There are two things that people usually ask me when I tell them that I have two sons: Am I going to try for a girl and, if not, do I wish that I had a girl. These are not questions with basic yes/no responses, and they’re not getting any easier to answer.
“Are you going to try for a girl?”
The simple answer, when you strip it right back to its most basic form, is no. No, we are not going to try for a girl.
The slightly more complicated answer is this: Having another child would change our lives completely. The very least of things is that neither of our cars could comfortably accommodate a third child seat. But then there’s the other stuff. The big, less easily fixed stuff. Our house isn’t big enough for five humans and two cats to co-exist without constant privacy issues. The sums don’t add up. The far-reaching financial implications of a third child are, without exaggeration, insurmountable. Also, my second pregnancy almost physically broke me, and F’s first six months of life took such a toll on me emotionally that it was almost a year before I started feeling mentally stable again.
Even if we did try again, there’s no guarantee that we would get a girl. In fact, there’s a very good chance we would end up with another boy. And I would love him; of course I would. But I am already incredibly outnumbered by males and I already have three other people in the house who think I’m having a psychotic break whenever my menstrual mood swings get the better of me. I also don’t have a clue what I would call him, having exhausted my very limited resources of names for boys.
“Do you wish you had a girl?”
Firstly: Rude. Unintentionally, I’m sure, but that question never fails to poke the defensive Mama Bear in me. Because what I really feel like I am being asked is whether or not I wish that one of my existing children was a girl.
And the answer is: No.
No, I don’t wish that. I cannot imagine what my life would be without, specifically, them. Exactly as they are. It makes me feel as though I’m somehow expected to look at their being boys as an unfortunate side-effect of their existence. I know that’s not the intention behind the question. I know that. But they are my boys. My brilliant, clever, funny, beautiful boys, and I love every little bit of them. I love how O is so extroverted and sassy and brimming over with excitement about life. I love how F is sensitive and empathetic and mischievous. I love who they are together and how they interact with each other and adore each other.
Here’s the thing: I grew up naively assuming that one day I would have a daughter. I’ve known since I was 14 what I would call her. In my head she is witty and smart, she loves to run and jump and climb, she reads for hours in her room and she wears whatever the hell she likes. And when she grows up, she is my best friend and most trusted confidant. When we found out that F was another boy, I mourned that imagined daughter. Because I knew that she was never to be and I very quickly had to re-write the future I had expected for myself. At the time, I hated myself for that feeling of bitter disappointment, but I’ve since realised that it’s something I had to experience. And I honestly never, ever look at F and think “I wish you were a girl.”
What I think when I look at both of my children is simply this:
“Thank God that you are YOU.”
It’s true that I am sometimes uncertain about how motherhood will look 15 years from now when my boys are grown-up. I don’t know if they will call me once they’ve moved out and started creating their lives away from home. I don’t know if they will ask my advice when they’re trying to make big decisions. I don’t know if they will ever give me a hug or tell me that they love me.
I know that I love them to a degree that I cannot easily express in words. I know that I am excited to see who they turn out to be. And, above all these things, I know that I wouldn’t trade either of my sons for a daughter.