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Soon after the birth of my first daughter, I was asked variations of the same question over and over and over: “Are you and your husband going to try for a boy soon?” The birth of our second daughter only intensified these comments: “Oh, you’ll have to go for the third now — that’s how I got my son”; “Your poor husband! Did he want a boy?”; and my favorite “Oh — how sad — I guess no one in your family will be attending St. John’s." (The all-boys high school my husband attended.)
As a mother, it’s hard to know how to respond to these statements. At first I was just stunned: How could anyone look at my two beautiful daughters and assume that my husband and I felt that our lives were somehow incomplete? Part of me wanted to exclaim “Even if my husband really did want a boy, he certainly wouldn’t be stupid enough to tell me!” First of all, I’m a girl. And second of all, anyone who has carried a child for nine long months and experienced childbirth, or any person who has watched their significant other do so, would have to be a fool to express anything besides elation at the news of a healthy child.
How could anyone look at my two beautiful daughters and assume that my husband and I felt that our lives were somehow incomplete?
In a society where men and women are supposed to be equals, why do people feel so comfortable expressing the sentiment that life with daughters is somehow not enough? Is it a hold-over from the days when women couldn’t hope to achieve the same things as men? When men were the only ones who pursued higher education, played sports, or held positions of power of any kind? Is it assumed that a father cannot have a relationship with his daughter that is as meaningful as the one he would have with a son? I grew up with a brother and it never once occurred to me that my father may have favored him. My brother and I were treated more or less the same in our family and we both had close relationships with each parent.
Perhaps most egregiously, these comments have often been made in front of my daughters. They are currently two and four and while they haven’t picked up on the inference yet, I worry that one day they will. I would never want either of them to ever feel like they somehow weren’t exactly what we wanted. Their births were the two absolute best moments of my and my husband’s lives. There just wasn’t any room for disappointment.
I think of all the milestones in the first few months and years of their lives: all the hours my husband and I spent cuddling, rocking, holding, and soothing them; sleeping with their warm little bodies next to us; the first time they each rolled over, took their first steps, said their first words. Would it all somehow have been more meaningful if they were boys? It’s not possible.
And none of this life-altering experience, from what I can tell, is predicated upon having a child with a Y chromosome.
Parenthood is, as one friend put it to me, the ultimate adventure. You learn things about yourself that you never knew, find previously hidden reserves of strength and creativity, and finally develop the patience that your parents always told you that you lacked. All the while, you are getting to know this amazing little human being who by turn delights you, exasperates you, makes you prouder than you ever could have imagined, and shows you a kind of love that somehow makes your whole life finally make sense. And none of this life-altering experience, from what I can tell, is predicated upon having a child with a Y chromosome.
After being asked again and again if we would someday “try for a boy,” I finally landed on a response that felt right to me: “You know, we would have been happy to have a boy, but we are thrilled to have two girls. It really didn’t make any difference to us. We’re just happy to be parents.”
This program aired on May 9, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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