I’ve always wanted to be a mother.
When I was a little girl I’d line up my dolls and stuffed animals like children and sing for them as I cooked or cleaned or changed their clothes. As a teenager I began dating my now-husband and, wise beyond my years, I made sure he wanted babies too, before we got too serious.
When I envisioned my future family, as I often did, I always saw a pile of kids – four or five at least, wrestling in a big green yard or sipping lemonade on a wide front porch. My children would be well behaved and smart and funny. And they would all be girls. I didn’t have anything against little boys, I just never imagined them as a part of my life.
So when I became pregnant with my first child, I spent the first 16 weeks imagining finally meeting one of my daughters and watching her play, learn and grow into the strong, world-changing woman I knew she would be. And then we had our anatomy scan and I learned I would be having a boy and, surprisingly, I felt nothing but joy.
Since his birth my son has brought a depth into my life I didn’t imagine before he existed. He’s adventurous and sweet and affectionate and, having now spent countless hours in mommy and me classes and at the park observing other families, I’m confident that his boyness has far less to do with his personality than his natural inclinations or the way we’re raising him.
I’ve made a conscious effort over the past two and a half years to check myself on how I parent him, I want to be sure that I’m raising him free to be himself, whoever that might turn out to be. And, while his sex will impact the way the world interacts with him, I hope he never feels either boxed in or entitled because of his anatomy.
My little guy has done a lot of growing since he came into the world and, this winter, he’ll be growing again, this time into the role of big brother. His little brother or sister is due exactly a month before he turns three and, to help him get acclimated to the idea, we’ve been reading a lot about babies and talking about how life will be different and he’s been rocking and diapering his dolls diligently.
During the months my husband and I wanted to be pregnant, but weren’t yet, we talked a lot about what life would be like as a family of four. Would it be chaotic or calm? Loud or relaxed? Would we feel like we’d made a good choice or be in totally over our heads? We looked forward to a new baby with the same excitement we’d had as we looked forward to my son. The only difference was that this time, instead of longing deeply for a girl I felt totally at ease with being surprised- I knew now, after having my son, that having a boy or girl was far less than important that have a baby with a big, wonderful, unique personality.
I was surprised then that one of my first thoughts after the double lines appeared was, “I hope it’s a girl.” My desire for a little girl was, apparently, alive and well. By the end of the week, I’ll know whether the baby I’m carrying is a girl or boy, but the wait to find out hasn’t been nearly as maddening as my own self- analysis regarding my desire for a little girl.
I know, both academically and from experience, that gender is fluid and that their biological sex determines almost nothing about who a baby will become. But still, I want a girl. Is it because of the clothes? Or the interests I presume she’ll have? Or the fact that I want to be able to share my experiences with someone whose body matches my own?
Though baby girl clothes are so cute that, daughter-less, I can hardly pass them by without taking a peak at Target, I don’t think it’s the clothes that drive me towards wanting a girl. I’ve always dressed my son neutrally and without fuss and I’m sure I’d dress a daughter the same. In fact, with a due date so close to my son’s birthday this baby will undoubtedly be wearing my boys clothes, no matter what happens to be under their diaper.
I’ve wondered if my desire stems from wanting a child with traditionally “girls” interests as many presume a daughter would have, but I don’t think that’s it either. My son loves care-play and has quite a collection of dolls. He also enjoys cooking in his kitchen and likes to sit and color if given the right supplies.
A daughter might like these things, or she might not, but, either way I’ve never cared what I’m playing with my son as long as he’s having fun. As my kids grow up, I’m sure that how they like to spend their time will evolve but, son or daughter, their interests will only overlap with mine as much as they happen to.
Though due to social and societal conditioning, it’s probably more likely that a daughter would go get her nails done with me that a son would, I’m really not that into going to the salon and would much rather spend the day hiking.
As I puzzled over why I seemed to want a girl a friend suggested that perhaps I’m subconsciously drawn to wanting to raise a child who will share the experience of womanhood, at least physically, with me.
And perhaps there’s some truth to that. I do look forward to helping my girl love her body and herself and teaching her how to be strong, but that in itself seems like a silly reason for a preference, and, honestly, I want all those things for my son as well. We already talk about loving and respecting our bodies and the bodies or others and I feel proud of how much he already seems to understand his and others physical autonomy.
After much digging, I think the answer for my desire is simple – I want to recreate the family I grew up in. I grew up with both a brother and a sister and feel, deeply, that having them for siblings shaped me into who I am today. We’re all still very close, and very close with my parents and so, I think, I want to make a family that looks like mine did so it will turn out like mine is- loving and happy and bonded. I also want my son to have a sister and my daughter to have a brother- I got to have both and benefited deeply so it’s my hope that my children will too.
As I puzzled over my desire for a girl and what might be driving it, my husband wondered out loud why I was stressing so much over the self-analysis when we had no control over the outcome anyway. It’s true, I have no say in whether I’m having a boy or girl, but I still wanted to know why I felt the way I did- an over-reliance on gender stereotypes? A feminist failing? No, I think just a desire to have a happy family and a subconscious idea what that looks like.
When we find later this week whether my baby-to-be is a boy or girl I’m sure I’ll be overjoyed either way. Maybe my picture of a happy family will stay the same, or maybe it will change. In time though, my child will be born, loved and safe and healthy, and I’ll be grateful for whatever life has in store.