For years I had seen in my mind a little girl with red curls. The red was a little darker than strawberry blonde, the curls were loose and wild. She was my daughter.
When my now-husband and I started getting serious, I thought she may truly come to fruition one day. My husband’s beard comes in a glorious red and the hair that once grew thicker than it does now has a lot of red when the sun catches it right.
Growing up, my mom was a stay-at-home mom and she did in-home childcare. She only kept a couple of kids at a time and we loved each of them ferociously and as if they were a piece of ourselves because in so many ways, they were. Somehow, we ended up with girls and girls and GIRLS! As I started getting older and becoming a nanny myself, I wound up with more GIRLS. Through my entire childhood and teenage years there was a 90% chance that if you saw me then I had a baby girl sitting up on my hip as well.
When my now-husband and I found out that we were unexpectedly pregnant three weeks before our wedding, the world dropped from under my feet. One of the tiny grains of hope that I fed on was that it was most definitely, absolutely, for sure going to be Her.
I had talked myself up for our twenty-week anatomy scan. I wasn’t delusional; I knew that there was an equal chance that this child could turn out to be a boy and that yep, I was absolutely going to be crushed by that and that it would be normal to feel that way if it happened. All the while I was desperately hoping that it was Her I would find on the ultrasound monitor that day.
It wasn’t Her. It was very clearly a him.
My ultrasound tech was named Joy. I’m not kidding, that was her name and she RADIATED it. Being employed by the hospital system in which I gave birth means that I knew she had been there for quite some time and because of my epilepsy and gestational diabetes, I was getting to see her fairly regularly. She was truly a physical embodiment of her name and she handled me with such grace that day as my heart broke. For that reason, she will truly always remain one of the most wonderful women I have ever met.
I don’t remember much about telling my parents and my in-laws that we were having a boy, I really don’t. Most of that day is a blur in my memory as I trudged through it mostly in tears. I just remember reassuring everyone, especially myself, by repeating, “This is normal. I’m allowed to feel this way and I just need to feel it and work through it. I KNOW how much I will love him when he is here.”
I did know. I knew enough about mental health to know that once he was alive and well and warm on my chest that it wouldn’t matter that he was a boy; that he would be perfectly him and that in a couple of years I would say, “I can’t believe I ever hoped that he was a girl!” I also knew that in the meantime it was okay for me to feel the way that I did.
In truth, I wasn’t SAD that I was having a boy; I was sad because I had to say goodbye to the little girl who had grown in my mind and heart over the years. I wasn’t grieving what mothering a boy meant for me but needed to grieve what it meant that I might never mother a little girl. The two feelings were mutually exclusive.
I remember the day that my heart started to heal and the thoughts around the little boy in my womb started to shift. I was driving in my car on the way to a friend’s house when Ellie Holcomb’s song Wonderfully Made came on the radio.
You search me and know me
You know when I sit, when I rise
So You must know the choices I’ve, made
And the pain that I hide
What if I saw me, the way that You see me?
What if I believed it was true?
What if I traded, this shame and self-hatred?
For a chance at believing You
‘Cause You knit me together
In my mother’s womb
And You say that I’ve never been
Hidden from You
And You say that I’m wonderfully
And Your eyes, they have seen me
Before I was born
And You know all the good things
That You made me for
And I’m wonderfully
I cried as I drove and those words poured into my heart. This little boy was planned and chosen and LOVED as he was being perfectly created in my womb. He may have been a surprise for us but he was never a surprise for God and he was so wonderfully made as the little boy that he was.
I won’t say that the rest of my pregnancy was smooth sailing after that song came on the radio or that I never again felt a drop in the pit of my stomach as I thought about the little girl who wouldn’t be but it was easier to process those moments moving forward. I was able to re-center myself again and find calm in a stormy heart.
Andrew is two now and, as predicted, there hasn’t been a moment since he was born that I wished he was a girl. As predicted, we do sometimes laugh and say “Can you imagine if he had been a girl? He wouldn’t be him!” Even in the depths of the postpartum depression that ravaged me after he was born, I never once wished he were anyone different than he was. He was perfect and he is perfect now.
He’s wild and silly. He’s chaos and he’s ornery. He never slows down and he keeps us on our toes every second of the day but he says “I love you” and follows it up with “SO much” every time. He has a fiery sense of humor already and he thinks his Mommy is the best thing since sliced bread. He is everything good and right and pure and WONDERFUL in the world for me and his Daddy and for so many others who are affected by his little light.
My motto for myself through my pregnancy and postpartum was that your feelings are valid. Your feelings are valid. Your feelings are valid no matter what they are and no matter how they may seem to anyone else they are real and they are yours and they matter. Feel what you need to feel. Find a support system to help you while you navigate them but don’t shy away from them. Walk through your feelings because there is life on the other side of them and that life has been wonderfully made just for you.