Folks Who Comment On My ‘All Boy’ Family Don’t Know How Much It Hurts

lady at panera
Dana Brady

Part 1: To the lady at Panera…

As my family sat down to what was guaranteed to be a chaotic lunch, you smiled at me. You meant well, I know you did. However, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen that look a couple of times. In January, my husband and I welcomed baby boy # 3 and the looks keep coming.

We hurried through our lunch with a game of musical seats, trying to calm the new baby and the constant repetition of “please eat” to our oldest kids knowing that our time is limited in public. As you finished your meal, I saw you walking toward us and dug down deep for my brave mommy look. You smiled at myself and the boys and said so softly, “God bless your heart.”

I smiled and said “thank you.” I even gave you a chuckle as you said, “At least you didn’t have to buy new clothes.”

As you walked away, I told you to have a blessed day and then tucked my head. My eyes began to swell with tears. I tried really hard to keep the rivers from flowing. See “God bless your heart” was so sweet of you to say and I was thankful to hear that. It was the comment of “at least you didn’t have to buy new clothes” when I realized you were counting the number of boys in my family and at that moment, the tears strolled down my face. I blamed it on the hormones of an exhausted mama but the truth is, that was not at all what it was.

You see, you didn’t know. How could you? We were strangers and probably will never cross paths again. You had no clue that from as long as I could remember, I dreamed of having a daughter. How I dreamed of doing her hair for school and dressing her in the cutest of outfits. How I envisioned her blonde ringlets in a ponytail with her embroidered backpack on her back as she walked into school. Fast forward through dance class, painted nails and Barbie dolls and it’s prom season. She and I and her grandmas are out shopping for the most elegant of dresses. It’s now her wedding day and I’m there helping her with her veil. As she heads down the aisle to become someone’s wife, we both tear up remembering the memories of the years we have shared. Years later she is pregnant and she calls me with questions and I listen to her excitement and fears as she tells me about becoming a mom. This passion and joy definitely stems from my own mom being one of the most amazing people I will ever meet.

Surely you didn’t know that as I stroll through the department stores, I always walk in the girl section. I can vividly see a little girl that looks similar to the boys wearing some of those outfits. If you and I sat down to talk, I would tell you that I have a Pinterest board that is titled “Dreaming of a Girl!” I would explain to you that while I’m getting my oil changed or my insomnia strikes, that I pin outfits, nursery decorations, quotes, headbands and all things GIRL! You will never know that at the moment of hearing “it’s a boy” this last time that my dreams might have just been just that — dreams, and not a reality of ever having a daughter.

Part 2:

As I sat up through multiple nursing sessions in the first couple of weeks, I prayed, and I don’t mean just like a little prayer. In those moments when you are alone and in pain from a C-section, the real thoughts come out and I’m not at all scared to share them with you.  I prayed, as a mother of 3 boys, to find peace. I wanted to be peaceful in the fact that in this present moment, I am a “boy mom.” I prayed to be able to accept things that I cannot change and remind myself that God gave me this sweet boy. I would sing that Blake Shelton song to the baby multiple times when I felt like a failure for hoping he was a girl. I would sing, “God gave me you for the ups and downs. God gave me you for the days of doubt.”  I asked that God give me the ability to accept the superheroes, the sports games, and the LEGOs that have left clear marks on my feet.

I was hopeful that God would show me the right path to guide my sons to be respectful members of society and walk by faith in all aspects of their lives. That He would show me exactly how to raise them to be good husbands and fathers. That they would realize the importance to call home to their mama on a regular basis when they get older. But most of all, I prayed for me and my well being. I prayed that my heart would accept that I may never know what it is like to be a mama to a girl. That my heart doesn’t break when I have to shop for girl items for baby showers, birthday parties and other occasions. That my heart doesn’t hurt when I look down  in the always-messy toy room to see Ninja Turtles, tools and action figures when I envisioned seeing all of that plus dolls and lots of pink.

However, if you are struggling with infertility, I realize that in this moment of reading you may want to choke me and I totally get that and respect that. Make no mistake, I realize how blessed that I am. This body, although destroyed, carried three (well, four) beautiful children. I had a miscarriage of baby #3, although that’s a completely different story. I definitely do not need others to count my blessings for me, and please know that I am not being insensitive to your feelings of wanting a child and not giving a damn about the gender of the baby.

We have friends in our circle who have or are struggling with infertility. I have watched their trials of the massive needles, failed pregnancy test, and tons of tears. I do not take this job that I have been given lightly. But what I know is this: other people’s opinions of my feelings do not matter. When you envision something and it does not turn out like you thought, there is a time to grieve that dream, to realize your current situation. I am entitled to feel the way I feel even if others do not understand it. Even if you think I’m being snobby and inconsiderate, which if you knew me, you would realize I’m not that kind of person at all.

To the lady at Panera … you did not mean to cause any harm. You were the sweetest of ladies and I’m honored that you came over to look at my family. I realize that society does not make it easy when a high volume of ads or television shows contain one girl and one boy and we think that is how all families are supposed to look. See, you are not the first to recognize that my family is filled with boys. In just eight weeks, I’ve heard it all. “Are you going to try for a girl? “Bless your heart, you have three boys!” “I would rather have three boys than a girl any day.” “There is a special place in heaven for mamas like you!”

So I leave you with this last thought. If you see a family in public that is not “balanced,” smile and tell them how adorable their children are. Compliment the mom on how she’s got her shit together through all of the chaos. Remember that your comment of being a “boy mom” or that “boys are way easier than girls” may actually cut deep into a wound that needs to be healed.