I’ll never know what it’s like to go through a pregnancy without having a sex preference. I wish I never cared from the start, but I did. Although I played sports competitively growing up and didn’t own a skirt until I was in 10th grade, I just didn’t picture myself as a boy mom. Yes, eventually I wanted babies of both sexes, but I had this fantasy in my mind of having a girl first, of her establishing a calm tone for the family and becoming my little helper and friend as she grew.
Before my husband and I had children, we optimistically wanted 4-5 children. Like so many naive pre-parent thoughts and expectations, actual parenthood would shift our desire.
There was never any consideration whether we would find out the sex of our children during pregnancy. The idea of “we want to be surprised” at birth never entered our minds. In fact, I like to say that discovering the sex of your baby is always a surprise, the only difference is when that surprise occurs. And as my friend used to say, “I find out during pregnancy so I’m not disappointed when the baby is born.” It’s better to take time to deal with that disappointment.
So when we found out our first was a boy, I bought myself (yes, myself) a cute pair of boy booties, decorated the nursery in Classic Pooh, and told myself it would be fine. (Of course he never even wore those booties as these things never fit newborns, and I probably lost them by then, and who has time and energy for multi-piece outfits. But that’s beside the point.) I told myself baby boy clothes can be cute too, and we have 3-4 chances left at a girl (remember I hadn’t experienced parenthood at that point).
And it was fine. I mean, it was hard, of course, as parenthood always is, especially with a newborn, and especially your first newborn. But I loved and love that little boy beyond words.
Then I was pregnant with my second baby and I was sure this time it would be a girl. But it wasn’t. And I told myself it was fine. They would be friends. I used to say, “I just wish that I could have a promise that the next one will be a girl.” But there are no promises.
The next pregnancy, at my 12 week ultrasound, the doctor told me, though it was just a guess at that point, she thought it was a girl, and the technician agreed with 90% certainty. So I held that hope for a glorious three hours, until my doctor’s office called to tell me the blood test results came in, and it was, indeed, another boy. I remember that call vividly. I remember I was driving my kids home from swim lessons, and I remember on which specific street I was. I remember how my doctor’s assistant first asked me what genders I have, and by her reaction to my answer, I knew what was coming.
It wasn’t until this third time that there were tears and depression at the news. It was a hard pregnancy for me, starting with finding out that I still wasn’t getting the girl I dreamt of. On top of that, I ended up getting the overwhelming news that I had gestational diabetes, which plunged me further into depression. Now I didn’t even have the option of eating my feelings.
And I had a lot of feelings and a lot of guilt about those feelings. I was sad and disappointed even though it felt wrong. I wondered if this pregnancy was worth it, especially having to poke a needle into my finger four times a day, having to be hyper-cautious about the foods I ate, and dealing with the anxiety of whether I would make it through the pregnancy without insulin. Then, one of my closest friends became pregnant with a girl during my pregnancy. It was hard not to be jealous no matter how hard I tried to tell myself not to compare and to instead be grateful for what I have.
Of course I deeply love my three boys, now 6, 4, and 2. I love each of their individual personalities, even if I don’t always get their name right until the third try. I love sharing my Harry Potter obsession and my affinity to math with my eldest; I love the goofiness of my 4-year-old and watching him complete 12-year- old LEGO sets; I love the sweet, caring, cuddly, fun presence of my youngest. They are your stereotypical energetic boys who love ninjas and superheroes, building, sports, and, of course, fighting with one another. For each one present, the energy level grows exponentially.
Having three little boys is exactly as bonkers as you would expect. Parenting them isn’t what I thought it would be (definitely a lot more chaotic and louder), but I’m confident all parents would say the same. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a parent, while somehow at the same time maintaining my certainty that I want to add a fourth child.
And, although I don’t have firsthand experience with girls, I imagine they truly aren’t always sweet and calm and throwing glittery flower decorated tea parties attended by unicorns. I imagine my fantasy of having a little friend and helper for life, like all things in parenthood, wouldn’t turn out like I expect. And I wish I could tell you (and myself) that I’m perfectly satisfied being a boy mom. But it’s time to be honest with myself. I still want that girl, and I’m done apologizing for it.
Of course I’m grateful to have each of my healthy children, especially having had a serious health problem in my childhood. I’m grateful I had no issues conceiving, carrying, and birthing them. I know there are many people who desire all these things, and I want every woman to have all of that too. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have my own feelings about what I haven’t gotten, how important it is to me, and what I’m willing to do to get it. I can love what I have, wish for the best for others, and still yearn for something more for myself all at the same time. And if I haven’t tried everything in my power to get it, I know I’ll always regret it.