The Family No One Wanted to Be

When Lucy was born, the midwife said, “There you have it – the million dollar family.” While I don’t believe in the whole myth of the “perfect family” – 2.75 kids (or whatever the number is), one of each, I guess that is what we had. Two beautiful children. One boy, one girl. The boy first. That’s what people used to strive for.

For a former straight-A, obsessive compulsive person, I am surprisingly realistic when it comes to family composition. I believe perfection lies in the imperfections. I wanted at least three kids. A mixture of boys and girls. I wanted chaos and mess and imbalance. Most of all I just wanted to embrace whatever we had. To find comfort and solace and everything we needed in each other.

I told myself that. And I believed it. But it was only partially true. I was proud of my perfect, “million dollar family”. That was probably part of the reason I wanted a third child so badly. I wanted to have a third baby and not care one whit about the gender. I was so looking forward to that. I just wanted a third child, but I also thought it would be my chance to be zen. Go with the flow. Not stress about wanting a daughter so much for the first twenty weeks.

I’m not perfect. No one is. But I secretly worry all the time that I am worse than everyone else. I am so judgmental and critical sometimes. Especially when I am having anxiety attacks or my hormones are at a high. And I know these judgments and criticisms come from a place of insecurity. They come from me trying to reassure myself that the things I want are ok or that I’m making the right decisions. I don’t know why others have to be wrong for me to be right. But I know it’s because I still often feel bad about myself, not because others are bad.

I admit it. I felt sorry for people who didn’t have what we had. Even though those people had what they wanted and seemed perfectly happy with their choices. I was secretly proud my daughter was so beautiful, even though I know that’s not what matters in life. I know the truth now, though. I really just envied them for knowing what they wanted and seeming so happy with it. Ever since my nervous breakdown in grad school, I have underestimated myself and been afraid of biting off more than I could chew. I have been afraid I couldn’t handle as many kids as I wanted. I was afraid I couldn’t handle having all boys.

When my daughter became sick, part of me was very afraid that it was a punishment for my pride. A punishment for wanting more. When she died, it seemed like I was being punished for every hateful thought I ever had. I know plenty of people are hateful and judgmental sometimes and their kids don’t die. But it’s hard to be logical when you are sad and scared and blaming yourself.

It’s hard not to feel that this is some sort of crazy, cosmic lesson. Exactly two years ago at this time, I was a mother to one son. I was pregnant. It was summer. And I was desperately hoping for a daughter. I feel like my life has been rewound. I am raising one son. I am pregnant. It is summer. And I am desperately hoping for a daughter, even though what I really want more than anything is a healthy child for my husband and me and a healthy sibling for Max.

What I have learned is this – I was right all along. The perfection is in the imperfection. Everyone thinks their family is perfect and that everyone wants to be them. Or they hope that someone envies them. That’s why we post happy family photos on Facebook. We want to share our joy and pride. We want to hear how adorable our kids are and what great parents we are. Most of us know most of the time that we don’t have to diminish someone else’s greatness to enjoy our own.  But we still want that moment of pride. And I guess there is always a tiny hint of superiority in pride.  

After Lucy was diagnosed and especially after she died, it occurred to me that absolutely no one would want to be us anymore. No matter what kind of happy pictures we posted, no matter how many beautiful children we had, no one would want to be us. We have had everyone’s greatest fear realized. Our child died. We will not see or hold her again in this life and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. There’s a huge effing hole in the middle of our “million dollar family”.

I didn’t want to be the family no one wanted to be. I didn’t want to have the trump card of misfortune. But you know what? I don’t. We didn’t have the worst happen to us. We had the best. We had Lucy. It doesn’t mean this wasn’t horrible and unfair. It doesn’t mean I didn’t want her to live and watch her grow. I miss her every single moment of every single day.

But we learned unforgettable lessons about unconditional love and strength. I learned once and for all that no one has to want to be us, because I want to be us. I wouldn’t want any other family in the world.  And it’s not because my family is better. It’s because my family is mine. The perfection is in the imperfection.



  1. Laura Smith said,

    July 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing your heart on this. I see exactly what you mean. One of the worst things (in my opinion) is having people look at you like they feel sorry for you. My heart aches for what you and Chris have endured through this loss, but you are right when you say, you had the best. Lucy was and is a gift from God and you were given the heartbreakingly beautiful privilege of being her parents. Somehow the sorrow of losing her, and the joy of having had her can mix together in a feeling of gratitude that is hard to explain, but impossible to deny. I sure wish I could have known Lucy in this life time, but I sure do look forward to knowing her in the next. Thanks again for sharing. I love hearing how y’all are doing and how you are processing this loss. One day at a time, and sometimes, one minute and one hour at a time. I think of y’all every day and keep you in my prayers always!

  2. kittymomma said,

    July 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    You hit the nail on the head, Laura. It is a gratitude that is very hard to explain. Thank you for all that you have shared of your journey with us since we lost Lucy. I only met your mother once, but she made such an impression on me, as did your whole family. I remembered every single one of you when I heard about your mother’s passing and my heart ached for all of you.

  3. Crystal said,

    July 11, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I appreciate your honesty so much, Sara. It is refreshing. I relate to your insecurities, even though I’m not a mother. Thank you for sharing. You are an amazing woman!

  4. kittymomma said,

    July 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Thank you, Crystal. I think you’re amazing, too. 🙂

  5. Laura Smith said,

    July 13, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Thanks for your kind words about my mom, that means so much. I love reading what you write about what you’re going through. I pray for continued moments of gratitude for you and Chris!

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