Very early on in this pregnancy I was lying in bed when I had what felt like a glimpse into my future. I saw myself holding a baby, and the baby was wearing pink, and we were in our lounge room with the smell of freshly-baked bread lingering in the air. It was only a brief moment, but it left me with a feeling of peace and assurance; I knew that the baby I held was my baby, I knew my baby was a girl, and I knew what her name would be. Of course, the peace didn’t last very long; for starters – and this may not come as a surprise to you – I CAN’T SEE INTO THE FUTURE.
Plus there were problems with the picture: I’d been holding my baby in my right arm (when I always prefer my left), near our front door (why would I stand there?!), and no one in this house ever bakes bread. Fairly soon after that night I thought I was having a miscarriage and started thinking that perhaps what I’d seen and felt – if what I’d seen and felt was even a thing, and not just a vivid daydream – applied to a future pregnancy rather than this one, and maybe I’d wrapped a boy baby in pink and maybe... GAH. It wasn’t even a glimpse into the future, okay?! But, as Mary does in Luke (2:19 and 51), I treasured this thing and pondered it in my heart.
Walking to the radiologist for the 19-week scan, I realised that the news that we were having a boy and the news of a girl would be equally exciting, and equally disappointing. By that stage I’d convinced myself that it was a boy – for the whole night before I’d had dreams about boy babies; I cried happy tears when I found out I was wrong. I always wanted a boy first, partly because I was worried about how to mother a little girl well. This world seems to have lots of ideas about where little girls should find their worth, what little girls should grow up to be (or not be), how little girls should behave and be treated; it’s a harsher place for girls, although there are signs that things are slowly changing for the better. Mothering a girl feels like a different task to mothering a boy.
How do I dress my little girl so that she doesn’t continually receive praise on how she looks? I currently tell my son that he’s “my beautiful boy,” but beauty for girls is so often tied up with external appearances alone that I wouldn’t be able to say the same thing to my daughter without feeling the need to explain that I mean so much more by it – it’s her character and her joy and the glimpse of the person she’s becoming that I find beautiful, not her smile or her eyes (though they make my heart burst too). How do I turn her into a feminist? How do I let her be whoever she wants to be? What if she’s nothing like me and loves PINK and TUTUS and NAIL POLISH?!
When I’ve told people I’m scared about having a girl, they all laugh and say, “You’ll be fine!” But, deeper than my fears of how she’ll cope growing up in this world, is the fact that I’m not entirely sure I‘ll cope watching her growing up; that I won’t be fine at all. I’m terrified that I’ll see her and mother her as a little me rather than as a little her, that I won’t be able to mentally separate her from me enough to love her for who she actually is. I’m terrified that I’ll watch her at particular ages as she grows and think, I was this old when [insert drama] happened, and I’ll spend a good deal of time chasing her around with arms outstretched, crying and begging for cuddles. I’ve scarred the poor girl for life, and she hasn’t even made it into the world yet.
I need another glimpse of our future together, another snapshot of us later on, one that will fill me with peace and assurance and that I can treasure up in my heart. Alas.