce desire to protect Cora or to share her beauty with the world. It is just a small part of me now. Maybe a part that I didn't know was still lingering. But it's a part I can accept for a little while at least, knowing that it'll get smaller every day, as it's eclipsed by my daughter's smile.