Lila kind of has my eyes. She seems to really have the shape of my face, parts of my body, a certain swagger that connotes confidence mostly when we're not feeling confident at all. Right now Lila and I have sort of the exact same hair color, but that won't last. She was born in October and thank god, I don't remember much of the labor pains or the screaming or the rush to the hospital or even if we rushed at all. Memory takes that away, thank the benevolent gods. Who said that if we remembered every second of childbirth, humankind would have died out millenia ago? Precisely.
But of course she's not literally my daughter, not in the 'pulled from the womb' kind of way.
Honestly, who made up these archaic rules?
Many of my nearest and dearest have children. Many other of my other nearest and dearest do not (we have instead the furred, domesticated, can't-judge-you-in-therapy kind. And we love them pretty much the same.) When I was ages 11-32 the last thing I wanted - literally, the very last on the list - was any sort of baby growing into any sort of child becoming, eventually, an adult. This may have had something to do with blatant and loud feminism (I like to think so) or my leftist worry about overpopulation (definitely an early bloomer here) or the strange moment when Ronda P. turned to me when we were 13 and told me she was not only pregnant but she was keeping the kid and naming it after me. Honestly, I didn't know we were that close. And I did what any sensible 13 year old would do - tried to talk her out of it, stayed as far away from her as possible, and felt badly when she left Raleigh Hills to 'see if she liked Catholic School.' Right. Precisely.
Later, marrying Rick, that desire changed and I decided yes, a child (or two) would be wonderful. Didn't happen. Didn't kill me. But it was sad to realize I would never have a child (or two) of my own. Sad that we didn't adopt. Sad that I didn't have all that the words 'my child' implies, not the least is which telling other people to shut up, you're going to raise your children any damn way you want.
Sometimes, I ache for those words.
So, Lila. Her mother was the first person to ever look me in the eye and say 'This child is yours, too.' Her mother was the first person to ever put my hand on her ripe and round belly and proclaim 'This child is yours, just as much as she is mine.' With Lila she did that. With Henry. With Ginger. They are our godchildren, but we have other godchildren. There is something about Lila and Henry and Ginger that transcends that rather benign label, something that reaches right into my gut like it does whenever I see any of my nieces and nephews, something that's flesh and blood and bone and marrow. It's DNA. It's inescapable. It doesn't scare me at all.
We bathed them and kissed them and cleaned up after them and read to them. We were there when they started to walk and we're there, now, when they're falling in love and hating wrestling or loving drama or reading about Jack The Ripper or wishing on some crazy falling star. I didn't get the birth pains or the right to declare them to the IRS or the amazing ability to know that forever, always, they will always be mine, regardless of how I raise them or what city they move to. We're not really related after all. They can turn away or turn on a dime. We could have one big fat blow out of a fight with their parents and poof - it will all be gone. Probably not. But it could. It's transient, I guess. Fallible.
But I look at Lila - at Henry - at Ginger - and I feel so insanely, profoundly, shut-up-and-dance blessed.
Look at her.