We were huddled on cramped folding chairs in a frigid room, all of us craning to watch the solemn ceremony we'd been waiting for all morning: the Presenting of the New Belt, Which Is a Lot Like the Old Belt, Except OMFG This One Has a Green Stripe. The karate teacher—excuse me, Sensei—had just handed the much-anticipated new belt to my 6-year-old while I furiously snapped photos, and now he'd turned to the next belt recipient.
"Your daughter's next," my husband told the woman next to us, who was awkwardly balancing a camera and a small pigtailed toddler. "Do you want us to help so you can take pictures?"
There was a small flurry of activity, a bunch of thank yous, and somehow I ended up with the little girl on my own lap while her mom aimed the camera at her big sister.
At first I felt consumed by the potential weirdness of the situation—Is it okay to touch her? Should I, like, make sure my hands are visible at all times? What if she suddenly freaks out?—and then we started whispering about what her sister was doing and I sat there with her small warm weight on me, feeling the fluff of her skirt and tickle of her braids, and I thought, oh. Oh, a little girl.
We had a girl's name picked out for both pregnancies. The first time around, I didn't have a gender preference, but there was still a strange sense of loss when we found out. Amidst the indescribable thrill of knowing we were going to have a boy, there was this tiny pang. Even though she never existed, I felt like ... oh, it's hard to describe, really. Like the moment we were told the baby was a boy, an alternate universe—one that contained a girl—suddenly disappeared in a puff of smoke. Goodbye, Madeline.
During my second pregnancy, I did sort of hope for a girl. Part of me thought that I'd done the boy thing already and now it was time for something different (as if having another boy meant I was birthing my first son all over again in some sort of Groundhog Day, Parenting Edition experience), part of me hoped for a special mother-daughter bond. I can't lie, part of me secretly longed for little dresses and flowers and the color pink, too.
Of course, after the big ultrasound, it took me about 30 seconds to become infatuated with the idea of two brothers, but still, there was that pang again. So long, Audrey.
My husband and I are done having children. I couldn't be happier with my little family, and I absolutely love being the mother of two wild and wonderful boys. I look at the four of us and I know in my heart: we are all here. This is what was meant to be, and it's perfect.
But it's also true there was something about holding that little girl. Such an adorable doll of a child, contented to spend a few minutes in my lap while I marveled over the novel sight of skirt, stripy tights, tiny Mary Jane shoes. "Dat my sister?" she asked in her toddler's pipsqueak voice and I said yes, wasn't she proud? And I imagined, just for a moment, what it would be like to have a daughter of my own.
Then my boys were crashing into me, all giggles and shouts and chaos, and I handed the child back to her mother. "Thank you so much," she said with a grateful smile.
"Really," I said, "it was my pleasure."
Image via Linda Sharps