“I bet you’re getting a lot of comments about hoping that it’s a girl, huh?”
“I’m so sorry. I get it.”
I wanted to hug her right then and there as the tears filled my eyes. She did get it. The woman at church who always checks in with how I’m doing as my belly grows and, God willing, we get to meet this little person growing within me. She understood how much it cuts this mother’s heart to hear everyone’s preferences for the gender of this baby. She’d lost a baby before, too.
This is my sixth pregnancy, my fifth full term pregnancy. We have a saint in heaven, lost before we knew whether that little person is a boy or a girl and four healthy and amazing sons with us on earth. Sometimes I can’t fathom how blessed we’ve been. How undeserving we are. For several reasons, we’ve never found out the gender of our babies before birth and this time has been no different. Funny enough, the unknowing seems to bother other people more than us.
I’ve never been one to let most comments get to me. The “you have your hands full” that bothers other people has never bothered me. (Yes, yes I do. Who decided that was a bad thing?) I expect in this culture to get the inquisitive looks or even the snap judgements. After all, being open to more than the standard amount of children is an anomaly in our culture so it’s not a surprise when people find us a curiosity. I try to always assume the best and really do see it as a mode of evangelization and an opportunity to share.
But that one. The one about my children’s gender. The one that is less about ideology and seems a more personal critique of my children. The “so, are you hoping for a girl?” that I hear over and over almost every time I leave the house. That one cuts right to the heart especially since it’s often said by people who share our Faith.
We have four boys. Never in my entire life or imagination would I ever wish that one of them were a girl. I can’t even fathom wanting to change something like that. This newest child who is already present and growing and who God has already ordained male or female is no different. Who they are has already been determined by God and that is exactly who we want him or her to be. Really. No, we are not “hoping for a girl.” We are so grateful and thrilled that the Lord saw fit to bless us, as sinful and fumbling as we are, with the gift of another child. A child we in no way deserve or can claim right to. We are hoping this child is whoever God already designed them to be – male or female.
I know many people are not intending to hurt, of course, and I try to graciously point out that we have zero preference for this child’s gender. I know many people think it is oversensitive or silly to be hurt by such comments (while, of course, never having been on the receiving end of them). But even so, the comments reek of the idea that one sort of child is preferable to another. That there is an ideal family makeup and that if a family is “unbalanced” then clearly, the parents must harbor some sort of disappointment. I’d even go so far as to say the comments can promote a spirit of the child as commodity – something we can order up as wished, in the flavor we desire. One observation I’ve noted is that the people I know who have experienced burying a child or who have held the negative pregnancy tests in their hands month after excruciating month – they get it. They seem to understand more that any child is a gift and that we want them exactly as they come. That a child is nothing we deserve and that each life is a unique, unrepeatable gift, one that we cannot earn, deserve, or should want to manufacture to our personal specifications.
Perhaps part of my sensitivity is because almost always it is said directly in front of my boys or asked directly to them. I cringe at the implications that seem so obvious to a mother’s heart. Clearly your parents don’t want another of your type. Clearly a girl would “fit” better. Clearly your mother somehow feels lacking with “just” boys. Clearly another boy would just be disappointing. And I can see it in their eyes that they don’t know how to answer. Sure, that might just roll off the back of some children but for some, the wound cuts deep and the words sink in.
How do I know? Because I’m one of six girls and a boy. And we heard the opposite type of comments routinely. The shocked looks. The “Oh, your poor father!” or “Your dad must really want another boy!” True or not, when you hear a comment like that over and over again, you begin to believe it may be true. Those comments ingrained themselves deep, leading me to believe my femininity really was a drawback and that surely it would have been better had I been a boy. For many years I regretted my God-given femininity and truly believed it to be a burden. It took a lot of time and healing to overcome those thoughtless comments that we heard so very very often about our gender.
I try my best now to make sure that my sons know that we would be absolutely thrilled with another boy…just as thrilled as if this baby is a girl. I tell them how glad I am that God made them the way they are and that I would never change a thing. I tell them that other people don’t understand sometimes that boys and girls are equal and that every baby is gift from God and is exactly who he or she is supposed to be in that family. I hope it helps. I hope they know how precious they are, just as they were created, and that they never ever wish they were different. And I hope when this new little one is born that, boy or girl, he or she will be just as celebrated by the people around us. My prayer is that someday we can build a culture of life that sees each child as an undeserved gift – unique, unrepeatable, precious – and that their God-given gender is celebrated and accepted with equal amounts of joy. I pray that we realize with our assent and with our spoken words that when a family and the children given it are designed by God Himself they are exactly as they should be.