I have a box. A box that has stared at me for the last 3.5 years. A box that I just had to believe the universe wouldn’t let go unopened. A box labeled baby girl.
When I filled that box, I had just found out that my first rainbow was a boy. After I got done crying in the car, we began texting our family. My sister-in-law’s immediate (genius) response – go buy some cute boy things. Hang them up or fold them or put them away, but go buy some stuff. So, we did. That very afternoon, we went to Old Navy, bought a pile of baby boy things, and I took them home to the nursery and began sorting.
To begin sorting meant emptying drawers that were full. Full of pink and purple and stripes and baby shower gifts and cloth diapers in easter pastels. Tiny dresses and leggings and enough Zulily orders to make me a shareholder. Outfits I had held up against my pregnant belly, laughing at how I had been dressing my mini-me.
But, alas. This one wouldn’t wear ruffled bottoms and tights with hearts and so away they went. Hand-me-downs from neighborhood moms went into one big box, ready to be shipped to a girlfriend having a little girl a few weeks after me. Gender neutral items, what little there was, back in the drawers. But one box – one box, I couldn’t part with. These were the first dresses I bought when I learned she was a girl, the nine-month sun dresses I bought for our annual family vacation. The Seahawks and Huskies onesies given by dear friends at her shower. The baby items my mom had carefully saved of mine, ready to be worn by her first grandchild.
So, the box was packed, taped shut, labeled Baby Girl. It was difficult to do but the thing that gave me hope was the feeling I would have when I got to open and unpack it again, some day. How could the universe take my precious daughter from me, the one we wanted so badly, that we knew was a girl from the day she was conceived, that we cried tears of joy at learning was a girl… how could the universe not give me that feeling again some day? So I put the box away and looked forward to that day, surrounded by my pile of baby boy clothes and making peace with the turn of events.
When we found out we were expecting this time, it was a complete surprise. But in that moment, my husband and I both said – girl. This is it – the universe surprised us with our girl. We knew it (or so we thought), deep in our hearts. And then the symptoms settled in – sicker than ever before, constant nausea, terrible skin, early insomnia. So much more like my first pregnancy that the next. I began looking at the ‘theories’ – the timing with which this little one was made. Where was she implanted. Yes, they’re just theories, but when you’re grasping at straws for reassurance, you’ll chase any theory you can find. But beyond coupling theories/wives tales with my debilitating symptoms, I just had to believe. I had to believe in the universe being better than taking my chance at a living daughter away. I had to believe that loss after loss after loss in my life meant I’d get my chance.
I was wrong.
When offered the chance to do the early genetic testing (due to the combination of our loss and my being one month from ‘advanced maternal age’ when this baby is due), we jumped on it. Knowing what a part of my bonding/healing/processing it is, I had to know. Lo and behold, during that slow-as-snails week while we waited for the results, I began feeling boy. I started telling my husband, honey, I’m getting really strong boy feels – but I didn’t know then if it was my head or my heart. Was I trying not to get my hopes up by convincing myself it was a boy? Or did I know, deep down?
When the nurse called with the results, that all genetic tests were normal, of course I breathed a sigh of relief, but I expected that. Then she asked… do you want to know the sex? I could barely choke out the ‘yes’. This was the moment I had waited 3.5 years for. The moment that I would find out what my last living child would be. The moment I would find out if I was opening the box or not. If I would get a chance to see a little girl in the dresses and stripes, playing with her big brother and watched over by her big sister.
“You’re having a boy.”
Thank you, I said. And as tears filled my eyes, I found the red button to hang up the phone, called my husband who was out on a bike ride. He had found his way to the local farm-league baseball stadium and was picking up a schedule. I told him good, he could take both of his sons there for games. Oh, honey, I’m on my way home, he said.
And here comes the guilt again. The guilt that comes with being a loss mom, with being a part of this community, of knowing the stories of loss, and infertility, and secondary infertility, and sick babies, and all of it. Why was I crying because I have a healthy little boy on the way? Isn’t that unfair to all the families that would give anything to have a healthy baby in their arms? So we cried, and we held each other, and as I wiped my tears, I started listing off all the advantages. We have all the stuff. Brothers are awesome. No teenage girl drama. Look at what a sweet and amazing little boy we are raising now – how could we ask for anything more?
But it all comes back to that damn box, the one with the label, Baby Girl.