I have a promise to keep, but I’m suffering from a severe internal conflict. To whom is this promise, you might ask? Well, it’s to myself. So let me explain.
For the longest time, I’ve always insisted that babies are ugly. And not just quietly, but obnoxiously and out loud to others. I even wrote about it in my high school literary magazine in an article I entitled: “Babies Are Ugly. End of Story.” However, whenever I made this observation, without fail, parents would always reply with some variation of these 8 words: “You won’t feel that way when it’s yours.”
Grrrrrr. The trump card. It incensed me, and every time I heard it, I would double down on my convictions and make myself promise that one day, when my baby finally showed up, I’d prove them wrong and announce to all that, indeed, my baby was ugly like the rest of them. So now, the day has come. It’s time to put up or shut up. But… it’s kind of tricky. I’ve been stressing for about half an hour on whether to name this letter “A Promise to Keep” or “Why is Every Baby in the World Ugly Except You?”
So let’s explore the basis of this conundrum. The first time I saw you clearly, it was moments after your mother’s c-section. I was leaving the operating room, slipping around on a few stray slicks of bodily fluids when I spotted your incubator on its way out to the NICU. You didn’t have any of the wires or tubes in your body yet. You were just a pink little mass with jet black hair and eyebrows way too big for your tiny little face. My heart melted. The floodgates opened. And then I carelessly declared to everyone that was near me, for the next thirty minutes, that my little girl was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen (without thinking of any of the consequences!)
But hold on. We all say things we don’t mean in rare moments of weakness. That may be what I thought at that specific second… maybe even what I FEEL right now… but what about the evidence?!
Yes, the evidence. Cold, hard, ruthless, comforting evidence.
From an empiricist’s perspective, Ellie, you look like a shriveled old man. Your skin is peeling, the epidermis on your face is folding over in layers atop one another, and your veins and arteries are conspicuously visible. When you look at pretty much any one of these qualities on their own, none of them shout “cute!” You don't look too dissimilar from the little pink mammals we'd feed to snakes back when I worked in a pet store in college. Would we have thrown them into the strangulating maw of hungry reptiles if they were cute? Doubtful.
But then again, even from the empiricist’s perspective, parts of you are indisputably cute. The tiny little feet and hands. The dainty little finger nails. Those angular little eyebrows… So what do I decide?
Well, this letter is getting too long already, so maybe we should defer this uncomfortable decision to a later time. Like all important questions in science, perhaps more evidence needs to be collected before we can come to a meaningful decision.