Boy! That’s right- Andrew and I are expecting a little boy this February! As I mentioned several weeks ago, we found out our baby’s sex at our last ultrasound, but it’s taken this long to tell our closest friends and family (and I apologize if I left anyone out). We were fortunate enough to be able to tell our parents in person (well, not my father, since he was working, but we did have a gender reveal moment over Facetime). Two weeks after my husband and I found out, we were able to spend parts of the Columbus Day weekend with both of our families. In the days leading up to our trip, I went out to buy all the ingredients I needed for chocolate chip cookie sandwiches (a Pinterest discovery), including blue sprinkles. Placed in the center of the cookie sandwich, our family members had to bite into the center to learn the gender of their grandson/nephew. My sister even broke the cookie in front of her cellphone screen so that my dad could see. Everyone was thrilled to see the blue, and for good reason.
Now don’t get me wrong. Our families would have been thrilled no matter what the gender was. They would have been incredibly excited to have another little girl in our families, but there were many family members hoping for a boy. Why? Because, oddly enough, boys are an anomaly in both of our families. Andrew has a few boy cousins, but since the last boy’s birth over a decade ago, there have been four girls added to the family. In my immediate family, it has been over 20 years since the last boy was born (my brother, who is only two years younger than me). Like Andrew, I only have nieces, so the male presence in both of our families has been rather dismal.
So did we expect our child to be a boy? Not quite, though I did have an inkling that it might be. Before Andrew and I married, we had a few baby names picked out that we both liked, but as soon as I found out that I was pregnant, only one name stood out, and it was a boy’s name: John Thomas. Right up until the moment we walked into our doctor’s appointment, I was wondering if this was an indication of what I was able to find out for sure: the baby inside me was a boy. I was right.
Despite my suspicions, I was still surprised by the news. I was surprised that I was right, that my “mother’s intuition” had been accurate. I was surprised that my hunch had become a reality. Andrew and I had a son. Our parents had their first grandson (and in Andrew’s parents’ case, their first grandchild). Our grandparents had their first great-grandson. And then the fear came.
To be completely honest, I debated writing anything about this. It was not exactly a high point in my pregnancy, and for a while I didn’t know what to do with my fear. I didn’t properly understand it, and if I’m going to be totally transparent, I was ashamed of it. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved my son from the moment I knew he existed, but I am an imperfect person and did not yet have the type of love that could cast out those fears that I was experiencing.
For days after our doctor’s appointment, I tried to get to the bottom of my fears. In some ways, it was obvious. Anyone who knows me even remotely knows that I am a full-blown girly-girl. My favorite color is pink. I love nothing more than buying and wearing new dresses. I still love collecting dolls and stuffed animals. Though I really enjoy playing softball and basketball, I have always loved cheer-leading and figure skating. In fact, the look-alike American Girl doll in my pink and white bedroom (at my parents’ house- I wouldn’t torture Andrew like that) is perpetually dressed in a sparkly purple figure skating outfit. It only took a moment before I found myself thinking that I was completely incompetent to raise a boy.
I also have no experience taking care of little boys. I babysat a little boy when I was a pre-teen, but he was four and extremely private. I never needed to help him dress, clean up in the bathroom, and even he would have been scandalized if his mother had suggested I help him with his bath. I helped him do his homework, played on the computer with him, and made sure he got an afternoon snack. His mother was home with more than enough time to prepare his dinner and get him ready for bed. And as I mentioned earlier, the youngest boy in my family is only two years younger than me. Obviously, I was too young to really help with raising my little brother.
In the moments after learning that our child was a boy, I was filled with a devastating feeling of inadequacy. I could never be a competent mother to a little boy. We would have nothing in common, and I would have no way of bonding with him. He would be obsessed with dinosaurs, video games, trading cards, or some other past-time that I would know nothing about and have no interest in. I began to pray that he would like baseball, because that seemed to be the only thing we could possibly have in common. But the fear remained.
Over the next few weeks, I began to pray constantly, begging God to remove this fear from my heart. One day, fairly soon after our prenatal appointment, I made the mistake of looking for people who had similar responses to their gender reveal online. While it was comforting to learn that my response was completely normal (I even watched a video clip or two featuring parents who were visibly devastated when they found out the sex of their child, a clear indication that you really have to think twice before finding out the sex of your child in front of an audience), there were quite a few websites that just made things worse. Many mothers recounted how holding their son in their arms changed everything. They wrote about the intense love that they experienced after meeting their son for the first time, a love that was strong enough to banish the fear. I was terrified that I would have to spend the next five months fighting this devastating fear. I couldn’t even fathom waiting that long.
After my little internet search, I began to pray even harder. And then the oddest thing began to happen. A little boy took my hand after Mass, while his mother talked to me about her older children, who were enrolled in my Religious Education program. Another little boy waved at me from his car seat as I was loading my car at Target. A baby boy in his carrier smiled at me. The amount of little boys in my life seemed to grow exponentially. Suddenly all of my students wanted me to see their little brothers. Suddenly it seemed like all of my students had little brothers. On one occasion, a mother even commented on how comfortable her son seemed around me- apparently he didn’t do very well with strangers. These little interactions, these passing moments, did wonders for me. With each one, my fear lessened just a little bit more. I began to feel more confident in my new-found role as a mother to a little boy. But the guilt remained.
Two weeks after our ultrasound, I went to confession. I walked out feeling forgiven and free. The guilt was gone; the fears eradicated. Later that day, one of my closest friends came to visit, bringing her little boy with her. Though I normally shy away from holding other people’s children, unless I’m specifically asked, I found myself jumping at every opportunity to hold him. I’m sure it was partly because I’m pregnant, but I also think that a bond was formed because we have something in common. In just a few months, I’ll have a little boy of my own to take care of. Now, whenever I see a little boy, I think of my son. I imagine him rolling around on the floor, or pulling himself up using chairs, table legs, and anything else he can get his little hands on. I imagine him learning to walk, learning to talk, maybe even learning to swing a bat at little league. I imagine these things, I imagine my son doing these things, and I cannot help but smile.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!