It’s the question every mother of only boys fields all the time and often dreads. It’s not “Do they leave the toilet seat up all the time?” It’s “Do you wish you had a daughter?” It’s a question that will follow me continuously for my entire life, and I get it. People see me with my four boys and say, “All boys! Wow, do you wish you had a girl?” or “Be glad they’re not girls. There’s so much drama.”
What these people don’t know is the private pain that I had a daughter, but she died in a second trimester miscarriage when I was 18 weeks pregnant. Something just hadn’t felt right to me for a couple of weeks leading up to our big 18-week ultrasound appointment. Nothing in particular but an unease that prompted me to stop at my OB/GYN to see if anyone was available to do a quick heartbeat check because I happened to be in the area. Unfortunately, it was during lunch hour and no one was there except the receptionist. She offered to make me an appointment for later that day, but being busy with a 1-year-old and twin 4-year-olds, I declined as I had to get home several towns away.
The day of the big 18-week ultrasound arrived and I started spotting, something that had never happened with any of my previous pregnancies. Part of me knew something was wrong, that subconscious thing that caused me to stop in at my doctor’s just weeks before. I told my husband, and we proceeded to the appointment guarded but hopeful.
They did the regular blood pressure and urine protein checks and put the fetal Doppler on my belly. The midwife couldn’t detect a heartbeat but remained positive and said, “Let’s just give it some more time.” She kept searching and searching but nothing. My heart already knew, but I let them continue. She got us into the ultrasound room, and in the dark, I saw our baby on the screen, perfectly formed with a cute nose, lips, fingers, and toes still and unmoving, silently suspended. The technician said, “I’m so sorry. I can’t detect a heartbeat,” frantically turned off the machine, turned on the lights, and ran out of the room to get someone. I laid there with gel on my bare stomach, put both hands over my face, and started to sob—loud, ugly sobs of “No, no, no.” My husband was stunned. Sure we all understood miscarriage, but this far along? The baby looked perfect on the screen.
Finally, a midwife came in, rubbed my leg, and said how sorry she was, that she was sending me home but scheduling a surgical procedure for first thing the next morning. My husband and I staggered out of the office feeling completely numb as we passed by the happy pregnant women sitting in the waiting room. We went directly to my parents’ house as they were watching our three boys and waiting to hear the news of whether the baby was a boy or girl. My dad was in the yard with a hose and said, “So what’s the verdict? Boy or girl?” I sobbed, “Dad, it’s over. The baby is gone.” He dropped the running hose. My parents were devastated too and equally stunned into silence. We had to tell our boys who were saddened by the news.
Two months later, I received the call I had been waiting for. The doctor did genetic testing on our unborn baby to determine a possible cause for the death, but I knew she would also know the gender. She told me that there was nothing genetically wrong with the baby and that sometimes they never know why. I asked her if she knew the gender.
“Yes,” she said.
“Could you tell me?”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” She hesitated.
“Please, I need to know. I need some closure here.”
“The baby was a female. I’m so sorry.”
I thanked her and hung up the phone and sobbed again. I cried for the little girl we had so desperately wanted but weren’t destined to have. As a person of faith, I do believe she is with God and we will see her again. But I am oh so sad that in this earthly life I will never get to hold her.
We went on to have one more child, a boy, and now that I am older, I have made peace with not having a daughter. A neighbor of ours has become a surrogate daughter of sorts, and I have enjoyed having her hang out with my boys, tell me about her day, help me with things around the house, and being the mystery guest at her school. Some of that longing void has been filled.
And yes, maybe I will have a granddaughter someday. But if you see a mom out and about with a gaggle of boys, don’t ask her about a girl as maybe she too had a daughter that nobody knows about.