The following post addresses mixed emotions that some pregnant mommas experience about having a boy or a girl, when they hoped, perhaps even secretly, for the other gender.
I’ve hesitated writing this post, because I have some cherished friends in my life who have struggled with infertility or have experienced the loss of a baby. I have been too afraid they would read the post and think how insensitive the subject matter is, or that they would wonder “How could someone be disappointed with the gender of their baby when I can’t even have a baby?”
My heart hurts for those friends, and I acknowledge that they can say those things, and say them justly after what suffering they have endured. But I also believe that it is a tremendous disservice to all mommas when we don’t talk about feelings that are very real, or even worse, when we shame one another just for feeling something.
My goal here, both with this post on my little blog and out in the real world, is to encourage conversations that we might not otherwise have because we are embarrassed or scared or ashamed — to affirm one another and acknowledge that yes, we are grateful. And yes, we struggle.
If you are a woman who has had difficulty conceiving a child, or lost a child, I am deeply sorry for your suffering, and I don’t blame you at all if you want to skip this post.
I do believe, though, that the more we understand one another, the better we can do life together, and do it in a way that helps to ease all of our many burdens.
So, no matter where you’re at on your journey, if you choose to read on, please do so with an open heart and mind, and compassion for each and every woman.
Last week, I received word that a pregnant friend of mine was having her second baby boy. As a mom of three boys, the news made my heart turn a cartwheel. How exciting that her two-year-old son would soon have a sidekick for jumping off couches and wrestling and — (I’m trying to think of other things little boys do, but that’s all I’ve got).
This friend is a wonderful mom. Her little guy is silly and sweet, and very busy. She adores him, and is incredibly patient with him. When I saw this lovely momma a few days ago, I touched her elbow and leaned in close, and told her that I might be a little biased, but I was SO HAPPY she was having another boy! She tried smiling and said she had a hunch it was a boy because she had been hoping for a girl.
I immediately started rambling.
I assured her that her kids would have different personalities even though they were both boys, and that my third boy was more sensitive and snuggly, and I’m sure I said some other dumb things too to try making this sweet girl feel better while making myself feel less obnoxious — when what I wanted to be was encouraging. Oh, help me.
On the way home, I was slapped back into 2012 when I was pregnant with my third child. I did think I wanted a girl, and the comments from other people intensified that longing, comments like–
What if it’s another boy?
Maybe this time you’ll get your girl!
Are you going to keep trying until you have a girl?
You have to have a girl so someone takes care of you when you’re old!
And on and on…
After twenty weeks of this, Chad and I were heading to my ultrasound appointment, still trying to decide if we should find out the baby’s gender, or be surprised on the delivery day. During my first two pregnancies, we did not find out, but this time, we decided that it would be fun if we DID find out, but didn’t let anyone else know that we found out. (That’s right, Peeps — we knew all along. Bwahaha!)
At the appointment, the ultrasound tech waved the magic wand over the mystery spot, and VOILA, my son spread his legs wide.
Before the tech could speak a word, I said, “AHH! THAT. IS. A. BOY!!!”
Chad and I cracked up and shook our heads, and I said, “I cannot believe I am a mother to three boys. Seriously, God? Do you want to trust me that much?!”
As we wrapped up the appointment, I felt a twinge of sadness. I tried talking myself out of it. I even scolded myself that I should feel only gratitude for a healthy baby — to stop being selfish. But I knew this was likely the last child I would bear, and I needed to face the conflict between my expectations of how I thought life would look, and the experiences that were real. I knew we made the right choice by finding out that our baby was a boy. Now I had a few months to get used to the idea of three sons, and prepare for my little man’s arrival the following March.
On the very same day, my dear friends Cole and Chelsea were also at an ultrasound appointment to find out if their third child was a boy or a girl. Cole and Chelsea had two little boys who were just a few months apart in age from our two boys (along with dogs the same age — freaky parallel families?)
Chelsea was really hoping for a daughter. She is a fun outdoorsy mom and isn’t afraid to get dirty, but she is also beautiful and soft and feminine. She has gorgeous hair and sparkly jewelry and great style. She loves to shop. She would have serious fun doing girly things with a daughter.
On the way home from my appointment that day, I got a text from Chelsea —
It’s a boy.
She didn’t have to say anything else. I knew her heart.
I asked Chad if he would stay with the boys for an hour while I went on an important mission. Twenty minutes later, I was standing in Chelsea’s kitchen clutching melting hot fudge sundaes, hugging her with tears in our eyes. She had broken down in her appointment and cried all the way home. She knew this was going to be her last child because of a health condition that makes pregnancy risky for her. Now she knew for sure that she would never give birth to a daughter.
I told her I was sorry for her, that we both knew she would love this little guy as much as any momma could love a child, but that it was ok to feel disappointed right now.
I looked at the grainy ultrasound pictures of her handsome boy, and then I reached into my purse and pulled out my own photos from that morning. I passed them across the table – all of them.
She started flipping through them, and then a puzzled expression crossed her face. She raised an eyebrow.
STACY! That’s a BOY!
I smiled. I nodded. We screamed and giggled, and cried and hugged some more as Chelsea’s burden lightened, right there at the kitchen table.
A few months later, we delivered our boys. Chelsea’s Cameron and my Miles were healthy and delightful from the moment they were born. They were calm, easygoing babies with thoughtful eyes and juicy grins. Today, almost two years later, they are smart, funny, and quite mischievous. We adore them and have a ball watching them navigate their worlds, trying so desperately to keep up with their big brothers. We have often smiled and said to one another, “I sure can’t imagine him as a girl!”
I wish I could tell you that after Miles were born, the insensitive comments ceased. That a family member didn’t straight-up ask if we were disappointed when we made the Its-a-boy phone call. That people at the grocery store don’t look terrified when they comment on the fullness of my hands. That someone didn’t state this very week that I have to try again for a girl.
I wish people didn’t suggest, even if unintentionally, that my sons are failed attempts at daughters. That my world is not complete until I have both a boy and girl in my brood.
But people will comment without thinking. We know this. We know we’re going to receive advice whether we ask for it or not. I mean, I just did it to my pregnant friend last week by telling her I was so glad her baby was a boy.
I was glad. Like it matters how I feel about her baby’s gender!
Today, I’m making a promise, and maybe you’ll consider making it with me. I promise that from this point forward I’m never going to suggest to someone that their family is incomplete without a boy and a girl, or that they must be longing for the other gender. I promise never to say that boys need brothers and girls need sisters. I promise to never ask, “Are you trying again for a whatever-you-don’t-have?”
And the next time I see my pregnant momma friend, I’m going to tell her I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for assuming that she was excited to have a boy. I’m sorry for commenting about gender at all. I should have just mentioned how lovely and radiant she was that day, and what important work she is doing.
And if she told me it was a boy and that she felt a pang of sadness about that, I’d tell her it was ok to be disappointed. I’d tell her I was at one time too, and it was raw and real.
I’d tell her to allow herself to feel what she was feeling for now, but not to fear feeling it forever.
That momma love has a miraculous way of removing disappointment and replacing it with wonderful things that outlast pink or blue sleepers.
And then we’d hop in the car and go for a ride to pick up some of the best medicine I’ve ever had – a hot fudge sundae, a good cry, and a hug from a momma who gets it because she has been right exactly where you are.