What Breaks My Heart Most About Not Having a Daughter

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 

“You know, even if you had another child, there would be no guarantee it would be a girl,” my mother blurted out.

Sometimes my mother lacks a little something called tact. Or perhaps there’s something about the mother-daughter bond that allows for pure, unfiltered honesty.

I have two wild, delicious, sweet-as-honey sons. When my husband and I set out to have kids, we decided we wanted two of them, about five years apart. We’d give the first one our full attention, send him or her off to school, then do the same for the second one. 10 years of little kids. Then done. Boom.

When we did the 20-week ultrasound for our second—knowing he or she would probably be our last child—I admit there was a bit of a knot in my stomach. If it wasn’t a girl, that would be it. I’d be a mom of boys for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t know what it was like to have a daughter of my own.

Up until the last minute, I wavered on whether to find out the sex of our baby. But as soon as the ultrasound technician moved down to the bottom half of his little body, it was clear what was going on. His legs were wide open, penis pointing straight up into the air. I announced it before the tech did.

I grew up in a house of all girls: my mom, my younger sister, and me. Think three women having PMS all at once. Imagine a house reverberating with raw emotion: doors slammed, feet stamped, tears flying. My Little Ponies, Barbies, scrunchies tucked into every corner of the house.

Now I’m surrounded by boys. I live up to my namesake: I’m Wendy, and they’re the lost boys. The truth is, I find boys refreshing. I find them endearing. And I’m madly in love with my sons—everything about them—and wouldn’t change a thing. I feel fulfilled.

Sure, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a little girl around: all the pretty clothing and accessories; sitting down to braid her hair; buying her first bra; telling her about her period. Of course, I could have a girl who scorned all things “girly,” but it’s likely that I would get at least a taste of the “girl world” if I had a daughter. I feel pangs of longing for these things sometimes, but nothing that gets me in the gut.

However, there is one thing that does. It’s the one thing that there is no way my sons will be able to fulfill (without some hocus-pocus magic, or weird medical breakthrough), and the one reason I regret not having a daughter.

I will never watch my own daughter become a mother. When I think about that, my heart breaks a little (a lot).

(I realize that even if I had a daughter, she might not want, or be able, to become a mother. But bear with me; I am in fantasy-land here.)

So, to the daughter that I may never have…

I want to hold your hair back as you vomit into the toilet during your first trimester.

I want to get the phone call when you aren’t sure if those little flutters are gas…or baby.

I want to come over when you can’t stand being pregnant anymore, rub your feet, press my hand into the aches and pains, make you a grilled cheese sandwich, mommy-magic all that end-of-pregnancy angst away.

I want to come to your birth if I’m invited, and I want to respect the hell out of your decision if you don’t want me there.

If I am at your birth, I want to let you squeeze the circulation out of my hand, bury your face in my shoulder. I want to let you scream in my ear, moan, curse, whatever works.

I want to help you believe in your body’s ability to birth, whatever your birth choices are, and however your birth turns out.

I want to help you and your baby nurse (if you choose to), and give you tons of space to find your groove.

I want to cook you food, I want to clean your house, I want to let you rest in bed with your baby for as many days and weeks as you need.

I want you to kick me out whenever you need to.

I want to watch you fall in love with your baby.

I want to listen to you tell me how you feel like your world is falling apart, that the “old” you is scattered across the floor like dirty laundry.

I want to tell you how normal it is, how gorgeous you look in this bright spring morning with your unwashed hair in a messy ponytail.

I want breathe in your courage, your wisdom, your strength—all of which are there, but which you don’t see yet.

I want to see myself in you, see my own mother in you, all the generations of mothers and women in your beautiful, tired eyes.

I want to watch you sleep, your baby tucked into your side like a comma.

I want to stand there and watch the two of you softly breathing.

My two sons come from a long line of gentle, down-to-earth, involved fathers—my father, their father, my husband’s father. These are men who cried when their babies were born, who wouldn’t hesitate to let a newborn sleep half the night on their warm daddy-chests.

If my sons someday become fathers (please, at least one of you do it!), I know I will watch with tears in my eyes as they hold their newborns, and that I will bond with them in new ways as they grow into fatherhood. And perhaps they will partner with women who will let me mother them a bit as they become mothers.

But I can’t deny that there will always be a yearning—a deep ache—to share the rite of passage into motherhood with a daughter of my own.

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