My Convertible Life

Thursday, May 8, 2014

It's a Girl

This post is from my piece at last year's Listen to Your Mother show in Raleigh. You can watch me here, but I realized I never posted the text. Excited to go see this year's show tonight as an audience member!

When she’s older, my daughter will probably hate me for saying this, or even thinking it. But I didn’t want to have a girl.

My son was about to turn two that Father’s Day morning when I peed on the stick and realized we were going to have another baby. Junius was finally starting to sleep more at night. Life was just beginning to feel manageable again. While I was excited to be pregnant, I was equally overwhelmed by the idea of beginning it all again.

As the weeks went by, my second pregnancy mirrored the first. I was tired, but never sick and only occasionally queasy. Girth increased steadily with weight, matching the first pregnancy pound for pound and inch for inch week by week.

This baby is a boy, I thought -- just like the first. If it were a girl, I would know. I would feel different and I would be vomiting. But everything was the same and I was relieved.

I imagined we would become “Cyndi and the boys.” Our sons would be buddies and build LEGOS and play basketball. My husband would take them camping and fishing on weekends while I stayed home and went for pedicures and read books. Yes, they might be loud or messy, but it would be worth it.

It’s the American way: boys love their mamas. They would love me, cherish me and never, ever turn on me.

Because ladies, let’s be honest. We save the really bad shit for our mamas.

I wasn’t a crazy or rebellious kid. I have always had a good relationship with both of my parents. But in my teen years, something changed. I was mean to my mother and treated her in ways that I never would my father. Even when I wasn’t upset with my mom, I still held back my disaster meltdown moments until she was the only one around to deal with me.

The best of daughters seem to go through rough times with their mothers. And that’s the good ones. The rest wind up hating their moms, vowing never to be like them, and rolling their eyes and yelling obscenities at them.

So when the ultrasound revealed that this new baby was a girl? I was terrified.

And I hated myself for it.

I was supposed to be excited. A son AND a daughter. One of each! Isn’t that what everyone wants? Slugs and snails meets sugar and spice. The perfect family.

Except that I wanted a matched set. Wouldn’t it be so much easier -- and so much less frightening -- to have another boy? I was getting good at being a boy mama. Starting over with a newborn was scary enough without the specter of one day having to share my house with a hormonal pre-teen girl.

For two weeks, my husband and I didn’t tell anyone we’d found out it was a girl -- not even our parents or our son. We practiced at home saying “she” and “her” instead of “it” and “the baby.” We talked about girl names. We thought about friends who had painted nurseries pink in preparation, only to discover on birth day that their baby had been hiding his little boy parts when the ultrasound tech was looking. Maybe the ultrasound was wrong?

Of course it wasn’t wrong. Our baby girl arrived as scheduled on Feb. 22, 2008, beautiful and round and perfect.

It turns out that I was wrong about not wanting a daughter. The last months of my pregnancy gave me time to get used to the idea. When she was born, I already knew her -- and I loved her immediately. Five years later, Pippi is sweet and funny and crazy smart. She sings and dances constantly through each day, strutting her stuff in pink cowgirl boots and mismatched outfits. She possesses a powerful confidence at age five that will hopefully carry her far in life.

But it also turns out that I was kind of right to be afraid. Pippi may only be five, but she’s already giving me a run for my money. She saves her worst behavior for me and her best for her teachers. She tells lies and tests limits and pushes my buttons in ways that make me grind my teeth and bang my head into my hands. She is a Daddy’s Girl -- apparently it takes one to make one -- and she already seems to know that she can be meaner to me than she treats him.

She is the best and worst of having a daughter. And I am lucky to have made her.

So I try hard to give her the most important things my mother has always given me. A patient ear. A loving heart. A shoulder to cry on. And a wonderful father for the many times ahead when she doesn’t want any of those things from me.

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