Our first son was a girl. We named him Whitney, and filled his closet with pastel frocks and patent leather shoes and sticky corn syrup for when it came time to attach bows to his head. We felt secure in our “baby girl” knowledge because we had an ultrasound, and the doctor could tell the gender, but we told him not to tell us because we were above that sort of thing.
Then we remembered that we weren’t above that sort of thing, so we went home and popped the 10 pixel VHS into our tape player, pressed our noses to the screen and watched the black and white grainy smudges morph into...some kind of indiscernible smear. Which meant IT’S A GIRL!...because a mother just knows these things. (heart pound, eyes closed and reverently pursed lips)
Of course I believed what I wanted to believe for as long as I could, mostly because I wanted to decorate—I mean dress—a baby girl. And since the only options for boy clothing back in the early 90‘s were sweats and more sweats with hippos-driving-monster-truck-appliques, you can’t really blame me for the aspiration.
Right before delivery, my workplace threw me a shower, wherein the southern belle, Etheleen Holt, conspired with my nurse to give me false hope in the form of a darling pink polka dot outfit. Her dimpled smile led me down the primrose path of misconception...all the while, the stem grew on the apple without my knowledge.
We were startled at his birth. My mom ran home to replace the pink rosebuds with blue, we threw a dart at the Baby Names book to settle on Ashton, and I penned a strongly worded letter of reprimand to Etheleen for her intentional bum steer.
But things have a way of working out okay. Turns out boys are WAY more fun than you might think. All it takes is a teensy pair of 501’s, a red plaid vest and a whispy blond bowl cut, and YOU CAN ROCK THE HECK OUT OF THAT LITTLE BOY SCENE! Which I did. Three times over. And every other boy-mom ate my dust, (she said with humility.)
Well, of course, our lives have a way of taking twists and turns that we never intended. Or wanted. Or deserved. As one friend put it, “I never, ever thought we’d be opening up this chapter.”
Seems that every life is a novel, but many of us—myself included—would prefer them to be a fairytale. Mine would begin, “Once Upon a Time,” and immediately end with, “Happily ever after.” And maybe I’d write a few benign, effortless chapters in between:
Ch. 1—“No goodbyes.” Because I don’t want to experience the death of a loved one or painful parting. I don’t want to breathe the sickening smell of hospitals or divide up assets or friends. It will hurt. I will feel forsaken. I will miss them and dream about them and wake up in the night, sobbing in my sleep.
Then I will start to think of life and love differently. I’ll have greater empathy for other’s sorrow, and I will hold their hand to keep them company as we walk together down a path I already know.
Ch. 2—“Only success.” Because I don’t want to be disappointed in my spouse or children or my own diminishing opportunities. I don’t want to find out they didn’t like me enough to vote for me. I don’t want to stand by while they crown the other girl. It will crush me to see my son lower his head in shame as unrealized expectations hang heavy on his shoulders.
Then I will be compelled to learn. I will forgive and start over and become wise enough not to repeat the same mistakes. And we will climb back up, dust off our spirits and grab each other’s hands as we race back up the hill.
Ch. 3—“I want a baby girl.” Forget about three boys in a row. They’re going to be rowdy, and wrestle and pee on the walls and ceiling. They’re going to be strong willed and try my patience and make me yell and karate kick when they crash into brick mailboxes. They’re going to kiss too many girls and be found in the Principal’s office and make me look like a fool when I profess their innocence.
Then they’re going to sit in front of the student body while an electric razor slides across their skull, removing piles of “ridiculously awesome” hair for a fundraising effort. They’re going to dress up as Dracula and escort a girl with special needs to the Halloween dance. And they’re going to roll up their white missionary sleeves to pick up and hold a crippled child who is sitting helpless in the dirt, covered with flies, while her diseased father lays in a bed made of cardboard nearby.
Oh...okay, I see. So HE writes the chapters. And the only way through the book is to read every verse—every exhausting, disappointing, tragic, exhilarating, triumphant, redeeming word. Then it’s up to us to either ROCK THE HECK OUT OF THAT SCENE, or...not. Which means the “Happy Ever After” is up to us. The hope is that someday, no matter how many goodbyes, how many failures and how many boys, we will thank the good Lord that every line has been written upon our very blessed hearts.