I was pregnant again, and there was no question that I was having a boy. I told everyone who asked that I was certain of it. I already had a son, who was 3-years-old at the time. The child I had miscarried shortly before becoming pregnant this time around was a boy. And, I felt that it was no coincidence: For decades, boys have filled generation after generation of my husband’s family. It wasn’t that we were opposed to having a daughter. It just didn’t occur to any of us that a baby girl would enter our clan anytime soon. I believe my in-laws even said, quite earnestly, “Another boy!” when we announced our happy news over the holidays.
My body, however, was trying to tell me that I had it all wrong, at least according to the old wives tales. I didn’t listen, in much the same way that I dismissed friends who told me that I could have a girl. With this baby, my thighs and butt seemed to be expanding as quickly as my belly was. With my son, I was all belly. I suddenly craved sweets, even though I wanted salty foods all the time when I was expecting my son. The sickness was also dramatically better this time around. Although I did experience queasiness all day long, it wasn’t the gut-churning misery that got so bad I had to be hospitalized twice when I was pregnant the first time. Every pregnancy is different, I rationalized. That stuff isn’t true anyway.
Ten weeks later, I found out that I was having a girl.
Although I said I didn’t care about the baby’s gender — after the heartbreak of having a miscarriage, I was just so grateful for the opportunity to have another child — I do realize now, looking back, that a part of me was terrified to have a daughter. A son was easy, in my mind; I knew how to parent a boy. But girls? I had no clue, because here’s the thing: My own mom and I have always had a deeply complicated relationship, and I feared repeating that cycle with my own daughter. Yes, we love each other. But there have also been years of arguments and alienation and heartache. The thought of having a relationship like that with my own baby girl was more than I could bear.
So, I thought back to my years of therapy. The same therapy that commenced during my first pregnancy. It was a time of incredible darkness and overwhelming anxiety, even though it should have been filled with light and happiness. I so desperately wanted a baby, but once I became pregnant I turned into someone I didn’t even recognize. Through therapy, I learned that my anxieties and fears originated from my difficult childhood, which included an absentee father. I was convinced I’d screw it all up, if I wasn’t perfect at this parenting thing. And how could I be, if even the idea of becoming a mom terrified me? I felt so incredibly flawed.
By the time I left therapy, of course, I knew that perfection isn’t a thing when it comes to parenting. Thank god, right? There’s enough pressure that comes with parenthood as it is, without the awful P Word. I also felt confident in my ability to give my son and any future children the happy childhood I didn’t have, without repeating the damaging patterns and behaviors that I had experienced in my past. Yes, even if I happened to have a daughter one day.
My baby girl was born on August 8, 2014. She is amazing — the funniest, sweetest, most ornery person I’ve ever met. She recently caused an $800 clog to our toilet (by flushing a hairpin) and then, minutes after we paid the bill, we caught her scribbling on our kitchen table with markers, giggling manically. She loves her big brother with her whole heart, to the depth of her soul. She calls out to him first thing in the morning and, when he comes home after school, she runs to him and hugs him like her life depends on it. In the morning, she’ll climb on my lap and snuggle up, curls askew, pillowy lips brushing my cheek. She loves her daddy fiercely, too.
Now I look at her and think, How could I possibly live without you? The same thought runs through my mind when I look at her brother. The love that I have for them consumes me. Yes, they exhaust me and annoy me and piss me off and bring me to my breaking point, but they also fill me with incomparable joy. And although there’s plenty that I can’t predict about our future together, there are certain things that I can guarantee them. I promise to love them unconditionally for as long as I live. They will never have cause to question my love. I will always be there to support them, no matter what. My support will never be conditional, either. I will always be there to listen to them, to brush away their tears, and to hug them. I will always be their Mom. They are my everything.
© Heather Morgan Shott