She Walks In Front

When I was pregnant with my first child, and still young enough to be overly invested in my own cleverness and originality, I used to tell people openly that I hoped it would be a boy. “Of course,” I would say. “I will love whoever this is and be grateful either way, but you asked what I’m wishing for, and the honest answer is boy.”

I would give you the even more honest answer if you pressed, which was that I was terrified to have a girl. I have one brother and no sisters, and I always felt more comfortable around boys than girls. If I had a daughter, she might want girly things like the dreaded pink clothing or dance classes attended by other little girls and their <gulp> dance moms. And then there’d be hairstyles, my Lord, the hairstyles, which I was incapable of creating and not inclined to censure. Then she’d grow up and I’d have to teach her all the things, and frankly, I’m not that good at all the things. And what if her friends were petty and horrible? Of course they’d be petty and horrible. I’d be lucky if they weren’t vapid and giggly. I really didn’t think I was up for giggly. And most likely we’d have other kids someday, and then she’d be a a big sister. I’d never had a big sister, but what I’d seen didn’t impress me.

On the day of our first ultrasound, I was nervous. I really wanted to know who this little person was, and I suddenly realized that while I’d been half joking about the gender thing, I actually cared. This day was the defining moment, the big reveal.

Except that it wasn’t. The baby was strategically positioned to hide anything revealing, and the tech told us we’d have to wait another month. Then right at the end, he tilted his head and pointed at the screen. “It’s not clear at all,” he said in Spanish, “but from what I can see, if I had to guess, I would say that it’s a girl. Don’t hold me to that, but that’s what it seems like. But, you know, only paint one wall pink, just in case.”

My heart sank. A girl. Most likely a girl.

True story? That night I cried a little. It was partially from my fear of being a girl mom but mostly, if I was really honest, it was because I’d had a neat little picture in my head of our family (first boy, then girl, then another boy for good measure) and this turned my picture on its head.

I admitted this truth to Nate, and he was sweet and didn’t make me feel guilty for it. He did laugh, though, when I sat up and said, “Screw one pink wall. Boy or girl, this baby is having green walls.”

She had green walls. And stars on her ceiling. And lots of pink clothes. And a little black onesie with baby jeans that made her look like a tiny hipster. And there were no dance classes but the hair struggle was real.

When she was two months old, I was invited to be the visiting missionary at a ladies’ prayer circle. I took my daughter with me. I sat on an overstuffed sofa in a sweet grandmother’s living room and drank tea with a bunch of women in flowery dresses. I couldn’t have been more uncomfortable, except maybe if one them had accidentally seen my tattoo. When the baby fussed, I took her out of her car seat and held her close, and realized that I was once again by myself in a crowd of strange ladies, but I wasn’t alone anymore. “It’s you and me, little girl,” I thought. “We can make it through this.”

We did. We have. And then some. Because, spoiler alert, I had two daughters in the end, and the girl power in our house is set to high.

This fall, our family went for a walk in the woods as we often do. I found myself trailing behind while Nate and Ellie set a slightly faster pace, as they often do. There was this one moment when I looked up and saw her ahead of me and thought how there was nothing more perfect and right than walking behind her. There is something uniquely awesome about having girls in my life who just…get it. I could walk behind that girl forever, watching her move confidently forward into the world.

I won’t lie. There have been a lot of giggles and a lot of tears. There have been a few complicated braids and more nail polish than I ever hoped to see. But I’m eternally grateful that I didn’t get to plan my own life. Because those are the smallest, most insignificant parts of having daughters, these firebrands who fascinate and inspire me. These girls who are my people in any crowd of strangers.

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