A confession: With both of my pregnancies, I was more than disappointed that I was pregnant with boys. With my oldest, my pregnancy was miserable. I was convinced that if I was going to have to go through so much nausea, heartburn, weight-gain (please, God, let this baby weigh 80lbs!) achiness and exhaustion, it should be for the daughter I envisioned in my head! With my youngest, I laid next to the ultrasound and lied through my teeth when the middle-school-age appearing technician asked me if I had a preference. “No,” I said, “I just want a healthy baby.” But I wanted a girl this time, so bad it ached and I was sorely disappointed when a few seconds later the wand outside my huge belly showed a wand on the baby, too.
That does it, I thought, I am officially the Worst. Mom. Ever.
I pretended throughout that pregnancy that I was delighted to have another boy, but secretly in my head, there was this daughter that I envisioned so completely, that her absence was tangible. I was so deeply ashamed of these feelings of loss, I knew other people wouldn’t understand I would not soon be celebrating the birth of a son, but would instead mourn the loss of a daughter.
When my oldest son was born, there were complications. Slightly pre-term and born via c-section, his teeny lungs just weren’t quite ready to do their thing. I visited him constantly in the NICU those first few days, aching to hold him and kiss him and make it all better for him. I cried to look at him swaddled not in my arms but in a cold incubator with tubes. I didn’t need him to be a girl, I just needed him to be perfectly healthy. We were incredibly lucky, we spent 3 days in the NICU, 2 days in the nursery and got to go home together. As they pushed my wheelchair out of the hospital, taking a photo and leading me to the car my now-ex-husband waited in to take us home, I remember thinking “These people are crazy, letting me take a real honest to goodness human baby home with me! I’m going to be a terrible mother, I couldn’t even keep my freakin’ hermit crabs alive, for petes sake!”
When his brother was born, 11 years later, my pregnancy was much smoother and the labor and delivery was uncomplicated and I bore a son whose physical condition was absolutely perfect and whose personality was apparent immediately. Again, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about him.
I still harbored inside me the loss of my imaginary daughter. She would have brown hair, with pigtails. She would be exuberant and artistic, funny and adorable, and I would give her all the love I never quite felt from my parents.
Yes, Dr Freud, I know… I know.
At the time, I thought I was going to make a terrible mother because I was so disappointed I was going to have boys. I thought I was awful, but I came to find out that I was not awful, I was human. And I wasn’t mourning for a daughter, but was instead sad for my own inner child. But enough about me.
After my divorce, I met someone incredible. The strongest, smartest and bravest woman I’ve ever come across. When she sat me down and explained her life’s journey, having been born a male with Klinefelter syndrome and told me about her transition from Intersex to fully female, I had no qualms about being with her. She had such a beautiful spark to her, an appreciation of life that I wanted to share, I knew she was The One. I wanted to learn her secret for living life so fully.
She has a son, from an earlier marriage, a son she wasn’t supposed to have been able to sire having Klinefelter. He’s the same age as my oldest, Autistic, and she loves him enough to let him live away from the bustling city with his maternal grandparents on a farm about an hour away. Letting him go to her former in-laws was the hardest thing she’s ever done, in a life replete with hardship. They could properly care for him, though, and make sure he got to dr’s appointments, attend school with his peers, and all the things she couldn’t do for him and still support them both working. Her sacrifice for him has paid off: he’s a college student with a rich and healthy outlook who’s exceeded all the professional’s opinions of his potential. This is in no small part due to her own efforts, as well as theirs; she spent all her non-working time visiting and working with him to teach him to speak, to have patience with the unexpected and decrease his sensitivities to time and sensation, and pursue an independent life through education.
None of this came easy to her, though. Her own parents were abusive and hurtful. She learned no parenting or coping skills from them. She researched, observed her son and saw what worked with him and what didn’t, and taught herself to be a mother to him. And those skills paid off when a ghost from her past came calling, and it turned out that she also has a 12 year old daughter she didn’t know about.