On Trying — or Not — for a Girl
I was at the library this week with my two young boys when another mom eyed my bulging pregnant belly.
“Do you know what you’re having?” she asked, smiling cautiously.
“A girl,” I said.
“Oh, thank God!” she responded, her relief visible.
I tried to mutter something polite in response and then turned away as quickly as I could, hoping my boys hadn’t heard what she said.
For months now, well-intended strangers, especially women, have expressed an unexpected, unbridled joy upon hearing that I’m expecting a daughter after having two sons. At first, the frequency and intensity of the reactions caught me by surprise. Then I found it annoying. In the last few weeks, perhaps worn down be the final stretch of my pregnancy, I have taken offense to it.
The question that often comes next is along the lines of whether we “tried for a girl,” which I somehow find even harder to hear. I absolutely respect, and know, families who have done just that in the quest for what they see as an ideal family mix. That just hasn’t been our path.
My husband and I tried — hard, through multiple rounds of IVF — not for a boy or a girl but a baby. A healthy baby. We thought for a not-short amount of time that we wouldn’t be able to conceive at all. So the fact that I’m pregnant with our third is an embarrassment of riches, something I always dreamed of but never thought would be possible.
After our two sons, I found myself expecting (and almost hoping?) that a potential third would be a boy, too. I am one of three girls; three of the same makes sense to me. I know what that same-gender dynamic looks and feels like, and I could picture our life as a family of five. Plus, I had all the clothes!
News that the embryo I’m pregnant with now was female (something genetic testing revealed long before this clump of cells became a baby) took me by surprise. I was well into my life as a proud #boymama. How would I know what to do with a girl?
Truth be told, before I had any children, the idea of having boys scared me. I devoted an entire therapy session to the topic, after learning the two viable embryos from our fourth IVF round were males, wondering aloud if I was up to the task. My therapist, bless her, reminded me that the world needed better men and Matt and I could raise them. It was just the motivating shot of confidence I needed to hear, and it’s a refrain I often return to in the more challenging moments of motherhood.
Our two sons, Fitzgerald and Oliver, are the lights of our lives. I adore being a mother to boys, to watch them grow and thrive. I marvel at the physicality of it all and do my best to support their full range of feelings, while being cognizant of introducing them to play concepts without imposing gender on any of it (trucks and tea sets, anyone?).
Which brings me to the other reason I am put off by the overjoyed response to the girl growing inside of me: it feels like a knock on my sons. Intended or not — and this could definitely be my pregnancy hormones reading into it! — it comes with the suggestion that life is somehow lacking without a daughter? Or boys are burdensome in a way, perhaps even that a girl won’t be? I’m not sure, because I’ve never summoned the courage to take the conversation further than that initial reaction. And that’s on me.
I fully realize that this sentiment goes many ways. I know plenty of families who were thrilled with having both a son and a daughter, feeling satisfied with “one of each.” And a friend of mine, who is a mama to four beautiful girls, shared this Huffington Post essay about the reactions she receives to having only daughters. It reminded me of the comments my dad, Pete, received as he navigated the world with his three girls. But my much fonder childhood memories are all the ways he embraced it, including calling himself, “Mr. Pierre, here to do your hair!”
I hope to channel my dad’s approach with my own trio, finding the joy in it all. I have no doubt a little girl will change the dynamic and add her own magic to the mix. I have leaned into the idea at times, like when I picked out a pink dress for my maternity shoot. And, obviously, I have a few bows waiting her arrival. But I haven’t gone crazy buying “girl” clothes, instead choosing to rewash her brothers’ newborn onesies in preparation for her arrival. If Princess Charlotte can wear Prince George’s hand-me-downs, so can my little lady!
But mostly, it’s just so thrilling to be expecting another baby. I can’t wait to see what life is like with three, how my children grow together and on their own. We are all so excited to meet her.
What kind of comments have you received about the mix of genders (or lack thereof) with your siblings or children? How did they make you feel? Please share in the comments below!