I always imagined I would have at least one daughter. My fondness for make-up, dresses, jewelry, and hair styling would surely be giddily shared with and passed on to a girl of my own. I would dress her up in adorable, frilly, pastel-colored outfits and paint her nails to match mine. I would braid her pigtails. I’d take her to ballet class and watch her spin and dance with other little girls almost as cute as mine. I basically wanted a live dolly.
But I also fantasized about bonding with her during her school-age years and teaching her to be strong and speak up for herself. I have a highly intelligent, kind, educated (PhD!) mother, and I assumed I would be a similarly strong role model for my daughter. I would be there to support her as she stumbled through awkward teenage years. I would provide solace when someone broke her heart, just as I was heartbroken when my first love left me crying on my front steps, effectively annihilating our summer romance.
I would take her out shopping for her first homecoming and prom dresses, and we would “make a day of it” with mani/pedis, fruity drinks, and plenty of chit-chat. Of course, it never occurred to me that she might prefer to spend her time with skateboarders, sports friends, or basically anyone but me. I imagined watching her get married in a beautiful white gown, for which we would spare no expense. I would wipe away tears as my husband would twirl her during the father-daughter dance. I’m fortunate enough to have four nieces, two of whom live in town and visit often. But having nieces is not the same.
After our twins turned two, my husband and I took a hard look at what kind of future we wanted. Did we want to go through several more months of sleepless nights, feeding a newborn every three hours? Diapers, bottles, teething, scheduling around naptime? Paying for full-time childcare again? Did we want to put off for even longer those golden years of traveling and enjoying time as just the two of us? With twin toddlers, fantasies turn to a quiet house and going out on a weekday date without advance planning.
I love babies. I always ask to hold one if a co-worker, friend, or even distant, not-really-technically-related family member has one in tow. I love the gurgles and puffy cheeks, the roly-poly arms and legs, the baby smell, and those teeny-tiny hands. I really loved watching my babies grow and learn, discover and develop. I love teaching them and explaining how to and why. But did we really want to try again and start over from scratch? What if we tried and couldn’t conceive? Did we want to struggle and put our sons through that?
The possibility of having a second set of twins loomed over us. It happened once, no guarantee it wouldn’t happen again. In our “starter home” and barely scraping by, the idea was terrifying. We LOVE our kids–thrilled we have them, wouldn’t trade them for the world, etc. But the prospect of another set of twins (or more!) might have pushed us over the brink into insanity, not to mention poverty. (And I have a sneaking suspicion that my baby, my younger twin, would always resent a younger sibling. He loves being the baby of the family.)
Ultimately, not without sadness, we decided it was in our best interest not to “try for a girl” (not a guarantee anyway). I let go of my dream of a daughter, like a balloon slipping free and floating away into the vast, blue sky. She will not take my previous middle name, a Korean name that had been mine longer than I know, as her own. We will not have a princess or a tomboy or anything in between in the form of a daughter. I will never experience the joy of my daughter announcing her own pregnancy and watching her belly swell with child over nine months, nor pass on advice from my own pregnancy and the early days of parenthood.
As our boys are nearing 6 1/2 years old and my 30’s are dwindling, it’s less often that I’m asked if we’re going to have another or are we REALLY done. My answer is consistently firm, but the inquisitor never sees that it kills me a little each time I have to say it aloud. With every pregnancy or birth announcement, I feel happiness for the parents. It’s wonderful news. I always smile and cheer. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also feel a twinge of sadness for the daughter I’ll never have.
And if you’re still reading this, please send kittens to distract me from the sadness. I can always mother a kitten. If they just appear at our house, my husband can’t make me take them back.
P.S. My husband approved this post, except for the last few lines.