The day I found out I was having a second boy, I ordered a book off Amazon called How To Choose The Sex of Your Baby.
Yes, you’re understanding that correctly: I started plotting my third pregnancy halfway through my second pregnancy. The book arrived in the mailbox two days later, and I believe my husband’s exact response was, “Really?!”
I am painfully aware of how this looks, and how it sounds.
First, it makes me sound crazy. Worse: it makes me seem ungrateful for the second boy—the velcro baby who lived his first 18 months attached to my hip clutching my shirt and my skin every minute of every day. This is where I feel compelled to tell you how much I love and adore him, how wanted he was and is. This is where I feel the need to tell you that every night I tiptoe into his room before I go to sleep and lean into his bottom bunk, running my fingers across his sweaty head as I kiss his cheek, his nose, his ear.
My two boys are best friends. They live in a perpetual world of dinosaurs and hot wheels, nearly inseparable most of the time. At ages six and almost four, they practically take care of themselves these days, making up their own little races and games in the backyard, pushing each other on the tree swing and sharing popsicles in the grass. I love the way they love each other, and their friendship is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever experienced as a mother.
I know I don’t have to tell you how much I love my second boy, but here I am telling you once again just for good measure: I love my second boy with every fiber of my being. I cannot imagine our family without him, and I have never once wished he was anything or anyone other than who he is.
Having said all of that, here is another simultaneous truth: my heart still aches for a daughter.
It always has. Perhaps it always will.
I first learned about gender selection strategies from a preacher’s wife of all people—which, to be frank—curbed my conscience. She said the theories, when combined with lots of prayer, seemed to work. (And it did, for them; they had two boys and then a girl). She’s the one who told me about the book I ordered back in 2014 when I was pregnant with my second boy.
In 2017, someone told me about a new and improved method called Babydust, which proclaims a 94% success rate. I ordered the book the day I learned of it.
At a routine OB appointment, I casually mentioned to my doctor that we were ready to start trying for another baby. I asked her if she’d ever heard of gender swaying methods and she gently laughed in my face, stating confidently, “Your chances are 50/50.”
“I know, I know,” I conceded with a chuckle. “But hey, can’t hurt to try to help the odds?”
And so, it was decided. We would try the Babydust method, coupled with a lot of prayer. I ordered the book, the ovulation sticks, downloaded the app, made paper charts, and texted a small handful of friends specifically asking for prayers for a baby girl.
I prefaced many of those prayer requests with the following disclaimer: “I don’t know if it’s wrong to pray for this.”
In the winter of 2017, I started charting my cycles like a mad scientist, taking my temperature each morning and peeing on sticks every afternoon, meticulously taping them to a sheet of paper with the date and time. Hardly anyone knew I was doing this, only a few close friends. It became my biggest secret, like an undisclosed shopping addiction, only instead of hiding a mountain of credit card debt, I was hiding a mountain of sticks I had peed on.
Each stick displayed various shades of two purple lines. When neatly organized into rows, they created an ombré effect, kind of like a gross urine-based Pinterest project. Examining that ombré effect became my full-time job. I studied those ovulation strips like a meteorologist studies the atmosphere, obsessively searching for any and all patterns.
I found solace in a Facebook group filled with women doing the exact same thing.
Every other day someone would post a gender reveal with twenty exclamation points, a successful sway!!!! I can’t believe it!!!!! Thank you, Babydust!!!!!!
No doubt, the positive posts filled me with false hope, which only made me question myself more. Is it wrong to do this? Am I playing God? The sensible side of me argued this was no different than tracking ovulation and trying to get pregnant in the first place; it was simply adding a little extra math to the equation. I still felt weird about it at times, praying more than once: Lord, keep my faith in You, not this.
The Facebook group became a car accident I couldn’t turn away from. I poured over the posts, the questions, making mental notes of every stranger’s experience. More than anything, I found camaraderie in the sheer collective desperation of the group. Even though I never wrote a post or commented, it felt like a safe space to exist. Because in spite of my strong desire for a baby girl, there was a much bigger emotion at work: overwhelming guilt.
I have two healthy boys. I’m relatively young, and we’ve never had fertility issues. I’ve never miscarried. What right do I even have to be desperate? I should be on my knees every day in gratitude for what I have, not greedily begging the Lord for a baby girl. I have built my entire career on stories about motherhood—how many have I read about loss, illness, complications and heartbreak? Hundreds? Thousands? Look at everything I have. Miracles abound.
I'm a walking blessed hashtag.
How dare I ask for more? How selfish can I be? I hated myself for wanting this so much. And yet, there I was. Begging God for a specific child and finding secret companionship in a group of total strangers doing the same. All of us equally desperate. All of us equally crazy. I found a surprising amount of comfort in the mutual longing.
After four months of negative tests, Brett finally said one night, “Maybe we should just relax and forget about this whole Babydust thing.”
He said it nonchalantly, with love. I couldn’t believe his nerve.
“I have not been peeing on sticks for six months to give up now,” I snapped back.
“Are you going to try for a girl?”
It’s the first thing people ask when they learn we have two boys and we’re not done having children.
This question doesn’t bother me. I know it bothers some people, but my answer is, quite plain and simple, yes. Yes, we are going to try for a girl. As in literally—I have read and studied and diligently researched a method that will allegedly increase our chances of naturally conceiving one. I have begged God to bless us with a daughter more times than I can count. My prayer journal holds this request dating as far as seven years back. I can trace the actual desire to around age five, when I first started putting pillows under my shirt pretending to be pregnant. Even back then, it was a daughter I dreamed of.
This is the part where I feel the need to remind you again that if we were to have a third boy, he would be loved and wanted beyond measure. He would be the missing puzzle piece, one more best friend for the two precious boys I already have. I feel like a walking contradiction, but both of these statements are true:
I would always regret not trying one more time for a girl.
I would never, ever regret having a third boy.
I am mentally preparing for a third boy. I am already dreaming up his nursery, thinking about his name, wondering if he’ll have blue eyes like Everett or hazel eyes like Carson. I have bins of baby clothes in the garage just waiting to be worn one more time. I can picture our life with a gaggle of boys: I can imagine them all running around the backyard, playing video games, inhaling pasta at the dinner table as teenagers. I can see all three standing taller than me in future family photos.
This thought doesn’t make me sad. I love my boys fiercely, and to be blessed with another one would be nothing but a gift.
My mother-in-law desperately wanted a girl, but had three boys instead. That third boy? I married him. I know God doesn’t make mistakes.
He didn’t make one with Everett.
He didn’t make one with Carson.
And He certainly didn’t make one with this baby, either.
I’m actually the one who started it. One night, while getting ready to go out with a bunch of girlfriends, I casually told the kids I’d be leaving for the evening. They weren’t sad, per se, but to soften the blow I widened my eyes and said, “You know what this means?! It’s BOYS NIGHT.”
Everett grinned, “Boys night?”
I could see the wheels turning.
“Boys night with Daddy!” he jumped up and down, “NO GIRLS ALLOWED!”
And just like that, ‘Boys night’ became a thing around here: fun, silly, sacred. I don’t really know what they do on boys night, but I’m sure it entails staying up past their bedtime. This is really just one example of the world they’ve created without me.
“Gadd Boy Sandwich!” Everett often yells as he and Carson dogpile on top of my husband ten minutes before bedtime.
“Daddy is the bread and I’m the cheese and Carson is the other bread!” he explains as they settle into their grilled-cheese-themed pyramid.
“What about mommy?” Brett grunts from the bottom of the pile.
“Mommy’s not a BOY,” Everett retorts, “This is a Gadd Boy Sandwich!”
“It’s fine,” I sigh, stretching out on the carpet. I feel a twinge of jealousy, not from being excluded from the sandwich, but for not being fully part of their world. They love to wrestle with their dad. They love to do secret handshakes and watch back-to-back episodes of Dude Perfect, a YouTube series of grown men doing stupid stunts that I have tried to get into but just … can’t. They have their boys night and their boys club and their Gadd boy sandwich and their inside jokes.
I am simply a spectator of it all. Outnumbered.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to add a girl to our mix. I’ve wondered what it would be like to have her and hold her and raise her and teach her everything I know (and am still learning) about being a girl.
I’ve wondered what it would be like to sometimes have Girls Night, no boys allowed.
I thought I’d be eager to order the blood test, but I found myself procrastinating instead, leaving the piece of paper with the phone number on the kitchen counter for five days before finally calling. When I got a text the following day telling me it wasn’t possible to get an appointment on the day I had requested, I waited another three days before calling to reschedule.
This is the first pregnancy I’ve been able to find out the sex of the baby this early, but oddly enough, I wish I had more time to live in the unknown. At this time, I still get to vividly picture both outcomes for our last baby—what if this life, what if that life.
Today - July 29th, 2018 - is my last day in limbo, in between knowing, where there is still a glimmer of hope that I will ever have a daughter. I’ve never known a more palpable longing in 32 years of life.
Tomorrow I surrender it at the feet of my Father. Tomorrow we will know for sure. I am nervous and excited, anxious and grateful. I will probably cry either way.
And if not, He is still good.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Psalm 139, MSG