For as long as I can remember, I knew I would have a daughter.
It is funny really, because I did not have a lot of female influences in my life growing up. I did not have sisters and I only had a few close girl friends scattered throughout the years. We did not live near aunts or cousins, the grandmother I adored passed away when I was young, and I cannot remember a single female mentor that stands out in my memory.
What I did have was my mama.
Perhaps this is why a daughter was such a fixed part of the future in my mind. Where life circumstances had failed in providing close female relationships, nature had prevailed. It would inevitably give me a daughter of my own to love the way my mother loved me.
Only it didn’t work out that way at all.
Early this year, I took my fifth and final positive pregnancy test. Over the past nine years, I have had a single early miscarriage and three beautiful, bewildering boys. As I stared, slack-jawed, at that very unexpected double pink line, I knew two things instantly and beyond a shadow of a doubt: 1) I knew that this would be the last baby I would ever have and 2) I knew that this baby was a boy.
Never once have I felt disappointed about my boys.
I have always wanted a large family and I am madly in love with my clan of tiny men. I never minded waiting just a little while longer for a daughter. Unfortunately, I have simply run out of time to wait. My body cannot manage another high-risk pregnancy. After our third child was born, I knew that giving birth to another was not a great idea. We shifted our focus to a possible adoption. This fourth and oh, so final pregnancy took us by surprise and we are fairly certain that a family of six is our limit when it comes to mental, emotional and physical resources. I mean, really, you would understand if you saw how much my children eat.
I am not at all sad that this baby is a boy. My husband and I make gorgeous and brilliant boys, if I must say so myself. I am happy to add another to this world. However, for the first time in my life, I am fully aware that our nuclear family is complete. We are moving out of the time when the shape and size of it is constantly shifting to make way for another member. We are solidifying.
This means that I will never have a daughter.
For the first 19 weeks of my pregnancy, I did not speculate at all about the baby being anything other than the boy I knew he was. But on the day before my anatomy scan, I gave myself permission to fantasize about the little girl I might have had.
I pictured her ultrasound reveal, a sign declaring, “It’s a girl!” on the hospital door. In my mind’s eye I saw her head full of dark hair, round hazel eyes, long piano fingers and I saw experiences unfolding: daddy-daughter dances, pulling hair into pigtails, tiny arms wrapping around her Papa’s neck, dusting off old toys I had loved. Would she like dragons or dancing? Magenta or marigold? Tutus or tennis shoes? I let myself pretend that I might go prom-dress shopping or wedding planning one day or that I might be asked for advice on dating or makeup or breastfeeding or anything at all.
I allowed myself one day of savoring the possibility of a little girl. The next morning, I tucked her back into the corner of my mind where she has lived for so long, took a deep breath, and walked into my appointment prepared to see my little boy on the screen. As the ultrasound tech passed the wand over my belly and revealed my son to me, she chuckled. “You were right, it’s a boy,” she said casually. “But I guess you wouldn’t even know what to do with a girl anyway.” The exact same words have flown from my mouth a thousand times before. There was no reason for them to sting in that moment, but they did. Perhaps they hurt because they are just not accurate.
I do not know really who my daughter would be. I do not know what she would look like or if we would have a good relationship. I do not what her favorite color would be, or what music she would listen to, or if she would ever ask me for advice or come home for Christmas — it is all a mystery to me. I do not know who she would be, but I absolutely know what I would DO.
I would love her and I would be her mama.
In the dark room, with the hum of the ultrasound machine in my ear, I felt a wave of grief wash over me for the little girl that I will never know. It was the first, but I do not think it will be the last. Letting go is a process. But it came and then it went. Just a moment later my eyes were back on the little bean that is growing inside me now. I watched my baby boy wiggle on the screen, a hand under his chin. I watched my tiny miracle, a fourth baby under my heart, a baby that was never, ever going to happen…and all I thought to myself was, “I wonder who he will be.”
You see, I do not really know who my fourth son will be. I do not know what he will look like or if we will have a good relationship. I do not know what his favorite color will be or what music he will listen to or if he will want to come home for Christmas — it is all a mystery to me…but I absolutely know what I will do: I will love him and I will be his mama.