It was roughly five years ago that I was in the ultrasound room with my wife, sitting next to her, holding her hand, gazing at the image in front of me that looked vaguely like a Teddy Graham, and waiting and hoping and praying that the ultrasound technician would tell me soon that we were having a girl.
I don’t know if that’s something a person would find odd, a dad who, if given a choice, would prefer to be having a daughter over a son. Maybe it’s different. Maybe not. Either way, I knew what I wanted was a girl. And I knew why I wanted a girl – because girls were different. I knew what it was like to be a boy. I knew how awkward I was growing up. I knew the pain I went through being a boy. I could relate and understand to those feelings, and I knew that my child would feel those same things, but if they felt the anxieties of being a girl, that was something I wouldn’t completely know, because it’s different. The frustrations and fear a girl knows growing up is different in ways, and that difference meant I wouldn’t know completely those same feelings, and that was something that I wanted. I wanted a girl, because then when she grew up, I could relate to her struggles without completely understanding them. I could help her without feeling that same pain, and I felt like that would make me a better parent, not being crippled with the knowledge of knowing exactly what she was going to go through. So that’s why I wanted a girl. That’s why I walked into that room hoping that I was going to have a girl.
And then she told us. It’s a girl. And I was happy. And then I was crushed, just a little. Because I guess a little part of me did want to have a son after all.
My little girl is four years old now. She started preschool a couple of months ago. I drop her off there sometimes, and other times I pick her up. I see the way she interacts with the other kids, and I think she’s better at it than I ever was. She’s still in her own shell a little bit, but she has friends that she talks to, and she plays with the other kids, and I think she does okay, which is more than I ever did. She’s so much like me sometimes that it hurts me. I feel badly that she has to be so much like me, because I ended up being okay, but it wasn’t ever easy. I want things to be easy for her. I don’t want her to struggle to relate to other people. I want her to be accepted, and loved, and treated well by everyone she ever meets. Which is impossible, I’m aware. But I just don’t want her to feel some of the things that I’ve felt, even though I know she already has. It turns out the things I thought I would avoid by having a daughter didn’t really end up coming to pass. There’s always those same struggles, and I feel the same fear for her that I would have for a boy. But she fills me up with so much happiness that it turns out it doesn’t really matter as much as I thought that it would. A life of pain is unavoidable, but the better parts are so, so much better to make you forget. So in hindsight, I would have been okay back then, if my little girl had ended up my little boy. I’m happy things ended up the way they did, but I would’ve been okay.
So we took her along today, her mother and I, when we went back into that same ultrasound room. She was excited. She wanted to know what the wand looked like. She thought it would look like a princess’s wand. She was disappointed when it wasn’t. But she knew she wanted her mom to be having a girl. She wanted someone that she could relate to. She wanted someone she could show how to do things, someone she could play with, someone she could take by the hand and guide her through when things got tough. She wasn’t scared about knowing those same pains she would feel. All she wanted was to know the same good things, that she could share.
And that’s when the ultrasound technician told us it was a boy. My heart exploded with joy, for just a minute, right up until my little girl’s face sunk, and she hid behind my chair. I could tell she was crushed, and I could feel her disappointment. It made me feel bad, even though I had gotten the news I had wanted, I wanted it then to be what she wanted, a sister. But she asked me later, when we were looking at the pictures, if he would be able to play games with her. I told her, yes, honey, he can play games with you. He can play dinosaurs and Spider-man and video games and iPad and all of the other boy stuff that I taught her that she loves, because it’s what I knew and what I could relate to. That seemed to make her feel better, and then she was disappointed that he wasn’t coming today. And then she went to school, to play with her friends and tell them she was going to have a brother.
And my heart exploded one more time. Because I knew that feeling.
Bismarck resident Erik Hagen is the author of the SodBlog and having a son. Send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.