Imagining a Different Life
I am in the strange situation of having known the couple who wanted to raise my child if I had not chosen to do so. I selected them, I sat in their living room, I toured the house and talked with them about their philosophy of child rearing. We haven't spoken in 15 years, but I've heard enough to have an idea of where they are now. I know that in her parallel life, my child would have grown up the daughter of a social worker and a real estate agent in the Northwest. She would live in a four-bedroom house; she would have a summer cottage in the mountains. She would have been allowed to have a dog, and it's likely she'd have a brother and a sister. She wouldn't have seen as much of the world. She may have grown up to be more like the girl I was at her age, a suburban teenager longing for adventure and danger and a more exciting life. She would have been more stable.
I don't know that girl. She isn't my daughter.
The girl who is my daughter has been told her whole life that we almost didn't do it, that we almost lost our nerve. She knows as well as we do that was the sensible thing to do, and we haven't tried to hide it. As she's gotten older, she and I sometimes talk about what her life could have been like. She can't really imagine it, of course, any more than I can. I have an odd little line that I trot out sometimes. When she says she was an "accident," I tell her that she should feel that she is all the more a wanted child. We didn't want a child, I say, we wanted you. She wasn't convenient, she wasn't planned, she profoundly changed all of our lives. And we did it anyway.
I say "we" because I am thinking of the four of us in that station wagon, running over traffic cones on our way to do something that everyone else knew was a terrible idea. And you know what? We were exactly, exactly right.
Amy Benfer has worked as an editor at Salon, Legal Affairs, and Paper magazines. She lives in Brooklyn with her daughter.