I am a new mother to my first and only daughter. She is what I call our pink caboose, a little sister to three boys ages 9, 8, and 4. Having ridden this motherhood rollercoaster for nearly a decade, I have changed and been changed immensely since the first time I held a newborn of my own in my arms and wondered how on earth I could be entrusted to keep him alive without the aid of a professional. But I can say that I always wanted to have the chance to raise a daughter. It was an opportunity I had always assumed would come my way... Then it didn't. After the birth of my third baby boy, I started to come to terms with the possibility that I might never have a daughter. I was so incredibly blessed to have my brood of boys, and I knew that. My guys showed me the world in a different, sometimes absolutely crazy, but always interesting way. They taught me how to be a mother. They taught me how I wanted to mother.
Still, I felt like someone - gender irrelevant - was missing from our family pictures, and we decided to try to have one more last child. To our surprise, this time, it was a girl.
I've been the mother of a daughter for mere weeks. I don't know anything yet. But here is what I am finding out about myself, at least, in these first few weeks as the mother of a girl.
Changing girl diapers has a higher degree of difficulty than changing boy diapers.
If I had never known differently, I might think that cleaning girl parts is no big deal. But compared to boys? There are nooks. There are crannies. There is the constant fear that I might wipe in the wrong direction and cause infection. However, on the up side, when I do get careless about shielding myself from the random and unexpected pee, I don't have to worry about being sprayed in the face. I might also note that my trepidation about girl diapers absolutely pales in comparison to my husband's stark terror when first approaching them. We are both getting better at the task.
I like pink, but not THAT much.
Now, I'm not anti-pink. I like pink. I dress in pink. I love me some Lilly Pulitzer. I sometimes dress my boys in preppy pink polo shirts or button-downs. However, my favorite colors are blue and green and yellow, and that did not change when I birthed a girl. I was somewhat unprepared for the apparently widespread expectation that now that I am finally the mother of a girl, I would dress this child in pink exclusively. I have listened to the moms of girls complain for years and years about how everything for girls is pink, but I didn't realize I would be expected to play along. My baby girl has dark hair and (for now) slate blue eyes, and I love her in blue. I'm not worried she'll be mistaken for a boy just because she isn't in the color pink with a bow in her hair.
To me, girls are not future princesses. They are future presidents.
I've always considered myself a feminist. Now that I am the mother of a daughter, though, I feel like my inner feminist is finding more of a voice, particularly when my sweet friends and total strangers comment on the addition of a "princess" to our family. They mean well, and many are just being facetious, but I admit I have never, ever thought of treating a daughter like a "princess." I'm not anti-princess, and I am ready and willing to engage in the "princess phase" so many little girls go through if it does hit my house. I can hang with the Disney princess thing without feeling consumed. But in this house, the only princess we aspire to raise is a Princess Leia.
Having a daughter makes me love my sons even more and in a different way.
Everyone - and I do mean EVERYONE - has asked my boys how they feel about having a little sister. They are so over it. They just avert their eyes and shake their heads and mutter under their breaths about no, it's not all that exciting, and can we go now? But in private, I see the truth, and it makes my heart swoon. At home, they check in on her frequently. They kiss the top of her head and call her "sweetie." They ask to hold her, and they cup her little head in their equally small hands. I can see what this little girl will do to my boys now - she will soften their edges, lower their voices, and turn the corners of their lips up into smiles. I love seeing these new sides to them and watching them grow. Big brothers to little brothers are different than big brothers to little sisters.
I didn't need a daughter to be "complete."
I used to feel a lot of angst about not being the mother of a daughter. I wasn't sure I would ever feel "complete" without a daughter. When I found out that this baby was most likely a girl, I felt a whole host of emotions - disbelief chief among them - but more telling was what I did NOT feel: immense relief. I didn't feel like I had been saved from a life without a daughter. In fact, I took a moment to mourn a little for the fourth baby boy I would not have. I always had a list of things I wanted to do with a daughter, if given the chance: to see Wicked in New York City together, to get dressed up and go to the Nutcracker at Christmas, to read Anne of Green Gables together. Note that I attempted the same with my boys, only to be told I was "torturing them" and "when can we go eat lunch?" But in recent years, I have started another list - things I want to do with my sons (that they won't consider torture). This year, my oldest started reading books I read, like A Wrinkle in Time and The Hunger Games. He has accompanied me to plays and movies and been able to discuss characters and plots with me. My middle son and I have been reading Superfudge together. I took them to my favorite childhood beach and we all searched for shells. We swam in pools under waterfalls and picked out Krispy Kreme doughnuts for dinner on a favorite trip to North Carolina. I know now that I didn't need a daughter to have a complete experience as a mother. Which is why I also know now that...
As they often do, things work out as they should.
I know now that I am a mother to a girl that I personally will be a better mother to her after having three sons before her. If I had given birth to her first instead of last, when I was still in my twenties and really didn't know what I was doing, I think that I would have been a very different Girl Mom. Having her now, after loving and fumbling my way through boyhood these last ten years, I believe I will be able to have more perspective, to put less pressure on our relationship, and to just relax and enjoy her for whoever she turns out to be. If she is a tomboy, as every stranger on the street predicts, that will be fine and fun - and our house will be as wild and crazy as ever. If she isn't, that will be an adventure too. All I know is that her three brothers have taught me how to roll with it. She and I will both thank them someday.