Several months ago, I came home for lunch and my wife was waiting on me with a positive pregnancy test. This was somewhat unexpected as she was on birth control, but the Lord and antibiotics work in mysterious ways so we began preparing ourselves for the arrival of our second child. It was apparent very early on that we were going to have some difficulty arriving at a consensus for the name. Since we did not know the gender yet, we made a list of boys and girls names to work from and I even spent some time perusing the Social Security administration archives for names. On a side note, it is amazing how important timing is for name popularity. For example, from 1910-1920 almost 4,600 American males were named “Adolph.” Let’s just say the name lost some popularity in the subsequent decades.
I digress. Suffice it to say we were both eager to learn the sex of the child so that we could argue over one column of names instead of two. So, when the day of our ultrasound came, we anxiously watched as the technician dispensed belly-jelly and began waving the produce scanner across my wife’s abdomen. For several agonizing minutes, she denoted cranial size and took heart measurements while occasionally pausing to label internal organs.
Finally she began the gender search in earnest and we found ourselves staring at the grainy, yet conclusive, visual evidence that we would be having a girl. Immediately realizing that my wife had probably already opened the Gymboree app on her phone and started placing orders, I glanced over to catch her gaze and see if she was as excited as I was. As we experienced this moment, our technician was still fiddling with some adjustments. Suddenly she used a big yellow area on the screen to draw our attention my daughter’s nether regions and announced that we know it is a girl because “these are the lady-folds and are called the L-A-B-I-A.”
While somewhat caught off-guard by the impromptu anatomy lesson, I could appreciate the fact that she wished to be prudent by explaining any medical jargon in laymen’s terms. However, she continued to refer back to the “lady-folds” several more times to the point I wanted to remind her that my wife was issued that very same equipment at birth and I am obviously familiar enough with it to make the ultrasound necessary.
As the session drew to a close, the technician began providing real-time commentary as the fetus. After assuming a high-pitched tiny voice (a la’ Mr. Bill), she would say things like “Don’t look at me, I’m a shy little girl” and “Why does this lady keep staring at me?” as my wife and I exchanged worried glances. Finally, after treating us to a few horrifying “3D” images of our child’s ocular cavity, we were dismissed.
In the weeks that followed, I have reflected on what it will mean to raise a daughter. I almost felt like I was beginning to approach something akin to competence with my son and now I feel like I am starting over. At least this way, my wife and I will each be tasked with having “the talk” with one of our children. I have heard conflicted accounts about raising little girls. My favorite is that they are simultaneously “sweeter and meaner” than little boys. I suppose this is akin to hitting someone with a baseball bat but being thoughtful enough to ask if they have health insurance first.
While the future is unknown, I do have hope. I hope that she never buys into the lie that her self-worth is somehow proportional to her physical appearance. I hope that she never believes her gender limits her strength, her value, or her intelligence. I hope that she never feels like I have something better to do than listen to her hopes, dreams, fears, and troubles. I hope I will always be capable of providing solace to her broken heart. Most of all; I hope that despite my fumbling efforts at fatherhood she will never doubt that I love her.