I’m reasonably sure that no one would stop me in the middle of the grocery store and say, “I’m so sorry you don’t have blonde hair,” or “You look nice, but that outfit just isn’t complete without a cardigan.” I mean, that would be absurd, right? For a perfect stranger to tell me I’m inadequate based on what they see as I push my little cart down the aisles?
It’s not as absurd as it sounds. It actually happens all the time. Only it’s not my appearance that people openly judge me about — it’s my kids. I have four of them, and we all know that strangers have unwarranted opinions on bigger families to begin with (“You know what causes that, right? Heh heh.”) But since all four of my children happen to be boys, people have a heyday.
Sometimes I don’t mind the comments, like when people tell me they had all sons, too, and seeing my family makes them smile. It’s the sympathy that bothers me, and it’s something I have never understood. The pitying looks. The remarks of “Bless your heart,” or “You’ve got your hands full” — but in a totally obvious “Wow, your life must be a shitshow” sort of tone. And the overwhelming public opinion that my brood is not well-rounded or whole because we haven’t thrown a “little princess” into this posse of penises.
I have never experienced it more acutely than when I was pregnant with my fourth son: When people would ask what I was having, and I’d tell them it was another boy, 90% of them would react with blatant, undisguised disappointment. Even some of the people I had hoped would be most excited, like my own family members and in-laws. I actually received apologies. People were literally like, “I’m sorry you didn’t get your girl.” What are you supposed to say when someone tells you the baby you’re carrying — and looking forward to with all your heart — is not the right kind? I’m surprised I made it through the entire pregnancy without committing at least one violent crime.
I’m sure parents of all girls can relate too. When your children are all the same gender, it seems to give people license to 1) assume we’re somehow unhappy with our “lack of variety,” and 2) ask nosy damn questions about our future plans to reproduce, insinuating that we somehow have a problem we need to fix.
If I had a nickel for every time somebody asked if my husband and I were going to try for a girl, I’d have enough to adopt a dozen daughters. And at one point, I thought that’s exactly what would have to happen; my husband and I struggled with infertility for five years before welcoming our oldest son, undergoing countless procedures and hormonal manipulations (not to mention crushing emotional stress) just for the chance to have any kids, of any gender. So for people to imply that I shouldn’t be satisfied with the ones I finally got, after years of emptiness and grief, it makes my blood boil.
The worst part is that people say these things in front of my sons, as though they can’t hear and comprehend the sentiment that I should want something different. This is one of the reasons there are no more babies in my future: Because heaven forbid it would be a girl, thus validating everyone’s opinion that we failed the first four times and stopped when we “got it right.” I need my boys to know that no matter what anyone else opines, they are enough. I am not missing anything, not yearning for anyone who isn’t here. They fill me with joy, their love and liveliness so abundant that my heart couldn’t possibly have any open spaces or missing pieces. They are all I need.
I have a wonderful, beautiful family, made up of four miracles I wasn’t sure I would ever get to raise. Why on earth should anyone feel sorry for that?