The Complicated Feelings That Come When You Find Out You're Expecting Your Fifth BOY
Dec 21, 2016
During the first half of my pregnancy, when the gender of our baby was still unknown, family and friends would often say things like, "Oh, I hope you get your girl this time!"
I know they meant it with the best of intentions and I love them for it, but such comments always made me slightly indignant, like, "Do they really think I'm having another baby just because I'm hoping for a girl?!"
The truth is, before we decided to have another baby, I had to think long and hard about whether or not I was actually okay with possibly adding a girl to our family. The thought literally terrified me. I love my four boys. I love the identity that having all one gender gives to our family. I love being able to streamline gift giving and event planning because their interests and needs are so similar. Basically, I'm just very, very comfortable being a mom of boys.
I've thought often about something my friend once told me. She has two boys and one girl, and she and her husband were contemplating having a fourth. She really, really wanted a sister for her little girl, and her husband said if they could guarantee a girl, then he'd be fine with it, too. But the thing is, you can't guarantee something like that (at least, not unless you want to spend a lot of money), and my friend said she realized she had to be okay with a girl or a boy. (The rest of the story: they decided to stick with three children rather than chance it.)
I found myself facing the same kind of decision before this pregnancy, and I think most people are surprised to learn that it was actually the idea of a girl, rather than another boy, that made me hesitant to have another baby. But eventually, I came to terms with the possibility.
I'm not the type of person to get any sort of premonition about the gender of the baby when I'm pregnant. I never have any dreams or get any sort of feeling. I just always think I'm having a boy because that's all I know. (Maybe if I ever do end up having a girl, my pregnancy will be so different, I'll just know it right from the start.)
Anyway, as the date of our 20-week ultrasound approached, I found myself clutching possessively at my all-boy card while at the same time entertaining a thought here and there about pink clothes and hair bows and mommy-daughter dates.
It was a strange bag of emotions, and I kept thinking about how grateful I was that the decision was beyond my control. I constantly felt the pressure to produce a girl, and I think if it had actually been up to me, I wouldn't have been able to separate what I wanted from the opinions of everyone around me.
Before the doctor began the ultrasound, she asked about our family and found out about our four boys. We told her we thought this baby was probably another boy but that we wouldn't be shedding any tears either way because we were perfectly content with either a boy or a girl. She began her methodical exam, starting with the placenta and cervix. As she made her way to the actual baby, the answer was right there, loud and clear.
"Well that's definitely a boy," she said. "I actually was pretty sure you were going to have a girl, but I was wrong."
And Mike and I both looked at each other and laughed. Five boys. Who would've ever thought?
I knew I would be happy and relieved and just so content if I found out we were having another boy. And I was. All of those emotions were there, front and center. What I was unprepared for were the other feelings that immediately crowded in and clamored for my attention.
The one word that best describes them is, ironically, loss.
Here I was, gaining another child and another son, and I felt an overwhelming sense of loss.
It's hard for me to comprehend, let alone explain, which I think is the reason I felt compelled to write about it. (And I should probably insert that I think my feelings would have been just as complicated if we'd found out we were having a girl, and there would have been a sense of loss with that as well.)
As Mike and I were sitting in the lobby waiting for the ultrasound DVD to copy, I leaned over and whispered, "I'm sad for Aaron." It was an odd sentiment. Aaron hadn't ever even expressed a desire for a sister, and I knew he'd be thrilled when he heard he was getting another brother, but still I felt sad for him. He has always been the very sweetest of big brothers, and I imagined that would have only been multiplied if it had been a baby sister under his kind and protective wing. More than anything, I think it was the realization that I wouldn't get to see what he would have been like as the big brother of a little sister.
As the days passed, that wondering of what would have been seemed to haunt me at every turn. Because we've never had a girl, our experiences so far have followed a rather similar course. And knowing that this is our fifth child and that five children is a lot, it is quite possible that this will be our last and so I might very well never know what some of those things would feel like.
For example, how would I react if the ultrasound tech said, "And . . . it looks like it's a girl!" It's rather mind blowing.
Or what would it feel like to tell family and friends (particularly my mother-in-law) that we're having a girl? How would they respond?
What would I do to prepare for a girl? How would it be different than preparing for a boy? What books would I read? What conversations would I have? What clothes or baby gear would I buy?
What would it be like to choose a name for a girl? To look through lists of girl names and pay close attention to every unique or unusual name I heard?
How would Sunday mornings change if I had to actually fix a little girl's hair before church instead of making a pit stop at the drinking fountain on our way into the chapel to smooth down my boys' unruly tufts?
What would it be like to hold her for the first time? To see Mike hold her for the first time? To see my kids with her?
While I'm so happy to have another boy, everything I've been feeling is so familiar. I've done this all before. Five times actually. And there's a small part of me that wonders what, if anything, I'm missing.
However, traveling the well-traveled road comes with its own perks. I've done this before, and I know I'm in for a treat. I can't wait to snuggle and love another boy. (And I'm happy to retain my position of queen of the house without having to figure out how to share the role.)
And although much of this pregnancy is familiar, there have been some delightful surprises as well. For one, our kids are beyond excited. Like, you wouldn't believe how ecstatic they are about another brother. Every week, we have to look up his progress and growth. And every few days, Clark will randomly burst out, "You're going to have a baby! I'm going to be a big brother!" My kids have never been old enough before to truly enjoy the excitement and anticipation of a new baby, and it has brought a whole new level of joy that I wasn't expecting.
The other surprise is how everyone else has reacted to the news of another boy. In the past, people have offered condolences or half-hearted attempts at enthusiasm when we've shared the gender, so that's what I was expecting this time. But either people are getting better at lying or five boys is just so crazy that it carries its own wonder. I choose to think the latter because that's how I feel. Five boys is miraculously wonderful.
And actually, I have a confession to make: In spite of telling the doctor that she wouldn't see any tears from me, I found myself quietly wiping them away. But it wasn't because I was having a boy. And it wasn't because I wasn't having a girl. As she looked at our baby's brain and his heart and his limbs and his face and his spine, she kept saying things like, "See this? That's exactly what we want to see. You have a perfectly healthy baby."
And that, beyond anything else, is the true wonder and miracle to me. Life is a such a gift, and I feel so incredibly blessed to watch another little one take shape. My heart is full and my tears catch me unawares, both then in that little exam room and every day since.
Photo credit goes to our good friend, James Gardner.